Elizabeth Horwath
St. Theresa of Avila, Three Lakes

Life is not simple. It is not meant to be simple. We all have endured hardships, difficult situations, loss, even tragedy, and/or suffering. We do not always realize it, but everyone around us has had such experiences. Albeit, some more than others, but how do we manage these situations? How do we act and react? How do we adapt and continue?

I fell away from the church about 30 years ago after a lot of life frustration and confusion. I had been raised Catholic, but nothing I learned as a kid seemed to have sunk in. In fact, all the CCD classes, getting up early to go to Sunday Mass, and other “church stuff” had not been enjoyable by any means, so, it was easier to just forget about it. It was confusing and did not make a whole lot of sense during a time in my life when nothing seemed to make sense anymore.

Fast-forward those 30 years. I had my share of hardships and pain, just like anyone else, and now, in retrospect, realize I never really dealt with any of them appropriately. While dealing with a difficult relationship, I became aware of the lack of God and his love in my life. This difficult relationship is what made me understand and clearly see that I needed to come back to the church and make God a part of my life.

I was also looking to get back into the workforce at the time. I had resigned from my job about 18 months earlier and had not been working. I was not old enough to retire and needed to be a contributing member of society again.

Then, one day, while looking in the employment section, a job was listed for the manager of St. Theresa’s Thrift Store. I could not believe it. I was even friends with someone that was a member of that parish, and she had been encouraging me to come back to church. Plus, I love thrift stores.

During my interview, I explained how I was looking to get back into the church and felt that this opportunity was meant to be. I was hired on March 9, 2023. Shortly after starting at the thrift store, I went to Fr. Ron Serrao (my new boss) and asked how I could learn more about the Catholic Church and its practices. Fr. Ron informed me of the OCIA group that the church cluster offered and gave my name to chairperson, Mark Gostisha.

Mark called me, and we had a great talk over the phone about my background, and what I was looking for. We even met personally, and I was able to share my life stories and tribulations with him. He explained the OCIA program to me and gave me some much-needed confidence and direction in realizing that I am forgiven and accepted by God even after so many years of being away.

Although the OCIA program was nearing its end (Easter was about one month away), Mark invited me to join the group for the remainder of its classes. And what perfect timing! The first session I attended was a review on reconciliation. Something I needed after my 30-year hiatus!

Since I started so late in the OCIA journey last year, I was graciously invited to be part of the OCIA process that started last fall. Being a part of the OCIA group for its full duration has been educational and informative as well as rewarding. I look forward to sharing the jubilation of the candidates and catechumens receiving their sacraments for the first time at this year’s Easter Vigil. To learn about, understand, appreciate, and celebrate Catholicism and our Lord, Jesus Christ, has been truly amazing.

My decision to come back to the church and become a practicing Catholic has been an unbelievably wonderful journey. I have experienced more joy and happiness over the past year than I have in my whole life. Not to say nothing negative has occurred, but I now have a different outlook and attitude on how to deal with things.

I have been truly blessed and will be forever grateful for what I have experienced in life, both good and bad. I only hope that others will grasp the same wonder and acceptance that forms and guides their pathway through life.

Life is not always easy, but, with Christ by your side, it puts a whole different perspective on things. A perspective for which I am incredibly grateful.