Witness Wednesdays

Each Wednesday, we'll bring you stories of how people have found faith relevant to their everyday lives and how they are sharing the faith with others. We invite you to share your story with us, too! Just send us an email with your name and story.

Below you'll find our Witness Wednesday archive. Read on and be inspired by the people of St. John Paul II!

PATH TO MISSION WORK

Katelyn Czmowski
July 14, 2021

Katelyn Czmowski, a JP2 parishioner, shares how her personal faith journey has led her to lead others to the faith as a FOCUS missionary.

I grew up as a cradle Catholic–baptized as a baby, went to Mass every Sunday with my family, and followed the basic timeline of receiving the sacraments.Toward the beginning of my faith journey, I made sure all the boxes were checked. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I started to question what this whole, "faith" thing was all about. I had come to a point where I was unsatisfied even when all of the boxes were checked. Ultimately, I started to question why this is important to me and my life.

I was encouraged many times to meet with a group of high school girls through my parish, called Y-Disciple, to talk about the faith and to answer the harder questions of life. It was through this group that my faith began to take root. I saw this group of girls my age and my leader who were striving for their faith in Christ and I wanted the contagious joy they had.

After graduating high school and starting this new chapter of college, I had a new fire flourish in my heart to grow in my relationship with Christ. This fire ignited because my mindset was, "If so many things are changing and shifting in my life, I will need something to keep me afloat and I know Christ can do that." There was only one problem–I had no idea how to do so or whom to go to with this desire. Luckily, I went to SDSU with one of the girls I was in a Y-Disciple group with. We agreed before even coming to college that we would be each other's accountability partner. This friendship showed me what true, authentic friendship was all about–desiring heaven for one another and helping one another get there. She had an intimate relationship with Christ and through the grace of God, I was able to look into this window of her relationship with Him to learn how to also have an intimate relationship with God.

My friend encouraged me to come to the Pope Pius XII Newman Center to pray, hang out with other college students, meet the FOCUS missionaries and learn more about the ministry. After visiting the Newman Center a handful of times, I came to know more about the ministry geared to help college students grow in their faith through friendships and discipleship. This ministry is called FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). I slowly became involved with FOCUS during my time at college and received countless invites to Bible studies, Newman Nights, and other events. As I trekked on to grow in my faith, I was also pursuing my degree. I experienced life outside of the "Catholic world," of the Newman Center and the FOCUS team. I realized how much I deeply desire to bring souls to Jesus. Not because it sounds cool, but because I saw the hurt in other college student's hearts and my own heart. We are longing for something to satisfy the holes from our wounds, and it can be easy to run ourselves thin trying to fill them.

One memory that I feel convicted to share with you is that of a time where I was asked by my freshman college roommate why Catholics believe in going to confession with a priest and not simply confessing to God alone. I honestly didn't know what to tell her and felt disappointed that I couldn't answer this question and defend the Church. From that point on, I was determined to learn about the teachings of the Catholic Church and be readily equipped to defend it at any moment. This memory is ingrained in my mind and heart because I truly believe in the power of using your voice and being a witness to others to change hearts for the kingdom. This conviction began to grow over time at college and God continued to equip me with the tools to go out on mission for the rest of my life. I was faced with the stretching of leading a Bible study for the first time, showing up to prayer when I didn't feel like doing it, having conversations about the faith that left me and the person I was talking to even more confused.

It wasn't until my senior year of college that I had a desire to go out on mission as a FOCUS missionary. I had told my parents about this desire and wasn't sure where they stood with it. A couple of weeks later, my dad called me out of the blue and asked me about becoming a missionary. During the phone call, I began applying to become a FOCUS missionary, because if my dad was encouraging me to do this job that has as many unknowns as it does, it must have been a Godsend. I went through the application process, interviewed, and was offered a position with FOCUS in December of 2020. I found out this June that God is asking me to serve at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA! I am beyond excited to share the love of Christ with the students there and to grow along with them. Please keep me in your prayers, and I look forward to seeing you all this Saturday and Sunday after Mass!

Journey to fatherhood

Chris Dorr
June 23, 2021

Having just celebrated his first Father’s Day, Chris Dorr shares the road to parenthood he has traveled with his wife, Sarah, and the God-given grace that sustained them along the way.

Fatherhood, for me, was an adventure that I almost didn’t even have a chance for. We had a medical diagnosis in December 2019 that didn’t give us a lot of positive outlook for having children, but if we were going to try, it was going to have to be sooner rather than later. We did a lot of praying for God to give us the opportunity to be parents. In March of 2020, we were elated to find out that we were expecting. This brought us so much joy after the doctor's news in December. Our excitement was through the roof when making the announcements to our families about our new bundle of joy. This all came crashing down a week later to find out that our 9-week-old baby didn’t have a heartbeat at her ultrasound check up. We had just lost our bundle of joy in an instant, and I couldn’t even be by Sarah’s side due to COVID to support her when she was told the news. We were told that there was nothing we could do and that she would eventually pass from her mother. Sarah and I had so much support from family, friends, and faith to get us through that week. We heard so many stories of family and friends that had lost pregnancies in similar ways that offered so much support to let us know that we were not alone on this journey. Fr. John and Dcn. Ridder offered prayers and support to help us through our difficult times and let us know that the church would also be offering up prayers. We had good advice from our marriage prep instructors that any time a baby is lost to still give them a name because they existed. With this in our minds and a past dream in which I had heard a voice state that we would be having a baby girl, we decided to name her Alexandria “Lexi” Grace. To this day, we still have a candle lit in remembrance of her.

After having lost a pregnancy, Sarah and I were not sure how soon we would be ready to try again. And after many prayers to our new guardian angel Lexi to help our decision, we decided to try one more time knowing that our hearts wouldn’t make it past another loss for a third attempt. Then in July of 2020, we found out that we were expecting again. We kept this information a little quieter to make it through our first few ultrasound sessions. Every day we offered up prayers hoping for a healthy baby and to be able to hear a heartbeat. Our prayers were answered and our beautiful baby had a very strong heart. We were labeled as a high risk pregnancy due to past health histories. We had hiccups along the way that caused us to monitor numbers and pressures and be in high risk OB for a couple of short stays. The third trip to high risk OB brought about the decision that Sarah would be induced that day. We figured all through the pregnancy that we would deliver early, but it is still something that surprises you when it is announced. Inducing didn’t go anywhere close to the way the doctors wanted. Everytime they checked there was no progress. Through all the time waiting and rotating through nurses, we came to find out that two of her nurses were Catholic and went to St. Lambert’s. So when the decision was made 60 hours after inducing started to go with a C-section, our nurse offered us a prayer and some quiet time together. Sarah and I prayed and listened to some music that we had heard in The Canyon as well as church to help bring the best blessings we could on the situation. What began on Saturday at noon resulted in a C-section birth at 2:29 Tuesday morning. Gage Patrick was welcomed into this world as a healthy baby boy. He had a 12-day stay in the NICU with family by his side, helping him through every day.

Every step of the way we continually looked to our faith for guidance and support as well to our guardian angel in heaven. The entire journey at the hospital had the warming light of Lexi’s candle looking over Sarah and I in the birthing room and then stayed by Gage’s side every day in the NICU until he came home. I thank God every day for our bundle of joy that he helped bring into this world through us, as there were a lot of stressful days and long nights in the hospital wondering if this would be the day he came into the world or would be the day he gets to go home. The day he got to come home was a Sunday, and all three of us watched Mass from his NICU room before discharge. I will never forget our journey to becoming parents and mine becoming a father. There were endless prayers and endless chats with God and Jesus wondering why things were the way they were. The one thing Sarah and I kept reminding each other was that He would not give us more than we could handle. Some days it seemed that wasn’t true, but we had faith that he was always by our side and wouldn’t let us fail.

It has been a long road to fatherhood but by the grace, support, and love of God, family, friends, and faith, I am now the proud father of a healthy, happy baby boy. I know there are going to be a lot of speed bumps along the way, but with faith, family, and friends nothing is impossible. I would like this witness to be shared so others know that they are not alone in their parental journeys. Don’t shut others out, share your stories, and don’t give up on faith. Without faith and each other, Sarah and I wouldn’t be where we are today. God Bless.

God Does what he wants to

Fr. Scott Miller
June 16, 2021

Ahead of Fr. Scott Miller’s Mass of Thanksgiving on Sunday, he offers a reflection on his recent ordination to the priesthood and shares how a comment made by a JP2 parishioner left a lasting impression.

As I packed up everything in my seminary room and said my final good-byes to the life I have known as a student and seminarian for the past several years, I had many mixed emotions. On the one hand, I felt a deep sense of gratitude for the last two years at Saint Paul Seminary—a place where God has made me come alive and blessed me with great friends and seminary faculty who have helped me along the journey. On the other hand, I also felt afraid of the future, of what was to come, of the numerous unknowns of my future life as a priest.

Many are the graces of the ordination Mass itself and the following days even to today. But I have found that the most profound grace came through the astonishing gratitude so many people had for my, "Yes," and for me. At my ordination reception as well as my first Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Lambert, I heard and saw how touched people have been by my life and friendship with them. I heard how much God had somehow accomplished through me for others, not only during the times I felt on top of the world, but even more, when I felt that I had very little to give. The sheer disproportion! I thought I had only received from others, but it turns out it was mutual. God gave an abundance to me and to others through me. That is what is so amazing.

During my year at JP2 there was a young woman whom I had the privilege of meeting. She was in a similar stage of discerning God's call for her life, experiencing many of her own inadequacies and yet witnessing to me the following words: "I don't know what my vocation is, but all I can say is that God does whatever He wants!...Many days I feel as if I have nothing to give, but then someone will ask me for advice or to share my experience of Jesus, and then they tell me how helpful it was. God does whatever He wants!"

I have held these words close to my heart the past two and a half years and taken a journey to begin to make sense of what she was speaking about. These past two weeks, God has made it abundantly clear that His words through Saint Paul are entirely true: "We hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us." (2 Corinth 4:7) These weeks I have experienced both my poverty, my earthen vessel, and the comfort of knowing that God does whatever He wants. I do not always know what He is up to, but I do know that He is always at work, accomplishing, even through an earthen vessel, precisely what He desires. This knowledge has been the source of a deeper freedom in me to just be me and to let God be God. God does whatever He wants, and it is always for our good. Praise be to Jesus Christ for His priesthood of which I am now a part, and praise Him for His people (you) who have made known to me of the surpassing power of God.

Having Faith Like a Child

Patty Czmowski, Asher Place, and Luke McKeown
June 9, 2021

While the adults were participating in The Canyon, young people were growing in faith as well. Canyon Kids, led by Patty Czmowski, was more than just supervised playtime; it provided an opportunity for the children to learn about our Catholic faith through crafts, books, and prayer time. June is a big month for Canyon Kids participants Asher Place and Luke McKeown. Not only is it their birthday month, but June 13 is the feast day of St. Anthony—a saint who both boys learned about in Canyon Kids and from whose intercession they quickly benefited.

Serving as the hands & Feet of Jesus

Francie Miller
May 19, 2021

With the end of the school year upon us, the Feeding South Dakota BackPack Program is coming to an end for the year as well. We are grateful for the JP2 volunteer drivers that delivered meals to the schools in the district each week. Francie Miller reflects on how being a part of this community outreach has blessed her life.

"This past year I was given the opportunity to represent St. John Paul II Parish in the BackPack Program. Education of our youth is incredibly important to me. My dad did not have the opportunity to attend school past 7th grade, so growing up I often heard, “If it’s about education, support it!” It’s humbling to think that in our community there are children who are not having their nutritional needs met and this program supports meeting those needs when the children are not in school. I appreciate having the opportunity to be the hands of Jesus and the face of St. John Paul II when delivering the meals. This past weekend,my five-year-old grandson attended Mass with me. During Mass he asked me, “What’s a blessing?” I explained that sometimes when we face a problem or decision we pray, and the answer to those prayers is the blessing. I was blessed to participate in the BackPack program—stopping by the parish office, dropping off the meals at the schools, feeling the positive vibes of the staff and students, and sharing my time and resources to support our youth! Thank you for providing the framework for my blessing!"

Finding GOd in Community

Breanne Lynch
May 12, 2021

As the school year draws to a close, teacher and parishioner Breanne Lynch reflects on the presence of God in a most unique and challenging school year.

If you have met me, it will come as no surprise that I am not known for my brevity. I’m a talker; at times it can be problematic, but in my profession, conversation is an asset; it helps establish connections and builds relationships–conversation creates community. As the school year comes to a close, reflecting back on living, working, and parenting amidst a pandemic, communication and connection were two of the most vital aspects of daily life. As Catholics we were able to turn to faith, prayer, and other beliefs for connection, but where did those who do not believe turn? What exists to support all–community.

Community–a result of common attitudes, goals, and interests; even as division was being seen locally and around the nation, here we were bringing everyone back together. A community of individuals was choosing to support each other, none more visibly than everyone who worked long hours to keep our Harrisburg schools open safely. Programs were created to support learners and parents who needed different educational options as they made decisions that supported their families. School administrators, educators, and staff transitioned into new, different, or temporary roles at a moment’s notice; learners adapted to new expectations, learning methods, teaching tools, and daily schedules; and parents supported learners and educators to help facilitate the best year possible considering the circumstances. Business, industry, and non-profit groups stepped up and out of their comfort zones to help anytime they were asked. The community answered the call.

Community–a feeling of fellowship with others. I am blessed to witness God working in so many ordinary and extraordinary ways throughout this past school year. The community my family and I are privileged to support has given me countless examples of God’s everlasting goodness. Life is not without trials, but with God all things are possible, especially when He gives us the support of a wonderful community.

The thoughts above are Breanne’s personal testimony and do not reflect the endorsement of the Harrisburg School District.

Trusting in God's Plan

Jackie & Olivia McCoy
May 5, 2021

As graduation approaches, Jackie and Olivia McCoy share the ways in which God has helped them walk through Olivia’s senior year with peace and confidence.

