evangelization

A Small Step and a Great Commission

One couple’s journey of Faith

Parishes are the home of the Christian community; they are the heart of our Church. Parishes are the place where God’s people meet Jesus in word and sacrament and come in touch with the source of the Church’s life.”
—Communities of Salt and Light

Kevin and Sue Breit of St. Paul Parish in Mosinee are devoted parishioners to their active parish community. Having both grown up in the Marshfield area, they settled in Mosinee after Kevin was hired as the director of public works for the city of Mosinee and raised their three children in the parish. They got involved with many ministries of parish life: Sue as a member of the parish PCCW, lector, extraordinary minister of holy Communion and even the founder of the parish youth group; Kevin, a fourth Degree Knight of Columbus, as a sacristan and usher. Sensing a need within the parish and feeling a gentle nudge to help in an even greater capacity, the couple enrolled in the Lay Formation Institute (LFI) in the fall of 2011 with the full encouragement of their pastor.

With the combination of our hurried pace of life and the over-involvement or misplaced priorities toward other sectors of life, parishes often suffer. Priests and parish staff can only be stretched so far. It is up to us, the lay faithful, to use our charisms—our God-given gifts—to help support our parishes and truly make them a home.

The faithful are sometimes intimidated with what may be expected of them should they volunteer for a leadership role in their parish. They may feel ill-equipped or unsure if their knowledge of the Faith is enough for what they are being asked to do. Here in our diocese, we are blessed to have the LFI program. The LFI has been created to give lay persons training in knowledge of the Faith, encountering the person of Jesus and becoming prepared and confident to share the Faith with others.

Kevin admits to being a bit lukewarm in his Faith at the beginning of the experience, but it didn’t take long for the teachings and experiences he and Sue were sharing as a part of the LFI to begin bearing fruit for the couple.

Both Kevin and Sue say their Faith and prayer lives were deepened though their LFI journey. Attending the classes together gave them a new dynamic of conversation about the Faith within their relationship and also helped them establish a daily prayer routine. Each day they enter into the liturgy of the hours and pray the rosary together.

The formation has done much to help Kevin and Sue gain greater confidence and desire to share their Faith. They have become a resource for other parishioners and are more prepared to defend the Faith and educate others. They have also become Leaders of Prayer at St. Paul Parish and are equipped to assist with communion services, funeral home services and taking Communion to nursing homes.

Kevin and Sue wholeheartedly encourage other lay faithful to consider the LFI and pastors to seek out parishioners who may be a good fit. “If someone is interested, send them!” Kevin says enthusiastically. “If no one is showing an interest, keep asking.”

“A properly educated parishioner will bring fruit to your parish,” Sue adds. “They will support the pastor and the church in so many different ways.”

Through their step of Faith and religious education, Kevin and Sue have, indeed, borne much fruit for their parish community. They continued their earlier involvements and began teaching religious and adult education as well as parish and deanery marriage preparation courses.

But the story does not end there.

Kevin recalls: “During my second year of LFI, there was a discussion in one of our classes about God’s plan for each of us and thanking God for the blessings He bestows on us—and that thought was really sticking in my mind. So, I started taking that to prayer—recalling all the blessings I have received so far in my life, recalling the struggles that lead to blessings, recalling the number of times the Lord could have taken me from this world—but He did not. I began to realize that He had a plan for me, and I was not cooperating completely. I realized that I needed to start thanking God for my life and all the blessings, but how was I going to do that? I kept praying to know His will for me and trying to be open and listen for a response. Years prior to this, it had been suggested to me by a couple of different people, including my wife, that I should consider the diaconate. But I was like, ‘I am not deacon material, there’s no way.’ Those prompts for the diaconate kept coming back to me during prayer.”

“We learned from the groups ahead of us and taught the groups behind us,” he explains. “The fellowship and bond that grew between my brother deacons and the wives is something that I think will be there for a long time.”

Kevin’s thoughts and the sense of being called continued and were reinforced during a pilgrimage he and Sue took to Rome. When Kevin returned, he discussed the possibility with Sue and Father Felix, the diocesan director of deacon formation, and proceeded to apply for the Deacon Formation Program.

He was accepted and once again continued his journey of education and Faith at St. Anthony Spirituality Center, one weekend a month. The coursework wasn’t always easy, especially since it has been a while since Kevin had been in school, but he learned to lean on the Lord with trust when he was struggling. He thought, “If the good Lord wanted me ordained, He would help me get through the classes, and He did.”

During deacon formation, Kevin’s relationship with the Lord continued to grow, as did his relationship with others. Sue was a strong source of prayers and support for him during the years of deacon formation. “A lot of things did not get done around the house as I was spending a lot of time between my job, my business and doing homework,” Kevin admits. “[Sue] picked up my slack and was always supportive. Not once did she tell me I should not be doing this.” In fact, Sue even attended the courses alongside Kevin.
Kevin also bonded with the other deacons and aspiring deacons through the courses and Faith community they shared. “We learned from the groups ahead of us and taught the groups behind us,” he explains. “The fellowship and bond that grew between my brother deacons and the wives is something that I think will be there for a long time.”

After four years of deacon formation, Kevin and four fellow candidates in his class were ordained deacons for the Diocese of La Crosse by Bishop William Patrick Callahan on Oct. 28, 2018. Still a bit in awe of his ordination, Kevin admits, “To think that I have been chosen by Christ and His Church to do this work is just humbling for me.”

“I am still trying to get used to who I am now,” Kevin laughs. “I put my clerics on and Sue and I look at each other and just smile … Who is this guy?”

Story and Photography by Amy Eichsteadt

Are you interested in exploring the Lay Formation Institute? This two-year diocesan program is designed to help lay men and women grow more confident in their knowledge of the Faith and become joyful disciples of Jesus Christ in their families, their parishes and the world. For more information, visit diolc.org/lay-formation. A new class is formed every two years (odd-numbered years), with applications now being accepted for the fall of 2019.

Attention school teachers, DREs, CREs, youth ministers and catechists: Completion of the Lay Formation Institute qualifies for Advanced Certification.

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