Mitch and Breanna Wentland are a vibrant young couple who have been married for six years. Breanna works as a physician assistant in gastroenterology, and Mitch is a CNC operator at a local business. They have four children—Gianna (5), Clara (4), Isaac (3) and Ella (8 months)—and are enjoying this busy and energetic season of life.
Day in the Life
Their days are filled with imaginative play with the toddlers, reading, crafts, sensory play, playground dates and watching their 8-month-old grow and explore her world. In their family life, Mitch speaks for both of them when he says, “We are trying to live out the teachings of the Faith. We are trying to instill these values into our marriage and into our family. We go to weekly Mass, frequent confessions and try to be intentional about gathering with families who also value their Faith. We want our children to be excited about their Faith.” Breanna chimes in, “We certainly don’t have it all together all the time … but like Mitch is saying, we’re good triers.”
We are trying to live out the teachings of the Faith. We are trying to instill these values into our marriage and into our family.”
When they met, Breanna was living and working in Peshtigo, but went to church in Menominee, Minn., a neighboring town. Father Mark, from the Menominee parish, encouraged Mitch to attend a new group for young adults being spearheaded by the associate pastor, Father Ryan. Breanna was interested in this group and wanted to try to meet some of the Catholic young professionals in the town she just moved to.
The first event was a Bible study in the parish rectory. Mitch took his seat, and then, shortly after, the event got underway. Breanna, who has a tendency to be tardy, walked in “really late” (according to Mitch). “It was definitely not more than 10 minutes!” Breanna said with a laugh. But, it did allow her to choose the seat next to Mitch. When she sat down right next to him, she thought, “Oh, he’s cute and takes his Faith seriously. I could see myself getting to know him and maybe even dating him.” He didn’t think much of it. “I didn’t go there planning to meet my future wife,” Mitch said. “I just thought it was nice that a pretty Catholic girl sat next to me. It was probably two or three weeks before we went on a date, but finally she cornered me and made me take her out on a real date … and I wasn’t complaining.
Growing in Faith
“There is no more important job in a marriage relationship than doing your best to grow in your faith together,” says Mitch. “If you could do nothing else, continually growing is the most important part so you can pass this on to your children. Not that we always do a great job; we’re doing the best we can. I just cannot imagine trying to stay married without having our Faith. There’s just so many traps and pitfalls in our world that want to tear your marriage down, that you really rely on the Church and prayer to help guide you.”
Breanna agrees and says, “We know that we need to try to model Jesus in the way that we serve others and that our commitment to each other and our vows is until death do us part. We received a sacramental grace at our marriage and, if we keep fanning that flame to make God’s presence grow, then hopefully that will guide us through the tougher times of life … or even our small everyday trials, such as the aggravation felt when the toddlers push boundaries or complete exhaustion after a busy day.”
We know that we need to try to model Jesus in the way that we serve others and that our commitment to each other and our vows is until death do us part.”
Mitch and Breanna are enjoying the early years of their marriage. Their lives are full of little ones, laughter and some tough times, too. Learning to navigate it all through the lens of Faith has been invaluable for them. One of the areas that has fostered a deeper Faith is with the practice of Natural Family Planning (NFP). It can be a radical idea in today’s day and age to have a larger family by choice. Breanna says, “Even my patients have made comments about how close my maternity leaves have been to one another. For me personally, my Faith has been demonstrated and challenged when we accept these new little lives into our family each time we conceive.
“I know it’s a blessing to be able to conceive, and I want to be sensitive because I know many people have to carry a heavy cross of infertility. At first, the idea of adding another child to our family seems very overwhelming. It’s a wild house sometimes! We have four children under 6, and it’s caused me to rely on my Faith so much more.”
The couple uses the Creighton Method for natural family planning and are pleased with their experience. “It’s been overwhelmingly good.” Mitch says. “There’s lots of difficult aspects to practicing NFP, taking the time to learn it and understanding how our bodies are meant to work together; it’s really amazing. Through it all, we have successfully planned out all our children’s births with the prayer and discernment aspect and the Holy Spirit guiding us.” Breanna adds, “We’ve grown so much in learning how to love each other through this. It’s been so good for our marriage. We’re always talking about where our family is, and that communication is so helpful for us to feel on the same page.” Mitch adds, “You know, some couples might avoid NFP because it is hard or they write it off because there are times of abstaining, but it’s a great way to learn the virtue of self-control and it really forces you to actively choose to love your spouse with your mind as well. NFP is a great example of our dependence on God. We spend so many days exhausted and overwhelmed with the kids, that it helps me to remember that we are not here to do this alone. I have Breanna, she has me and we have God. NFP gives you a way to surrender to God’s will for your life and it’s been really great for us.”
“NFP gives you a way to surrender to God’s will for your life and it’s been really great for us.” -Mitch
Mitch and Breanna both attribute a large portion of their skill in prayer and discernment to their involvement in the Domestic Church (DC) movement of which they have been part for three years. This movement began in Poland and has made its way to the Diocese of La Crosse by way of New Orleans. It is an organization set upon a mentorship and community-based model. Couples go to an initial weekend retreat where they learn about the movement and delve deeper into their Faith through spiritual formation. After the retreat, each couple is given the option to join a circle, which is a small group of other married couples and a priest. The group then acts as mentors and sponsors for one another to help uphold the seven promises they made in the initial retreat and grow in spiritual formation using the materials and handouts provided by the DC movement. The seven promises are a commitment to daily individual prayer, daily scripture study, daily prayer as a couple, daily prayer as a family, monthly dialogue between spouses, a “rule of life” or commitments made together to improve their marriage and, finally, attendance at a yearly retreat. “We can really tell when our promises have started to slip,” Mitch describes. “It is nice to meet on a monthly basis to try to get back on track. The other couples in the group really are a wealth of knowledge since they vary in age. Some of them are in the same place we are, but others have already done it with their own little kids and have great input for us.”
This couple has been able to put their skills from the Domestic Church movement into practice in their lives. It comes together in many little ways, but the most apparent is their improved communication about their marriage and their own needs. “When we pray together at the end of the day,” says Breanna, “it’s like I get a little glimpse into what he’s struggling with and working on or even some of the joys that he had throughout his day, and vice versa. But on a deeper level, it reminds me why I fell in love with him. The fact that he is a God-fearing man really drew me to him and it’s so good to remember that within the context of praying together.
“We are still working on trying to figure out how to communicate. You’d think that most scenarios, or at least a variation of that scenario, would have come up already in our marriage and we would know how to approach it. But we are finding little things even now. Just the other day, we had another chat about hunting season,” Breanna says with a laugh. “You know, as a wife, I want him to be happy and have things that fill up his cup, but it’s all a balance and we’re still trying to figure out exactly what that means for our family at this phase in life.”
Mitch and Breanna are such a Faith-filled couple that their joy is contagious. The pair bring smiles to faces and leaves one with a sweet impression, which they attribute largely to their involvement in the Domestic Church movement and their commitment to the promises. Breanna adds, “I am a better person when I incorporate a practice of daily prayer. It keeps me centered and it helps me to be a better wife and mother. I am more centered throughout my day and the small things don’t seem to get me worked up so quickly. I think the kids can sense that too and we all tend to have a better day.” The call to the domestic church to raise the next generation of saints can be a daunting one, but the Wentlands can give us some insight into the renewal of our own spirits that comes through prayer and keeping the Faith alive.
Story by Rachel Persson
Photography by Michael Lieurance
Published in the Jan./Feb. 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine