January 8, 2010

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Family and faith are reinforced through experiences

Shirley Vogler MeisterWe are meant to keep the peace of Christ like a beacon in our lives and in our extended relationships.

This is not always easy, but each of us has the power to do this in small or exceptional ways. As we continue living in the New Year, we can surely benefit and be grateful for God’s grace, discerning what we have learned so far and applying our lessons well.

As January approached, I realized that I have learned so much through the years, but I need to be more open to experiences that continue to allow me to grow in my faith.

For instance, even though I have always understood that family and faith go hand in hand, last year this was reinforced in two ways. I found these pivotal times in my life to have proved the importance of both family and faith.

The first experience was an October trip that my husband, Paul, and I made to South Dakota with my sister, Beverley, and her husband, John Thurman, who live in our hometown of Belleville, Ill.

Through incessant rain, Paul drove nearly 3,000 miles to and from Pierre, S.D., with us stopping en route to sleep overnight only once each direction. Our goal was to be in Gettysburg, S.D., for a surprise 70th birthday celebration for my brother, Stan.

We stayed and attended Mass in Pierre, and with Stan we also had an opportunity to visit the historic and beautiful Catholic church in Hoven, S.D.

We are grateful to Shirley Vargas, a Christ the King Parish friend, for telling us about this church. Hoven is her hometown.

There is much more that I could share about our journey to South Dakota, but something else significantly challenged us after we returned home.

My brother-in-law, John, became seriously ill on the Saturday before

Thanksgiving. He was quickly transferred from a Belleville hospital to an intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

My husband and I left Indianapolis after Mass the next day to be with my extended family during their hospital vigil. Our daughter, Lisa, drove in from Nashville, Tenn., to lend additional support.

Father Nicholas Junker from the Thurmans’ Belleville parish came to the hospital to pray and administer last rites. John later rallied and returned home on the day after Thanksgiving!

Paul and I felt blessed to have witnessed the beginning of John’s recovery. Then we headed for Nashville, where our daughter, Lisa, was hosting our family’s traditional St. Nicholas celebration a little early.

Now I wonder if it was the grace-filled hand of God that brought Father Nicholas to the hospital for John’s last rites?

Through the ordinary and extraordinary challenges that we have, we are given opportunities to grow in faith, and to be grateful for both the pleasant and unpleasant lessons we learn in daily life.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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