Editor’s Note: Each year, the Catholic Church proudly welcomes new members through the Christian Initiation process. In recent years, we have seen impressive numbers of individuals seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. This month, we begin an on-going series spotlighting some of those inspirational stories. To learn more about the Rite of Christian Initiation or to guide someone through the journey, contact your parish or the Diocesan Christian Initiation Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lonnie Rietscha
In the fall of 2018, nearing completion of session two of ARISE Together in Christ, I came more closely acquainted to a woman by the name of Phyllis Glasco who resided at LaurelWood Care Center, where I also happened to work. Phyllis, whose smile could light up any room and brighten your day with her southern charm, quick wit, and comforting southern accent, asked me a simple question one day that lead to deeper conversation: “How are your girls and wife?”
“Just fine, Miss Phyllis, thank you for asking.” We conversed about some upcoming plans I had and the topic of one of the girls (both whom she had knowledge and met prior) serving at Mass come up. “Where do you go to church she asked?” I told her “Saint John Gualbert Cathedral down in town.” She said “that must be so nice.” I invited her to watch the Mass on Proclaim!, and she smiled from ear to ear and said “I would love that.”
The next Monday morning I stopped in to see what she thought and found that she wasn’t able to find the channel and she had also fallen asleep and took a much needed nap! No worries, if you like, Father will be here soon in a week or so to say Mass for the faith community present here, you can attend in person if you like. She very much wanted to attend and did.
“You know what Lonnie, I’ve thought about being Catholic before, I just never knew how to” she said after that Mass. “It’s pretty easy,” I said. “How do I become Catholic then?” and from there we were on our way to her faith journey.
I’ve never had anyone ever ask me about joining the Church personally. I had a few questions, though. First, was she really meaning this? Would I be able to even make this happen?, and what would her family think?, just to name a few. So after some prayer to the Holy Spirit, I approached her a few days later to ask if she was really serious about wanting to join the Church. She answered, “I asked, didn’t I?” That drew a chuckle from me. “What about your family?,” I said. “I’m my own boss, why would they care?,” she proudly stated with a big gleaming smile. “How about we have a talk with your family?” JUST to be sure. “That’ll be fine. I have a relative that is Catholic so it’s nothing new to them.”
I still suggested that she take the first step and talk with them and if all was well I’d be happy to call them and give them more detail and we would go from there.
All went well, and her daughter was in agreement that Mom makes her own decisions, so from there it was onto having a conversation with Father and our RCIA team to see how we could make this happen.
By now Christmas had come and RCIA was already in full swing at the parish so we went into the new year finishing up work at the parish and in late spring members consisting of Sister Honora, CSJ, Rose, Pat, and Elizabeth of the RCIA team began to give visit and official instructions to Phyllis regularly.
The team experienced many wonderful blessings from their sessions and could see as could I that Phyllis was ready to receive her First Holy Communion and on July 19, 2019, she made her First Confession and Communion at the Mass surrounded by the loving support of those who assisted her in her journey and the faith community of the nursing center. Miss Phyllis would continue on with her sessions with the team, beaming when she would listened to Sacred Scripture, and hear about the loving earthly mother of Jesus. She would proudly – and I do mean proudly – proclaim “I am Catholic” to all who would listen. We would have one more Mass to attend in August, at which she would receive the Lord again present in the Holy Eucharist before she would graduate to Heaven. In the early morning of September 20, 2019, I received a call and placed a call to Father Crookston to come and anoint her. Phyllis was preparing to answer the Lords call to come home to him.
My heart hung heavy, but I knew God had a plan on this sad day. On September 28, 2019, her loved ones and friends attended her funeral Mass where God’s gift of life to her was celebrated and Father summarized in his homily “The best is yet to come.” Yes, the best is yet to come, not only for Phyllis but for all of us as we journey through this life that God so graciously gives us and provides many wonderful joys and blessings when we are willing to simply receive them. For Phyllis, this gift was God’s gift of Himself present in the Holy Eucharist, which she so desired to receive and did lovingly!
God bless Phyllis and her family, which she loved so very, very dearly. Every conversation included some conversing about them and that great love which she knew was mutual. It was our honor to have met her and a blessing to us as she made her journey home. The best truly is yet to come for each of us! May we always be eager and ready to seek the Lord just as Phyllis did and may perpetual light shine upon her.
[Photo: The late Phyllis Glasco in July, 2019.]