September 18, 2015

Trusting in the Lord: Archdiocesan World Meeting of Families’ pilgrims take varied paths to God

Sebastian and Angie Moster pose with their children Caleb, left, Ella, Benjamin and Adam during a trip in June to Capital Reef National Park in Utah. Members of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, the family will participate in the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 22-25 in Philadelphia. (Submitted photo)

Sebastian and Angie Moster pose with their children Caleb, left, Ella, Benjamin and Adam during a trip in June to Capital Reef National Park in Utah. Members of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, the family will participate in the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families from Sept. 22-25 in Philadelphia. (Submitted photo)

By Sean Gallagher

Angie Moster and her family were “ecstatic” when they learned that they had been selected to participate in an archdiocesan-sponsored pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families to be held from Sept. 22-25 in Philadelphia.

The meeting, which the Church holds every few years to help strengthen families and share with the broader world its vision for marriage and family life, will culminate on Sept. 27 when Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass with a congregation expected to number 1.5 million.

That is what Moster and her family are most looking forward to.

“This is the pope,” she said. “This is our leader. This is the universal Church. I’m excited for our children and for myself to be able to experience the universal Church. It’s not just us. It’s bigger than us, bigger than anything we could imagine.”

The families from around the world and across the archdiocese who will participate in the World Meeting of Families are all on a pilgrimage whose ultimate destination is heaven.

The 46 people participating in the archdiocesan pilgrimage to Philadelphia have all followed their own path in this broader journey of faith. But they share a common conviction that marriage and family life are keys in finding their way to their heavenly home.

The following are profiles of three groups of pilgrims who will travel together from central and southern Indiana to the World Meeting of Families.

Pilgrimage coverage is available online
 
Follow the archdiocesan pilgrimage to the World Meeting of Families and Mass with Pope Francis and an estimated 1.5 million worshippers through a blog and photos galleries that can be accessed at www.archindy.org/wmof.
 
Coverage can also be found on Twitter @CriterionOnline and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/
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‘A family experience’

The family of Sebastian and Angie Moster, members of St. Louis Parish in Batesville, might seem on the surface to be taking a short pilgrimage to heaven.

Sebastian and Angie were both raised in faith-filled Catholic families where divorce was hardly known and where children—lots of them—were seen as tremendous blessings.

Married for 18 years, Sebastian and Angie have dedicated themselves through much of that time in handing on the faith and a good example of marriage and family life to their four children Caleb, Adam, Benjamin and Ella, who range in age from 16 to 9.

“We had great role models of married Catholic life,” said Angie, who is the second oldest of seven siblings. “And our relationship certainly has developed throughout our marriage to those deeper levels.”

But their desire to do God’s will in their marriage has become more conscious over the years as they’ve participated in catechetical programs focused on family life, learned more about natural family planning, and served in marriage preparation and youth ministry programs at their parish.

“We’ve really learned through those programs what God’s plan is for our marriage and for our family,” Angie said. “I don’t think we had that clear vision when we were engaged. But, I think we knew in our heart of hearts because we had such good examples all along.”

Part of the plan that God allowed for their lives that they didn’t foresee was the four miscarriages that have marked their family’s life.

“Those certainly have been some of our hardest times,” Angie said. “We’ve also had job losses. But, because of our faith, we trust that the Lord has a greater plan than we can envision for ourselves. So, when we have these hardships, our first thought is to turn to him.”

Three of their miscarriages have occurred since Ella was born, and Angie and Sebastian have used these tragedies to help develop their life of faith.

“We mourn the loss and wonder what might have been,” Sebastian said. “At the same time, we have definitely talked about how great it is that their souls are able to be in heaven. They’re always looking out for us.”

Sebastian hopes that the World Meeting of Families will help him and his family better strengthen other families when they return to their home in Batesville.

“What better way could there be to try to live out our faith and be a good example than to spend our time and effort in being part of this kind of thing,” he said. “You can’t help but be strengthened.

“The family is such an important part of society. If we can somehow work on building society back up starting at the basic level, we’ll promote that as best we can and learn how to support it and spread that message.”

Benjamin Moster, a sixth-grader at St. Louis School in Batesville, is glad that his entire family is making this pilgrimage together.

“It’s a family experience,” he said. “It’s not just one person going. Then we can share it together with other people. All of the work won’t be on one person.”

‘A warm feeling of family’

Like Sebastian and Angie Moster, Tamara Koehl was raised in a large family with a strong Catholic faith. Although her experience of marriage and family life as an adult has led her on a path with many twists and turns, she knows that, through it all, God has been her destination.

Twelve years ago when she was in the final stages of awaiting the birth of her third son, Theo, she was forced to separate from her husband who was abusing her.

Koehl and her two other young sons were soon homeless, living in a van for a while and then with one of her sisters. She gave birth to Theo while homeless.

“That was kind of rough,” said Koehl, who, with her sons, is a member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood.

It was also a period in which Koehl questioned the Catholic faith in which she had been raised.

“I checked out for a while,” she said.

But it was a “lightbulb moment” for her that led Koehl back to the Church.

“I was like, ‘You know? Things aren’t getting better and things aren’t changing,” she said. “ ‘I’ve got to do something. What can I do? I can turn to God.’ I didn’t have anything else I could do.”

Koehl later enrolled her sons at Our Lady of the Greenwood School.

“Everybody embraced my children, embraced me,” she said. “It was that warm feeling of family. They loved me no matter what. It’s been nothing but great since then. I have hundreds of new friends and acquaintances.”

Life was still challenging for Koehl. As a single mom, she was “barely making it by” working at a pre-school. She and her three sons lived in a publicly subsidized two-bedroom apartment.

Then she learned about Habitat for Humanity, an organization that seeks to build homes for families caught in the cycle of poverty so that they can help themselves move beyond their economic circumstances.

About four years ago, she was approved for a home to be built by the organization in Greenwood.

“I remember the day: October 8,” Koehl said. “Someone called me when I was at work and they said, ‘You qualified.’ A happy, happy day.”

Now she works for Habitat for Humanity and has had her faith strengthened by seeing Christians of various traditions coming together to help people in need.

Koehl is used to seeing God work to help people because she’s used to it happening in the life of her family.

“Had I not had God in my life, I don’t think that we would be where we are at all,” she said.

Koehl often sees God’s grace through the help given her by the family in which she grew up.

“Throughout all of my bad decisions or the roads I was forced down, my family was always there regardless,” she said. “There was no judgment. There was no, ‘I told you so.’

“I thank God for them every day. Had it not been for a lot of my family just being there, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Koehl is excited about learning from other families on the archdiocesan pilgrimage about how the life of her own family can be improved.

“Getting to know them, their stories and how they’re keeping the faith through their families is something that I’m pretty excited about,” she said. “I’m interested in seeing how other families work.”

Theo is similarly excited about meeting other children his age from around the globe who will attend the World Meeting of Families.

“It’s going to be cool to see them,” he said. “We are going to meet so many different people.”

‘A joy that you cannot buy’

At 72, Gloria Mahor is among the older members of the pilgrimage group from the archdiocese.

But the deep and active life of faith that led her to seek to be a part of the group has only taken hold in the past five years after participating in a March for Life trip to Washington.

Mahor came to the U.S. in 1970 for residency after finishing medical school in her native Philippines. She worked as a pediatrician until her retirement in 2005, and is a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute.

During much of her adult life, she was far from the Church. Her first husband, who died in 2000, was a Buddhist from China who worked as an obstetrician and gynecologist.

Their five children were all baptized, but none were raised in the faith in any way nor practice it today.

The fact that she did not raise her children in the faith has troubled Mahor since she began to deepen her life of faith.

“I felt so guilty after I became deep in my faith that I did not raise my children as Catholics,” Mahor said with emotion.

She hopes that participating in the World Meeting of Families might help her to become a better witness of the Catholic faith and the Church’s vision for marriage and family life for her broader family.

Mahor has also had to come to terms with the decision she and her husband made in 1977 to abort their third child.

At the time, Mahor’s husband was away on a trip and she was experiencing great pain in her foot. She took a medication that can cause birth defects, although she did not know she was pregnant at the time.

After speaking about the situation with her husband, they contacted a doctor that they knew performed abortions.

“It was so easy to just call him and put me in,” Mahor said. “I went directly to the operating room and had my abortion. I cried after the operation. After that, I tried to forget it and got busy with my practice.

“I did not feel much of the pain until I retired. I kind of shoved it off. Post-abortion syndrome can happen 40 or 50 years later.”

She has since found peace and mercy with God through participating in a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat for women who have experienced abortions.

Looking back on much of her adult life, she likened herself to a lost sheep that Christ, the Good Shepherd, never abandoned.

“I really believe that he never left me,” Mahor said. “In all my life, he allowed me to get out of the gate and wander around, but he was always there trying to take me back. All I had to say was, ‘Yes.’ That happened in 2010.”

Mahor now volunteers with Birthline, an archdiocesan pro-life ministry that helps mothers in crisis pregnancies and mothers of young children. She also helps people in need in a soup kitchen at St. Patrick Parish in Terre Haute.

“The joy that you get from [volunteering] is a joy that I cannot find anywhere else,” she said. “It’s a joy that you cannot buy. It’s different from the happiness you have from what you have gained and own. It’s a joy of being able to serve and help someone, to touch somebody’s heart.”†

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