January 27, 2017

2017 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

‘Road map’ for life leads family to Catholic education

Harold, Gus and Kathy Ducote have found a home—and a place to live their faith—at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi School in Greenwood. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Harold, Gus and Kathy Ducote have found a home—and a place to live their faith—at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi School in Greenwood. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

GREENWOOD—Kathy Ducote believes that God has a road map for each of our lives.

And considering what happened at her father’s funeral, Kathy figured that God was using that moment to lead her in a new direction.

By the time her dad died in the early summer of 2015, Kathy had already spent 20 years as an educator in a public school system, so she was disappointed by the number of people from her work life who showed up to support her in her time of grief.

“I could count on my hands the number of people who came [from work],” says Kathy, a member of SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Parish in Greenwood. “In contrast, I lost count of the people from my faith community who came. It was an outpouring of support.”

It was also the final sign that led her to make a change she had already been considering. Two months after her dad’s death, Kathy started life as a Catholic school teacher, teaching third-grade students at her parish’s school.

“I knew that this was where God was calling me,” she says. “I thought, ‘This is a God thing.’ ”

She had the same thought during a time earlier in her life when she had walked away from her faith, a time when she met a man who asked her to go on a first date with him—to church.

Taking the leap

“I wasn’t going to church because I didn’t feel connected,” Kathy recalls about that initial date with her now‑husband, Harold Ducote. “I wanted someone who could connect the Gospel to my everyday life.

“He took me to his church at SS. Francis and Clare. Father Vince Lampert was the pastor when we began dating in 2007. He shared the Gospels in a way that applied to my life. For that, I was extremely grateful. Going to Mass was a huge part of our relationship.”

Her Catholic faith became a central part of her life. So did Harold. They were married at SS. Francis and Clare of Assisi Church in 2009.

Now, there is the latest change of direction in their lives.

After seeing the joyful, faith-filled experience that Kathy had in her first year of teaching at a Catholic school, Harold decided that he wanted to have that experience, too. So the veteran public‑school educator also made the switch to teaching at SS. Francis and Clare School this year.

“When she switched to Catholic education last year, she was so joyful after coming home from work,” recalls Harold, who teaches math at the middle-school level. “She was like a new person. She said, ‘They listen, they try.’ I wanted that, too, so I took a leap.”

That leap has led him to a life where he can live his faith at school, not hide it. He is involved in preparing eighth‑grade students for confirmation, including serving as a sponsor for one.

“This was the best choice I have ever made,” he says. “There are some days I feel like I am so filled with the Holy Spirit, it is hard to contain.

“One of the biggest things that has drawn me to Catholic education is to be able to illuminate, illustrate and just show that Christ can change your life, that he’ll take you to successes and places you’ll never dream of. The whole experience has deepened my faith any my connection to Christ. I want to impart this to my students and share with them the truth that they can find redemption and peace in Jesus.”

Harold has felt Christ’s influence in his life, especially in the early days of their marriage when the couple faced a health crisis that tested their wedding vows.

‘It changed our love for the better’

“I had a stroke in 2009. It was 37 days after we got married,” he says. “I had the anointing of the sick by the priest. I was instantly healed. It was miraculous.

“That was the biggest challenge of ‘for better or worse.’ It changed our love for the better. It made me slow down long enough to hear God.”

That deep relationship with God hadn’t always been a part of Harold’s life.

“In my twenties and early thirties, I wasn’t interested in going to Mass much. I was lost back then. I was looking for something I couldn’t find in the world. It was Christ and his love and compassion.”

Harold experienced Christ’s love and compassion when his father died just five months after the death of Kathy’s dad.

“We always had God to comfort us,” he says. “There’s so much positive in the world, but sometimes you have to seek it out. Every time I’ve turned my back on Christ, when I turn around, he’s right there for me.

“One of my prized possessions is our family Bible. It’s from my grandmother. She was a teacher, too. She wrote in the Bible, ‘Just remember there is no problem in life too large for Jesus Christ.’ She is absolutely right about that.”

‘God has road maps for us to follow’

That gift of faith is exactly what Harold and Kathy want for their son Gus, who is in kindergarten at SS. Francis and Clare School.

They also want Gus to experience the sense of family that they believe is at the heart of Catholic education.

“After taking care of my dad before he died, I’ve learned even more that family is important and life is precious,” Kathy says. “Now I can take my son to school with me. Our paths cross. I can get that smile or hug from him during the day. That’s another gift from God. At

SS. Francis and Clare, my family is around me. Even my students, they truly are my kids.”

She sees the special impact her students have on her.

“In my first year here, I’d get emotional every month on the 26th—the day my dad died—and they’d know it. They wrapped their arms around me during those times. I was so touched. That’s what Catholic education does. That’s what we want for our son.”

It’s also what she wants to do for her students.

“My faith class lasts from 8 in the morning to three in the afternoon,” she says. “I can talk about faith, morality and values at any time, and incorporate them in any subject.

“In teachable moments with my kids, I can jump into those moments with the Catholic faith. The more you can put a child in a real-life situation and have them use their minds to experience it, it’s going to stay with them. That’s how I feel I need to teach my kids.”

It’s all part of the new direction in life for their family. Kathy and Harold are enjoying the ride.

“God has road maps for us to follow,” Kathy says. “He knows what’s happening in our lives ahead of us.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!