I have learned so much after going through the dreaded “lasts” of the senior year with our oldest son, Blake. As senior year approached for Olivia, I chose to embrace the year rather than be sad or dread it. I remember while tearing up with our oldest about his “last” something, my husband, Rob, looked at me and said, “He’s not dying; he’s graduating.” This time around I have so much more peace about everything. I know that is God. Don’t get me wrong—I’m still shocked, amazed and saddened that it arrived so soon. The saying, “Time is a thief,” is so very true! Choosing to rely on God and His amazing grace has been so huge for me this year. So many things are out of my control, but knowing He has a plan for each of my children is reassuring. Olivia is ready to fly, and because her faith is strong, I can’t wait to watch her soar! --Jackie McCoy

My faith is always something that I can happen to put aside or be selfish with. I’ve always known it’s important, but like everyone else, I can forget the role it has in my life. This year is, by far, the most stressful year I’ve had. At first, I didn’t know how God could help in this situation, and I continued to put all of the stress on myself. I soon figured out that He has my life in his hands. Why am I so worried when God knows my future already? I started to pray for guidance to help me decipher certain choices I have had to make as a senior. Each day, I began to become more at ease with the process, and I finally feel like I am confident in every decision I’ve made thus far and am extremely happy with how close I’ve grown in my faith. I have no regret about putting God before anything else because now I feel comfortable not having complete control over my life, and that is the way God intended it to be all along. --Olivia McCoy

Learning From a child

Kellie Lorenzen
April 28, 2021

On May 2, Elyse Lorenzen and her fellow second graders received Jesus in the Holy Eucharist for the first time. In helping Elyse prepare for First Communion, Kellie Lorenzen was reminded of Christ’s love through the wisdom of her child.

Looking back at Elyse's path to her First Communion, I'm so proud of this young lady. With the many uncertainties in the past year with COVID, I was a bit nervous to jump into First Reconciliation and First Communion classes with my oldest child. From the first moment we opened the workbook, I was surprised by Elyse's eagerness and attentiveness to learn. She was asking great questions about faith, but she was also asking about our experiences and taking that information to help deepen her faith. A few times during Mass in the past couple months, Elyse would look at me with such excitement and tell me the countdown of Sundays until she would be able to receive the Eucharist.

Recently, we had a conversation about prayer and Elyse told me about Jesus' love for her, and she followed the conversation with wanting to return to confession before her First Communion. She also told us how she used to just pray the given prayers at night time but has started to have conversations with Jesus at the end of her day, telling God about all the things that happened that day. I am in awe of the maturity in my 8-year-old daughter and how her faith has grown. She has taught me so much of Christ's love for us in the recent months.

Being Christian in the Face of Adversity

Jenna King
April 21, 2021

As the Easter season continues, Jenna King reflects upon her Lenten journey, its graces, moments of humility, and the realization of what it means to be Christian.

"I have been reflecting heavily on my Lent and Easter seasons. While there have been challenges, there have been more graces than I could have foreseen or expected. The biggest grace I received came on Good Friday when I received the gift of humility and what it feels like to be Christian.

Every year on Good Friday, I participate in a journey starting from the Bishop Dudley House, walking our way through the heart of Sioux Falls, and ending up at the Cathedral’s Sacred Heart Chapel. This event is called The Way of the Cross. The journey is made to help bring those walking into the reality of Jesus’s walk to Calvary. We make a few stops along the way to read some reflections on Jesus’s Passion.

I have participated and planned this journey for the past few years. I had so many fears in regards to The Way of the Cross this year. I had fears that no one would show up, the weather would not cooperate, and that I had somehow dropped the ball and the whole thing would not happen. I had this desire to have it be perfect because then more people would come next year and the event would be seen as successful. (Insert facepalm here.) As it turns out, people showed up. It was a beautiful gathering of humans. It was a little windy but still manageable, and everyone did their part to make the event possible.

We gathered outside of the Bishop Dudley House, with quite a few of their guests taking interest in us and why we were there. Some individuals were genuinely interested in what we were doing, and some let us know that they had a problem with us being there. My perfect event was starting to show signs that it might not be a seamless day. But alas, we began our Way of the Cross.

I witnessed a few things that made me feel uncomfortable along our journey to the Cathedral. I was given the bird, heard purposeful crude music played in retaliation, and had rude things shouted at me, but somehow, I felt the strongest sense of peace. This journey I was on wasn’t easy. It was tempting to brush off what was happening outside of our little crew. Our group was making this beautiful testament to Jesus’s Passion. I could have just stuck my head down and carried on, but I didn’t want to. This Way of the Cross demanded me to really commit to the struggle and reality that Jesus’s walk to His death wasn’t a perfectly planned event with great attendance and perfect weather. There were people that didn’t want Him there, people who jeered at Him, swore at Him, made fun of Him, etc.

The reality is that being a Christian is sometimes being in an uncomfortable place and finding the peace that only Jesus can bring you. My reaction to the obstacles that came up on Good Friday was to pray, and let me tell you that that is not my initial response, but with Jesus it is. I experienced joy, peace, and understanding as I walked with individuals to my destination of the Chapel. I was changed and entered in my Easter season with a different understanding of what it means to love like Jesus. I entered in with an experience that truly made His Passion come alive."

Awakening Desire and Finding Joy

Kirk Rangel
April 14, 2021

The Canyon, our adult faith formation class, has been meeting a couple of times each month since the fall. In addition to growing closer as a faith community, The Canyon has been fruitful personally for many–including Canyoneer Kirk Rangel. Listen to Kirk’s journey of awakening desire, surrendering to God’s will, and finding joy in the midst of everyday circumstances.

And, find out why he was late for a recent gathering of The Canyon!

a Renewed easter hope

Adrienne McKeown
April 7, 2021

While Adrienne McKeown was busy orchestrating much of the details of Holy Week, her heart was deeply moved by Christ's sacrifice and resurrection this year more than ever. Here Adrienne reflects on what she experienced during Holy Week and how she knew her mom and God’s love was reaching her on the six month anniversary of her mom’s passing.

Yesterday marked six months since Mom passed away. Half a year already!!! How is that even possible? She was on my mind and in my heart all day long, as she has been quite often recently, especially as we've approached Easter and this half-year milestone.

Yesterday morning, I received a special greeting from her. The song that was playing on the Christian radio station when we got into the car after the funeral and were waiting for the procession to the cemetery--"Graves Into Gardens"--came on the radio right as I turned the car on yesterday morning, too. On the day of the funeral I knew it was a message from her, as I had never heard the song before, and if you knew my mom, you know she loved to garden. What are the chances that it would be the first song I would hear on the six month anniversary of her death, too?

Yesterday afternoon, I honored her memory by getting my first COVID vaccine. A sore arm is a small price to pay when you know first-hand what the alternative scenario can look like. Also this afternoon, Luke handed me a pile of his papers from school, including one of his St. Patrick's Day projects. He drew a picture of him and Grandma having a tea party. All I could do was give him a hug and tell him that I really, really miss her, too.

