Carol shares her talents to bring a unique Lenten presentation to her community
Carol La Porte of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Marshfield loves the arts and being surrounded by beauty. Whether it is her striking nature photography that adorns the walls of her and husband John’s home, her treasured binder of writings or the flowers that take over her yard and patio to create a summertime oasis, Carol finds ways to cultivate beauty and create memorable experiences in her life, both for herself and others.
Growing up just south of the town she calls home, Carol lived on a farm in rural Richfield where her parents were full-time farmers from the time she was young. “We were actively involved in helping in the barn and in the field,” said Carol. “We all know how to cook and clean and bake. My dad used to say, ‘There’s a job size to match your size. [Farm life] taught us all how to survive and respect life.” It also taught her how to step up and not be afraid of hard work or commitment.
When Carol was 17 or 18, she had an experience that profoundly impacted her and shaped her prayer life to this day. She attended a charismatic prayer meeting at Columbus High School, which led to her attending various charismatic conferences around the country. Carol says that charismatic prayer might seem “unique” or “out of the box” to most people, but to her, it has always felt right to communicate with God in open conversation and praise from the heart. Her prayer life and work in the Church led her to enter the lay ministry program through the diocese, where she formed deep bonds with her classmates through their communal prayer. “When you’re open to it, God just leads you to the prayer that’s needed,” and for Carol, she found her spirituality in charismatic expression.
Carol worked at the Marshfield Clinic for 37 years as a certified medical assistant. Three years ago, she stepped away from her position to help care for her aging parents. It was a choice she is so glad she made because it allowed her to spend quality time with them in their final years.
Twenty-eight years ago, Carol married her husband, John. The couple enjoys ballroom dancing and singing in the church choir. The two don’t have any children of their own, but Carol has a deep desire to introduce youth to a formative and moving experience of Faith. “I want these high school kids to have an experience like I did. When they go off to college, and they’re no longer having a faith walk because their mom or dad told them to but rather because they chose it… I want them to have something to fall back on because as life goes on, it gets harder, and without a grounding in Faith, I can’t see it happening.”
Seeing A Need
In speaking with her good friend and fellow parishioner, Lilly, Carol began to understand the void Lilly’s family, especially their teenage daughter, felt in their desire to be involved and active in the local Church. Much like Carol herself often felt, the family expressed this sentiment: “We want more,” more opportunities for involvement and more ways to connect with their parish family.
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Carol shared with her friends an idea she pulled from the archives of her repertoire that seemed to be just the thing to bring together a community of teens in the Church. Years before, she helped some of her religious education students at her previous parish execute a live Stations of the Cross performance that was well received. Lilly and her family were thrilled with the idea, so Lilly took Carol’s idea to the local youth minister who, in turn, went to the local priests to propose the plan. The priests approved the script and gave Carol the go-ahead with the project. Being no stranger to hard work or creative endeavors, Carol used this project as an opportunity for more. She proceeded to post it in parish bulletins and spoke with religious education classes to recruit actors. “God has to send me the kids,” Carol firmly believes. “I only want them here if they want to do it. I don’t want them to be forced into it.” But the Lord provided and sent Carol a full cast.
Stations Come Alive
To Carol, this production is a ministry that she and the teens could offer their local Catholic community during Lent. She saw herself as the coordinator of the project, but knew this was really for the students. “I think, in the Church, teens often don’t have a spot. I want them to have a spot. I want them to be recognized for what they’re doing.”
The group of teen actors, made up of parishioners from a collection of area parishes—some Catholic school students and some homeschooled—made time in their busy schedules to practice during the two months leading up to the week preceding Holy Week.
Their powerful, dramatic representation began in the back of the church where actors walked in to the poignant sound of bells. Carol and John served as the narrators, and they recruited their friends as musicians. The presentation was rightfully somber, replicating the gravity of Christ’s Passion: the crown of thorns, the rough-hewn, full-sized cross, Jesus falling again and again, hanging on the cross by His full weight and hearing the echo of the spikes as they’re being pounded into His hands. After His death, Christ is carried out, shrouded on a stretcher. “The human part of our God was tortured,” Carol says, and that’s what she wanted to help the students feel and portray.
Beginning With Prayer
It was prayer that helped the teens prepare. “Before we performed,” Carol shared, “we were all in the basement separated, and I said, ‘You spend time in prayer by yourself and think about who you are in this and what your role is today.’”
When rehearsals began, Carol recalls, “At first they’re pretty stiff.” Everything was new for them, the acting and the interacting. “But the night they performed, they did it so well. They had emotion; they showed it on their faces. I was so proud.”
The group really came together to form a community. And through their efforts, they were able to share the living events of Christ’s Passion with more than 200 Marshfield faithful and help prepare their hearts for the Easter season. The emotion and reality of the performance is meant to rouse those in attendance. Carol shares: “We don’t need to stay in that moment all the time, but we need to feel that moment so we don’t forget it.” She goes on to say, “If we recognize His death, if we die with Him, we’ll rise with Him.”
Carol’s script and the performance narrative concludes: “We, like they, will walk away knowing this was the Son of God.”
Again this Lent, she is coordinating the ministry. “I’m thankful God gave us the teens who are willing to answer the call.” The living stations will be performed in Marshfield at Our Lady of Peace Church on March 29 at 5:30 p.m. All are welcome!
Story and Photography by Amy Eichsteadt
Published in the March/April 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine