Our RCIA candidate for 2019, Larry Strouse, offers these reflections about his journey of faith:
Religion has not always been prominent in my life. While I was baptized in the Protestant faith, the faith of my mother and father, and attended services with my family to celebrate the “normally religious days”, I didn’t exhibit my spirituality on a regular basis. I had many Catholic friends, and observed many of their traditions, but didn’t seek to understand the genesis of their traditions, nor understand their commitment to Catholicism. I would hear them talk about going to confession and pay homage to statues on the walls of their churches but thought these were weird traditions. I learned that other members of my extended family were devoutly committed to other religions; e.g. Judaism for my maternal grandfather, Methodist for my paternal grandmother. Each of them brought a different perspective about the role of religion in their lives which I worked to understand. For example, my grandfather loved to play golf but, being Jewish, he was barred from playing at his favorite clubs near his home town. Finally, he found a country club with a diverse membership, which welcomed him as an equal, with respect and friendship. This was my first experience with religion and its biases. Conversely, my grandmother’s favorable experiences formed her deep faith which evidenced itself at critical moments in her life. She was blessed with a loving husband and three children in her young life. Her faith would be tested however, a few years after her husband, Hal, returned home from World War 2. Unbeknownst to them both, Hal had hereditary heart disease which claimed his life a few years before I was born. His death taxed my grandmother’s emotional and physical strength from which she might have succumbed without her deep religious faith which she passed on to my father, who practiced it regularly, both at home and in his personal relationships. The tangible practices of both people formed my belief that religion, which treated everyone with respect and consideration, needed to be a part of my life.
In my life, I met several people of different religious backgrounds who served as role models to me. Several became life-long friends who I enjoy today. The most important of these is my wife, Terri. Terri was raised from birth in the Catholic faith. Throughout her life, Terri has exhibited the true traits of Catholicism – kindness, forgiveness, generosity, patience, and love. She taught me to speak well of people and turn the other cheek whenever I’ve been slighted. She has cared for sick relatives, brought food to the needy, been a source of emotional strength to relatives and friends, and mentored our two children, Kristine and Matthew, in the Catholic faith. It was because of her that I considered becoming a Catholic.
When we moved to Naperville we visited several parishes when deciding where to attend. St. Margaret Mary Parish, only ½ mile from our home, gave us the best feeling of where we wanted to be. The parish community welcomed us warmly. Our children attended CCD classes and made their First Communion’s there, we regularly attended Easter and Christmas masses, along with my wife’s mother, Margaret. After twenty-eight years of attending St. Margaret Mary with my family, I decided I wanted to be a full member of the St. Margaret Mary community and share my family’s commitment to Jesus.
Under their leadership and using their teaching styles, Sister Madelyn Gould and Deacon Ken Miles have shown me what it means to be a Catholic and to live a Christian life. I am also grateful to my sponsor, Rick Peterson, for giving of his time and being with me throughout this journey and being available at any time to answer my questions. His friendship and fellowship is reflective of their entire St. Margaret Mary community and I look forward to day I join this community at the Easter Vigil and continue to practice my faith more deeply.