And as for Easter, well, like everything else, it was different this year. But as strange as this may sound, it was different in a good way. As a Christian, I've always known that Easter has a purpose, but this year I REALLY knew it, with everything I have in me. In the Catholic Church, we have a tradition on Good Friday of venerating the cross; we come before the cross and kneel in adoration and awe of what Jesus did. This year, as I knelt before the cross, the thought that instantly came into my mind (as tears filled my eyes) was one of complete and utter gratitude. "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for doing this so that my mom can continue living and so that I can see her again someday." It wasn't a deliberate thought; it just instantly popped into my mind. It was as true of a prayer as I've ever prayed. When you've lost someone close to you, the Resurrection and the whole experience of Easter takes on a completely new meaning.

So I'll close with our Easter family photo. The blouse I'm wearing is the one I had on the day my mom died--the day I got the dreaded call from the hospital and crumbled into a sobbing heap on my kitchen floor. The one I was wearing when I made the painfully long drive to the hospital to claim her body. The one I was wearing on the COVID unit while everyone around me was wearing a "space suit" or other PPE. I hadn't worn it since that day, but I figured if there was ever a day to bring it out again, Easter was the day--a day of new life, of remembering the promise of Eternal Life. It was my own personal way of celebrating the One who turns graves into gardens and reminding myself that death doesn't get the last word. That belongs to Jesus, the Word Incarnate.

I know you're having a great time in Heaven, Mom, basking in the glow of the eternal Easter celebration.

becoming catholic

Hilary Pietrus
March 24, 2021

The journey through Lent and the promises of Easter are important seasons in our faith. This year, this season is truly life-changing for our RCIA candidate Hilary Pietrus. She will be baptized, along with her newborn son, and join the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 3. Hilary reflects on what prompted her to begin the RCIA journey and the impact it has made on her life.

"The birth of my first son was the 'light bulb' moment for me when I began my journey toward becoming closer to Christ. I have had countless opportunities in life to establish a better relationship with God, but it never made sense to me until Max was born. As I go through the process of becoming Catholic, I have really been changed by the strength I have found in my relationship with my husband. We have always been very close, but now we have this added layer of love, hope, and faith to our relationship. I have much more to learn about my faith and the word of God, but I look forward to how it continues to shape my life and the lives of those around me."

Growing in spirituality

Mary Jo Gallagher
March 10, 2021

Parishioner Mary Jo Gallagher is participating in the Equip program, funded by your gifts to CFSA, and she has been surprised to learn more than just the teachings of the Church on this journey.

After having several people approach me seeking spiritual direction, I took some time to discern what God might be calling me to before having a conversation with my own spiritual director. The Holy Spirit was stirring the desire within me to walk with others to help them grow in their spiritual life. My spiritual director pointed me to Equip, a new diocesan program at the time, which empowers participants to deepen their own faith and share it with others.

When I applied for Equip, I expected to learn about my faith and the teachings of the Church; what I didn’t expect was how much I would grow in my own spirituality, how much my prayer and relationship with Christ would deepen, and how much I would learn about myself.

My Equip experience has been a bit different because I was given the opportunity to take a spiritual mentorship track which gives me the opportunity to assist others to deepen their prayer lives and grow spiritually, to walk with them on their spiritual journey as a spiritual mentor.

As I approach the end of my Equip journey, I look forward to walking with those who wander into my pasture and desire to deepen their relationship with Christ.

Dark Times Lead to a CalL from GOD

Sterling Hillmer
March 3, 2021

Sterling Hillmer, son of Dan and Vicki Voss of our parish, grew up like any other young man. And then one day, when times were tough, he heard a call. In his own words, Sterling shares how that call led him to St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul, MN.


On a related note, your gifts to the Catholic Family Sharing Appeal (CFSA) help fund seminarian education, which makes it possible for young men like Sterling to attend seminary without having to worry about incurring substantial debt. Thank you for your support of CFSA!

Marriage throughout the Years

Howard & Sharon Soukup
February 24, 2021

Having celebrated more than 50 years of marriage, Howard and Sharon Soukup reflect on the power of Christ’s presence and answered prayers throughout the years of their marriage.


The first time we met, God brought us together in church at a family wedding. I was the maid of honor and he was the best man. We both knew that we were meant to be. Then twenty years and four children later, I was called because Howard was in the ER. A tree had fallen on him. He had many fractures and a head injury. We prayed his injuries would heal. Our prayers were answered. Slowly he improved. God’s love gave our children a father, and we had each other–for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, and many other challenges. We are blessed by God’s presence in our lives.

relying on god In Better & Worse

Geoff & Danielle Place
February 17, 2021

We would not be where we are today in our marriage without the Holy Spirit! And this is not unique to our marriage—all the successful marriages that we have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from have been touched by the Holy Spirit as well. Some of the darkest moments in our relationship have required total submission to God, allowing our prayers (and those of others for us) to do the work. However, this doesn’t mean that in the good times we forget the blessings of our Lord upon our union and let prayers go by the wayside! Over the years, we’ve learned that these times are especially important to let our faith and constant awareness of prayer and God lead our relationship with each other in a direction that we most likely would have confused or misread had we tried to do it ourselves. May God bless your marriage today and always as He has done for ours!

Marriage across the miles

Walt & Rosa Rueschhoff
February 10, 2021

This week we meet Walt and Rosa Rueschhoff, who despite an overseas deployment, are relying on God to bridge the distance gap and strengthen their marriage across the miles.


We have been married for almost nine months, five of which we have been surfing on the waves of physical distance. Before Walter deployed to Africa, Fr. Terry Weber suggested we find a way to remain connected at the heart—either writing letters, reading the same book, or praying the same prayers. Prayer is the most powerful network for sure, even better than video calls or chats!

We are sharing a daily reflections book for couples, entitled Mr. & Mrs. Walter is committed to doing everything possible to read it to me every day. If it is not possible, he sends a recording and then a photo of the page. God is communicating with us and guiding us through this year of marriage in many different ways—through friends, experiences, homilies, and even the pages of this book. There is not a day in which God’s voice is not heard. His exhortations are so clear and real at times that we cannot rest in awe and thankfulness. Glory to God!

The most important way to keep our love and unity in spite of the miles is the precious gift of the Eucharist. We are committed to meet in Jesus in the Eucharist every Sunday. Jesus, who transcends time and space, is the glue, the link, the bond that keeps our hearts, not only longing for the time in which we will hold each other again physically, but also keeps us longing for the promised heaven in which we will be held by Jesus himself. When we attend Mass, we imagine ourselves holding hands when we pray the Our Father and embracing each other at the sign of peace. Some people might think it is crazy, but it’s not. Oh no, it is real, so real sometimes that it is difficult to come back from that brief, but significant moment! God is making this time bearable for us, and not in vain. He is the third and most important strand in our marriage of three.

To love, in essence, is an act of the will; it is a decision that has to be made sometimes every day, sometimes every hour, and other times every minute. Married life is not a path of roses or a constant rainbow over our heads. It is a challenging vocation, a challenge that may help us to grow and to reach our full potential, so we may become who God created us to be, if we choose to do the next right thing of course!

