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Will You Join Me?

8/15/18 | Church Articles, Witness | by Mary Lestina

Will You Join Me?

    Eryk Guenette is a typical high school teenager who loves to hang with friends, attend parties, and be with family outdoors; fishing, hiking, and hunting. He was an avid hockey player throughout his younger years, but discontinued due to extensive injuries. He graduated from Sussex Hamilton High School in June 2018. Eryk is ready for the next journey of his life. 

    At the age of 14 Eryk and his two sisters were confronted with their parents divorce. Nothing prepared him for this event. He sought strength from his sisters, and his best friend since 5th grade, Joe Jaskolski, who lived a few doors down the street. Eryk became very close to Joe’s family after spending many weekend hours with them and joining them on vacations. Eryk calls Julie Jaskolski, mother of the family, “Mama J.”  

    On a vacation in Door County, the Jaskolski family attended Mass in Fish Creek. They invited Eryk, who was baptized non-denominational, to join them. Eryk knew that he would not be able to receive Communion, so he remained in the pew. He focused on the faces of those who were returning from Communion. Later that night, while everyone else was in bed, Eryk and Julie talked for hours about his experience at Mass. Julie asked Eryk, “Will you join my family at Mass in the future?” Julie, with her love for the Church and dedication to our Catholic faith, invited Eryk even further by calling him to a deeper relationship with Christ. During their conversation, Julie also asked him if he would consider becoming Catholic. The Church intrigued Eryk since Julie and her family embodied so much love and faith. He felt a simple urging. Ten days later, Eryk told Julie that yes, he was ready to begin the process.

    A simple, “Will you join us” was an opening for the Holy Spirit to work in Eryk’s heart.

    Eryk began the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process in fall of 2017. Together with Nate Anderson, he attended RCIA sessions that answered his questions and led him on his spiritual journey. He discovered through the Jaskolski family that going to Church was awesome. “In RCIA I realized that God loved me. I learned that I can come to Him with my faults and my big heart and know that He loves me.” Eryk learned so much about faith in the RCIA process that he can talk to his classmates and friends about God and how the Church embraces us. He looked forward to the sessions, knowing that he was learning things that would carry him through his entire life. “The Catholic Church is so welcoming.  The entire process was moving. At the Rite of Acceptance, I was so nervous standing in the front of what seemed to be a 1,000 people. Suddenly, I was calm. I was moved to tears after Mass, when parish members came up  and promised to pray for us, gave me hugs, and shook my hand. Another awesome event was going to the Cathedral for the Rite of Election. It was crazy cool to see this old church with so many things to look at, and yet be drawn to the songs, the prayer, and the kindness of the bishop.”  

    A spiritual spark awakens.

    Eryk didn’t know that his journey would awaken a spark in his young sister Sara. One day, Sara asked Eryk where he was going on Sundays. Eryk told her he was going to Mass and then to RCIA sessions to become a Catholic. Sara could see a change in Eryk; how it was making her brother happier.

    Through the process Eryk’s mom and dad and his two sisters were there to support him. They attended every Rite. They helped serve with him at the St. Ben’s meal program. At the Rite of Initiation during the Easter Vigil when the candidates were welcomed into full communion with the Church, Eryk looked at Meg Anderson, wife of Nate, who was also coming into the Church. Meg was crying—out of extreme joy, and Eryk realized at that moment how special this experience was. 

    Sara, a typical 16-year-old student at Sussex Hamilton High School, loves to swim, hike, play soccer, and spend time with family and friends. Sara has this golden smile and quiet joy that light up a room when she enters. A few weeks after Eryk became Catholic during the Easter vigil, Sara told Eryk she too wanted to become Catholic. Sara was moved while serving at the St. Ben’s meal program with Eryk; seeing how everyone was so grateful for the food served and received. It was then she knew that she wanted what Eryk had. Sara was amazed at the Easter Vigil—the dark church lit only by candles, the silence, and the reading of the scripture stories. She too noticed Meg Anderson crying when Nate was being received into the Church. After the Mass was over, Eryk’s sponsor, Julie, asked Sara, “Do you think you would want to do this?” Sara responded, “Yes, I think I’m being called.” Sara asked Eryk to join her on this journey, as her sponsor. Eryk was elated and honored. 

    Sara began the RCIA process in spring of 2018. She said, “At the Rite of Sending breakfast I felt so welcomed and very much at home. Everyone was kind and loving. Today, Sara feels comfortable talking to her classmates about faith, church, and God. She feels free to talk about her journey freely, and loves coming to Mass, especially hearing the homily. “I am choosing this on my own. My dad and mom are supportive of my decision and proud of me. I am doing this for myself.” 

    Eryk’s arm has a tattoo of the roman numerals for 78. It signifies the number of days from his grandmother’s diagnosis until she passed into eternal life. Their grandmother’s grave illness came at the same time as their parent’s divorce. Eryk remembers asking God, “Why me, why God, why so much suffering at this time?” Now looking back, he realizes he should have asked, “God help me, and show me how to live with this pain.” Her death had a great impact on both Eryk and Sara. Their grandma, who was Catholic, attended Mass every weekend at St. Gregory the Great. They both hope their faith will be strong like hers.

    Church is not just Sunday. Faith is every day. When asked where they envision themselves in the near future, Eryk said that the cross he received at Confirmation would be on the center wall of his dorm room. He wants to get involved in campus ministry, learn how to pray in adoration, and escape from busy college life. Sara hopes to get involved in the parish by being a Eucharistic Minister and to make sure she comes to Mass every Sunday. Above all, she wants to invite her friends to the Catholic faith, just as she was invited.

    A simple, “Will you join me?” can be the God wink, the epiphany moment, or the invitation to bring Christ into a person’s life. We are grateful to Julie, who is courageous enough to share her faith and be a warm invitation to others.