All is grace, so please, pray for us!

the Sacrament of Marriage

Engaged Couples
February 3, 2021

With the month of February synonymous with love, we thought it would be fitting to focus this month’s witnesses on the sacrament of marriage—from engaged couples to those celebrating years of marriage. In this week’s installment, engaged couple Justin Jacobson and Darien Poelstra share what God has taught them as they prepare for their upcoming wedding while newlyweds Andrew and Allie Koch highlight how faith has revealed to them the true purpose of marriage.

Justin Jacobson & Darien Poelstra

Preparing for marriage is something we have talked about for quite some time. After being together for 8 years, we definitely know everything there is to know about one another. However, I think throughout marriage preparation we have really grown to understand each other’s differences and why God brought us together.


We believe that God has always been a part of our lives since we first started dating; however, His presence is even more prominent now. He has always known we are meant for each other because of how well we complement one another. He teaches us to learn from one another. He shows us how to love each other as the imperfect beings we are. His presence is within us, letting us know that He has and always will be the forefront of our relationship.

Andrew & Allie Koch

We first met as college students at USD during a volunteering trip and started dating a year later. As we got to know each other, we recognized the importance of our faith to our relationship. Faith made sacrifice and service for each other fruitful and beautiful. Our faith also led us to be vulnerable and honest with each other. As we entered married life in July of 2019, faith helped us to know the true purpose of our relationship—getting each other to heaven!

Our relationship has also helped us to grow in our faith. The love we share has helped us to grow in understanding of Christ’s love for us. In our marriage, we have both found a partner with whom we can grow in our dependence and trust in God.

Answering the call

Dcn. Glenn Ridder
January 27, 2021

My call began many years prior to me entering the formation.


When I married my wife, her father, a permanent deacon in the Omaha diocese, celebrated our vows. We had a traditional Catholic wedding Mass so a priest was there, but Norman was the chief celebrant for our vows and preached the homily for the Mass. I had not experienced a deacon in that way before. He was ordained with the first class held in Nebraska in 1979. My father became intrigued and entered some years later and was ordained in 1991. Since that time, he and I would visit about his responsibilities dealing with clergy in my hometown of Madison, Nebraska, even to the point of being administrate of the parish with a failing priest who died and left him in control for six months.

He and I would visit about homilies as well. One day he asked not if I may ever enter but, “When are you going to enter the diaconate?” I thought, “Shouldn’t there be an IF, not just WHEN?” Well, at that time, I had young children and was very busy in medicine. Prudently, that would not be a good time to enter. But once those kids had mostly grown up and were pretty independent, I thought about it some.


One day I was meeting in my usual men’s group (for about 20 years strong) when Deacon John Devlin and I were visiting about it, and he said, “Perfect timing! We are just at the end for those interested in the next cohort to sign up.” Without much thought and without confirming this with Colene, I said, “Sure.” Colene let me know that was not the proper order but certainly did not discourage me.


When asked in the admissions committee why I would want to become a deacon, my response was, “I can give you many reasons why I would not wish to become a deacon, but why I am here is because…I was asked by my father.”


The committee was always surprised when they inquired if I and Colene knew what we were getting into, and we could recite that both our fathers were permanent deacons for years. Both those deacons had already died prior to our decision, but I’m sure they were very instrumental in Colene and my decision to enter formation.


I loved the discipline of getting back into post-college level formation classes—some in person and some through Notre Dame and other internationally known schools online. As I moved through the formation, Colene and I became surer of the decision, and you all know and are living…the rest of the story.

Serving GOd & Your Fellow Citizens

Aaron Aylward
January 20, 2021

Parishioner Aaron Aylward shares his vocation as a new legislator and his complete trust in God’s guidance as he begins his work in Pierre.


My time as a Catholic goes back 34 years to when I was baptized in Arlington, SD, at St. John’s Catholic Church. Over the years, there have been times I have been close to God and other times I have strayed and lacked faith. However, since my wife and I were married and our two boys were brought into this world, I have continued to grow closer to God, and I believe that my faith has never been as strong as it is today.


While my relationship with God has grown, I have also been called to the legislative side of this world. I feel a calling in this area because I see such a great injustice and lack of morality when it comes to how many laws are placed upon society. Laws that are backed by fear and a lack of faith/love in one’s neighbor. As I continue to look at the history of the Catholic Church, I see such a strong love for God, one’s neighbor, property rights/life, and subsidiarity. I would love to get back to that as a city and/or state–back to being able to rely on a faith-based community and not having to rely on some faraway person who knows little about the culture in which you live.

I believe that is why I have such an interest in this area of my life. I do not know exactly what God has in store, but I do have complete trust in Him, and I know that everything will work out fine. With that, I leave you with two of my favorite quotes, that in my opinion, play into this vocation in which I have entered. -Aaron Aylward


“But Peter and the Apostles responded by saying: ‘It is necessary to obey God, more so than men. The God of our fathers has raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging him on a tree. It is he whom God has exalted at his right hand as Ruler and Savior, so as to offer repentance and the remission of sins to Israel. And we are witnesses of these things, with the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to all who are obedient to him.’ When they had heard these things, they were deeply wounded, and they were planning to put them to death.”-Acts 5:29-33


“For Christians above all men are forbidden to correct the stumbling of sinners by force...it is necessary to make a man better not by force but by persuasion. We neither have authority granted us by law to restrain sinners, nor, if it were, should we know how to use it, since God gives the crown to those who are kept from evil, not by force, but by choice.”-St. John Chrysostom

The Vocation of Fatherhood

Pat Foley
January 13, 2021

Often we think that vocations refer only to being called to the religious life or priesthood. However, marriage and parenthood is an important Catholic vocation as well. Parishioner Pat Foley shares his journey to parenthood and the role faith had and continues to play in his commitment to answering God’s call for his life.


I was not actively involved with the church after high school. As I moved into my mid-twenties, being newly married and struggling to start a family, I was a bit “lost.” Thankfully I had a boss whom I shared my struggles with. Her strong faith in God led her to ask how active I was in my faith in God…and that’s all it took! I started attending Mass regularly, praying like I’ve never prayed before, and on July 24, 2003, I became a father. After being blessed with a total of three children by 2007, I have been so thankful to God for this opportunity to be a father.


When I was praying to become a father, I vowed to God that I would be the best father I could be and would become more active in my faith as a way to show my appreciation and commitment to Him. It’s been 17 years since I became a father, from what I have learned, fatherhood is about making choices, just like following God. I have discovered that being a good father requires a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of listening. It takes a lot of compassion. It takes a lot of understanding. It takes a lot of forgiving. It takes a lot of pardoning. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of energy. It takes a lot of attention. It takes a lot of patience. But in the end, it’s all worth it.

surrendering your child to god

Vicki Voss
January 6, 2021

We are asked to pray for vocations, but what if it’s your child who hears and answers the call to religious life? Parishioner Vicki Voss shares a mother’s perspective as her son Sterling entered the seminary this fall.

*****

When Sterling informed me of his intentions during his junior year of high school, I’m going to be honest—I am ashamed at my reaction. Outwardly, I smiled and hugged him, asking what the process was for him to obtain this. On the inside, I felt like I’d been punched in the gut.

I’m a cradle Catholic. Shouldn’t I be proud and cry tears of joy? I felt so many emotions that even today I honestly cannot express. Knowing I have a son who wants to serve God and His church in such a selfless way was humbling. But a larger part of me questioned all the things I realized I do not understand about service to the church and vocations. Would I be able to see my son? Talk to him? Would he be safe? In many ways, I felt as though I was sending Sterling off to a battle zone. And, my friends, it is. There is a secrecy regarding the seminary—as there should be—and I viewed this much as a fraternity—a brotherhood organization shrouded in mystery that outsiders, especially women, know nothing about. I felt left out. As a mom, our instincts are to protect and help guide our children’s futures. But I had to surrender my son and hide those feelings and “hand” him over. In the process, I’ve realized my desire for him to live the life to which God is calling him grows stronger each day. I know this is his decision to discern and I trust him. And, I had to begin trusting the priests and formators who eventually began to replace my “position” within Sterling’s life.

I find my faith growing and my prayer life has also flourished. I still have difficult days, but I find I believe and trust in the process happening in Sterling’s life. I give credit to our Blessed Mother for the peace I have found. The Rosary has taken on an even more special and comforting role within my daily life. I began to contemplate what Mary went through as Jesus’ mother. The sacrifices she witnessed and endured seem unbearable. I began to realize, with Mary’s help, I can view what Sterling is being called to as something extraordinary and special. I recalled watching the Ordination Mass of a young priest several years ago, and at the end, the newly ordained priest presented his mother with the cloth used to wipe the chrism oil from his hands. The tradition is that she keeps this, and when she dies, the cloth is buried with her. I realized that the mother of a priest makes many sacrifices, but she is also rewarded. Sterling is a part of me and was formed within my very body; and if his discernment is to become a priest, what a gift I am able to give to the church, to the world. When I am called home to Jesus, Sterling will be present in a spiritual way that is incomprehensible to me. He will help guide me to Heaven.

Christ in the Classroom

Kayla Schmidt, Sophia Hermanson, and Heather Bart
December 23, 2020

Can you see Christ at work in our schools?


With Christmas break upon us and half a school year behind us, three JP2 parishioners reflect on the certainties of Christ’s presence in their classrooms during this unique year.


God has been at work through the spirit of being thankful. From the very beginning, the students and families of St. Katharine Drexel have shown an overwhelming gratitude towards the school, staff, and each other. God has given us the grace to be persistent and diligent in all of the "added" responsibilities in keeping everyone healthy. Through all of the changes that needed to be made to ensure everyone's safety and health, the excitement of coming to school has not diminished. The students and staff show up each day with smiles (through the masks), positive attitudes, joy, and an overall thankfulness that we get to be in school. -Kayla Schmidt, Kindergarten Teacher

I look at my masked students and feel as though it is difficult to really get to know any one of them without being able to actually see their faces. Then, I take a deeper look and realize that I am able to see beyond physical identities to understand my students on a more divine level. I look more closely at all of their acts of kindness toward one another—from wiping down a peer’s desk to acknowledging someone else’s ideas and leading him or her toward the proper answers without the rule of judgement. These young people are showing love in a time of extremes. They triumph in turning toward God in these moments of frustration. Looking around the world, love is lacking on so many levels, but at O’Gorman High School, it is living in full force. -Sophia Hermanson, High School Teacher


I have prayed many times this semester for students, family, colleagues, strangers, and friends to receive the spirit of joy, comfort, peace, strength, healing, and wisdom. I don’t always know directly if those prayers have been answered, but I believe they are. When I am aware of the presence of God’s Spirit, I experience it in a similar way. I have felt a sudden calm in the midst of crisis and uncertainty. I have felt joy in quick exchanges with students before class or on an “office hour” call. I have felt at peace during difficult conversations with colleagues, love in an unexpected text from a friend, hope from a kind smile during a class lecture. All of those moments I know are God’s grace sent through the Holy Spirit. -Heather Bart, Augustana Professor

Experiencing God's Mercy and Grace

Beth Kanable and a JP2 Parishioner
December 16, 2020

Jesus is sending you an invitation. Are you going to open it?


Though it may have been weeks, months, or years since you last received the sacrament of confession, Jesus’s invitation of forgiveness and mercy still stands. Witnesses young and old this week speak to the gift of the sacrament in their lives.


“It is clearing your soul, so that you can have Jesus into your soul. It’s really the only time I feel clean, fully clean, and it makes me feel closer to God.” -Elizabeth Kanable (8 years old)


“In my own experience, the sacrament of reconciliation has helped me realize my need for God’s grace and His mercy. Reflecting on my own shortcomings, I recognize how the weight of sin affects me personally as well as my relationships with others, especially those closest to me. When entering the church for Mass or Confession, I often think of the open door to the confessional as an invitation. Jesus is present there, waiting to share our burdens and give us His grace to begin anew. While it is difficult at first, I know that I need forgiveness and His grace to amend my life. After leaving the confessional, I am reminded of His great love and care for me. What a blessing it is to receive this sacrament. ‘Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good…His mercy endures forever!’ (Psalm 107:1). ” -JP2 Parishioner

Praying with our Mother

The Jorgenson Family
December 9, 2020

As we celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception yesterday and recently re-invited families to welcome Pilgrim Mary into their homes, Lisa Jorgenson shares the impact a past visit from Mary had on her family.


"My family had the most wonderful week with Mary! First of all, she was always smiling at us and really seemed happy to be in our house! When we got her, there was mention of putting holy items by her, so the kids got all their special holy items and placed them near her to pray over. We prayed around her together as a family each night before the kids’ bedtime. Each child chose what they wanted to individually pray each night. WOW, were we blown away by what they chose and how beautiful they could pray out loud! We also had a nice time sharing the Mary statue with an extended family member and friends who had visited us during the week. The children were so excited every night for this new routine we had and were definitely disappointed when she had to leave us. The older boys asked if we could get a holy statue, 'Like the crucifix in front of the altar at church,' at the end of the week to replace the Mary statue. "

If your family is interested in hosting Pilgrim Mary, please sign up at the information table at weekend Masses or call the office.

Listening to the still, small voice

Monica and Roman
December 2, 2020

Recognizing and acting upon God’s still, small voice proved to be a truly life-giving decision for Monica, one of Dcn. Glenn Ridder’s patients.

The year of 2019 felt like I was losing myself but I also found myself and a new love by the end of the year. I found myself countless nights praying to love myself, praying for someone to truly and holy love me. Little did I know my prayers would be answered in the most special, life changing way.

The day I read, “pregnant” on my pregnancy test, my eyes filled with tears as a million thoughts ran through my head. Pregnant. The whole thing was blurry, well, because it was unplanned. I called my partner and he was in disbelief also because, at the time, he was not ready to take on this lifelong journey. Although this was unplanned, my mind was in shambles. A little piece of me felt ready but still scared. We meet up the next day to talk and share each other’s thoughts. A few weeks later, we ended up at Planned Parenthood. The entire drive, something in me just didn’t feel right. We were in the lobby and the girl at the desk took my partner's payment. It ended up being declined. Finally, after a few tries it went through.

The nurse called my name to go back to the room where I got an ultrasound. Gel on my stomach and a teeny tiny heartbeat flashed on the screen above me; a thud sound was beating. I saw my baby for the first time–which looked more like a fuzzy bean on the screen, but tears fell from my face anyway. At that moment, I knew what I was about to do was not the right choice. We moved into a different room where the nurse explained the three sets of pills I was to take–one in the room and two the next day. She handed me the pill, and I almost felt pressured to take it because my partner and I had driven four hours out of town, and the nurse was in front of me with the pill in her hand. As I swallowed the pill, I was thinking of ways to stop it. We headed back to my partner’s, and from there, I had to drive two hours back home. As I was driving, I sobbed, feeling so much regret, Googling, and looking for ways to undo what I just had done. I came across a website discussing the reversal process, and immediately I called the phone number where I was in contact with a nurse who looked for doctors around my area who could help. She was so nice and texted me to keep me updated and told me not to lose hope. I was paralyzed with the fear that it was too late. As I waited, I prayed for a few hours for it not to be too late to save my pregnancy. The nurse finally texted me and connected me with Dr. Glenn Ridder, who I strongly believe was placed in my path for a special reason and saved me.

My son, Roman, is turning one in a few days. He is healthy, so smart, and the joy of my life. I’m happy I never lost hope, faith, and listened to the feeling I had inside of me all along. I have grown so much this last year. Not only have I become a strong mother to a beautiful baby boy, but I have been healing, loving myself, and becoming closer with the Holy Spirit.”

Discovering a Fulfilling "Yes"

Jake Wurth
November 25, 2020

What could be more filling than a Thanksgiving feast?

On the eve of Thanksgiving, parishioner Jake Wurth is grateful for a simple "yes” that led him to a position as treasurer on The Banquet's board of directors and, more importantly, continues to fill him in a way that no Thanksgiving meal can.

“I had an overwhelming urge to give back to the community when our family moved back to Sioux Falls. I didn’t quite understand exactly what that calling was about or how to fulfill that urge until I was asked to help out at The Banquet by a former co-worker. Luckily I said yes to The Banquet, and it has been a wonderful experience since. The Banquet has turned into a special place for me. It is a place that gives so much back to the community, but also, it is a place that replenishes my spirit each time I give to it.”

The Banquet is a feeding ministry providing 16 hot, nutritious meals to the most vulnerable people in our community each week. All meals are cooked and served by volunteer groups. During COVID, The Banquet has turned to to-go meals only as the way to still safely serve meals. The Banquet still needs a limited number of volunteers each meal to help cook and assemble these carryout meals. JP2 has volunteered at The Banquet in the past, but currently, they do not need groups of 30. Instead, they need smaller groups or families to assist with this volunteer mission. It is a safe place to give back and make an impact to those in need. Consider signing up during this holiday season to give back to the community. Volunteer information can be found on their website at https://thebanquetsf.org/volunteer.

Taking a Bath For Your Soul

Asher P. & Elyse L.
November 18, 2020

Twenty of our second graders experienced God’s love and forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time on Tuesday, Nov. 17. Their enthusiasm and priceless reactions are a powerful witness to us all of the gift freely given through Confession. Here’s what two of our students had to say about their first experience with God’s forgiveness:

“It feels like my soul took a bath!” -Asher P.

“I always want to feel this way!” -Elyse L.

“‘I have cleansed your heart and made you brand new,’ says the Lord.” ~Ezekiel 36:26

taking command of the situation

Pat McVay
Nov. 11, 2020

As we celebrate the service of our veterans, we hear from parishioner Pat McVay who shares how he was able to witness to his Catholic faith while serving our country.

*****

It’s not wine anymore? Our parish veteran, Pat McVay, not only served our country but also served as a faith witness while in Saudi Arabia.

“In 1996, as a colonel in the US Air Force, I was assigned as commander of an organization in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. About 5,000 U.S. and allied personnel lived in a compound called Eskan Village, just outside of Riyadh. Eskan Village was run by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense, but I was basically the “mayor” of the community and responsible for all security and services for all personnel assigned and living on the compound. I was assigned there for one year, but most of the other personnel were there for 90-day rotations. The Saudis told us we could not have Catholic and other denominational services in Eskan Village, but we set up a tent on a vacant piece of land as our chapel and did it anyway. They just looked the other way, I guess! We had services and Mass on Fridays when the Saudis would not be on the compound because they were celebrating their Sabbath. Friday night Mass at 6 p.m. was normally my favorite time of the week because it reminded me of home!

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) was responsible for all personnel assigned to Saudi Arabia and the surrounding countries who were there to support Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, the no-fly zone over Iraq that was put in place after DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM in 1990-1991. One of the main rules put in place by the commander of CENTCOM was “CENTCOM General Order One,” which said all personnel assigned were not allowed to drink alcohol, in order not to offend the Saudis.

One day a young airman saw me in the Chow Hall and said to me, “Colonel, the Catholics are violating General Order One! They are drinking wine!” It didn’t take long for me to think how to respond to that. I told him, “No, they’re not; it’s not wine anymore! It’s been transformed!” He said that he saw them unloading the cases of wine and taking them into the “chapel” and that it was definitely wine. I asked him to meet me at Mass that Friday night and I would explain it to him.

I was surprised when he actually showed up at Mass that Friday night. He was obviously not Catholic but sat in the back of the chapel and stayed through Mass. At the end, I explained to him how Catholics believe that the wine has been transformed into the Blood of Christ during the Eucharist, just as Jesus did with the Apostles during the Last Supper and that, during Holy Communion, we are actually receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know if that young airman ever became a Catholic after he went home to his base in the States, but I know that he showed up at Mass every Friday night for the rest of his deployment and sat in the same seat in the back of the Chapel. Obviously, being at Mass “made him feel like home for a little while” also. And he now understood that the Catholics weren’t ‘drinking wine!’”

Finding Strength in memories

Helen Haakinson
Nov. 4, 2020

Parishioner Helen Haakinson shares how God has comforted her as she grieves the loss of her husband, Roger.

*****

“Throughout the years of our marriage, God was always there for me. He always came through for me. Always! Looking back, I realize that Roger helped me through life, too, without complaining. We have so many memories together of the things we did and places we traveled. Those memories help me now because when I see a place on TV that I recognize, I can remember when we were there together. I can hang on to those times. It’s a good feeling. I talk to God, too. Sometimes I even get mad and I tell him, ‘I’m having the worst day ever,’ and I know He will help me through it. A lot of times, it’s just remembering back on our times together that gets me through. Those memories are a gift.”

In what ways has God given you strength amid the loss of a loved one?

Finding comfort in the midst of tragedy

Joan Schaffer
Oct. 28, 2020

As we prepare for All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, our gospel reading this weekend from Matthew 5 reminds us of God’s promise to those who grieve, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Parishioner Joan Schaffer recalls the comfort she found in God's promise following a family tragedy.

“Eleven months ago, a tragedy occurred in my family. My sister's granddaughters, Jayna, age 18, and Kylie, age 15, were killed in a car accident. It has been one of the toughest things our family has been through. They were great girls who loved their family, friends, and Jesus. I have been asked to write a few words about how the Lord has helped us through this difficult time."

"We are a large close knit family, so I think that has helped. When one of us is in the depths of grieving, the others will lift us up by reminding us that these beautiful girls are so happy that they are with Jesus. For me, reading books about Heaven has helped. One of my favorites is "Imagine Heaven." Each of the stories help draw me closer to the Lord. He has a plan even though we cannot comprehend what it is. Grief is a process that takes a lifetime. Indeed, God has promised that He will wipe away all our tears in Heaven (Revelation 7:17) but until then, we pray every day that he will help us with our grief. The girls were very musical, so our family's saying is, ‘Heaven is alive with the sound of music.’”

How has Christ helped you carry the burden of grief?

Recognizing Christ in Your Midst

Jen McKay
Oct. 21, 2020

In Oct. 2018, Bishop Swain led an adventure--a pilgrimage--to JP2’s homeland. Fr. John and members of our parish family joined him for the journey to Poland. Labeling one of her many memories of the trip as, “The time Jesus was my roommate,” parishioner Jen McKay’s experience in Poland renewed her faith in Jesus and His presence in our everyday lives–-a very real presence she recalls after recognizing Christ was her roommate.

"If Jesus came back from the dead to dwell among us, what finite limitations can you put on God that He would simply stop that? He doesn't stop that. He doesn't stop being there and showing up and making you think of possibilities you couldn't think of yourself. It was in that moment when my faith went from despair to joy. All of us have valleys of despair and crosses to bear, but sometimes just being still and open is the best way to experience where Christ is present in your life."

Have you recognized Christ in a person in your life?

Searching for deeper understanding

Ron & Patti Fox
Oct. 14, 2020

Are you searching for a deeper understanding of yourself and your relationship with Jesus?

The Canyon, our adult formation group, is starting up again soon and its impact continues to echo in the lives of last year’s attendees. Ron and Patti Fox share their stories of personal growth as a result of their journey in The Canyon last year.

“The Canyon has helped me become more aware of who I am, and more importantly, who I want to be as I find myself seeking more understanding of why I am here.” -Ron Fox

"I have reflected back on the discussions we had at The Canyon about surrendering ourselves to God's will. I repeat that to myself everyday: "I cannot control this. God has a plan. Your will be done, Lord." These are the tools I've learned from The Canyon." -Patti Fox

Whether a Canyon participant or not, how have you continued to grow in your journey with Christ?

Praying the Rosary, Finding Peace

Mary Cink
Oct. 7, 2020

Are you searching for peace in your life?

Today is the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. Praying the Rosary daily has been a source of peace for parishioner Mary Cink.

“Our Lady of Fatima asked us to pray the Rosary every day. Now, more than ever, we need her help. There is real spiritual warfare going on, and the forces of evil are out in force to win souls. Prayer and the sacraments are the best defense! Praying the Rosary gives me great peace amid the turmoil of these times. It would be so easy to despair due to the condition of our country, our Church, our world. Praying the Mysteries of the Rosary puts me in touch with the Queen of Peace and Our Lord Jesus. She is our first and best intercessor. Her 15 Promises are compelling reasons, too!”

Finding Gratitude in Silence

Teresa Bell
Sept. 30, 2020

What does silence have to tell us?

“I never thought silence would be that special to me, but now I live in silence a lot. I usually have a radio on in the car or a TV on at home. I am a hygienist with 10-12 patients in my chair every day, so there’s not a lot of silence in my life during the week. I’m taking time to learn about silence, and what it comes down to more than anything is my gratitude. I am grateful to God the Father for sending His Son into my life and giving me hope and reassurance that I will have everlasting life just because I believe in what He has given us. Silence is a spirit of gratitude.”

How do you find time for silence during a busy week and how does it help you?

Stepping out in Fear

Ava SerflingBennett
Sept. 23, 2020

Can Confirmation classes open a teenager's heart to Christ's love?

"I was frustrated and resentful. Church was just something my mom dragged me to. All of my experiences were people talking at me or about GOD. I was scared the first night of Confirmation class, but we started talking...and all of a sudden, we became friends and God became a friend. I thought maybe I could try talking to God for the first time instead of having people talk to me about Him. My heart was opened."

"All of a sudden the little things–a bird in the sky or my favorite song on the radio–made me think about God. And then the big things, like hard moments or a bad day at school, became God, too. My church wasn't church anymore. It was a community. These are my people. I had found a place where I was safe and could grow. Now I look forward to going to church. I've completely changed."

Has there been a time in your life that you were fearful to start something new, only to find stepping into the situation brought you joy in the end?

Finding A Home

Reed and Dawn McKee
Sept. 16, 2020

What does home mean to you?

Our parishioners Dawn and Reed McKee recently moved to a new house in Harrisburg and found themselves searching for a home–a parish home. After a Google search landed them at JP2 for drive-thru communion, Dawn began attending daily Mass regularly. However, their longing for a parish home was complicated by their plans to possibly relocate again in the coming months. Amid their discernment, Dawn was impacted by a homily at daily Mass and realized that her family belonged in the parish family of JP2, regardless of how long they might stay. In her words, “We are now home at St. John Paul II. Our family. Our home.”

How did you notice God was calling you to your parish home?

Receiving First Communion Again

A return to the Holy Eucharist after quarantine
Sept. 9, 2020

What’s the longest you’ve ever gone without receiving Holy Communion? Over the past several months, we’ve been offering communion drive-thru style here at the parish chapel. Here is what a few people who haven’t received the Eucharist in quite some time had to say about receiving the sacrament:

"Thank you so much for offering drive-thru communion. Because I'm high risk, I've watched Mass on TV, but have been LONGING for communion for months. (I think I'm not as good as time goes on without communion). We have given up a lot since the virus started, but giving up communion has been the hardest."

"There are just no words how deeply grateful we are to be able to receive His Precious Body today for the first time since March. I just feel like a different person. I thought I knew what I was missing by not being able to receive His Body on at least a weekly basis, but WOW! What I felt on Sunday just blew me away.”

What did you experience when you received communion again for the first time following quarantine? Share your story with us!

An invitation to Follow

Rosa Rueschhoff meets Keila Rodriguez
Sept. 2, 2020

Have you ever met a stranger in the grocery store and invited them to follow you? Our parishioner Rosa Rueschhoff did just that. Recently she was in Fareway and overheard some children talking and detected an accent in their speech. Rosa, a native of Peru, introduced herself to their mother, Keila, and asked if she spoke Spanish. The two quickly became friends, and Rosa told Keila about the parishes of JP2 and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Today, we welcomed the Fuenmayer-Rodriguez family as registered members of St. John Paul II. We're grateful to have you along for the journey!

What about you? Tell us about a time when you invited someone to join you on your faith journey.