October 30, 2020

‘God, send me a good Catholic girl’

Chance meeting at a game leads to love and a pitch for marriage and family

Renae and Jon Schoening are the first recipients of the archdiocese’s Water into Wine Award. Named in honor of Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, the award recognizes extraordinary efforts for marriage and family ministry. (Submitted photo)

Renae and Jon Schoening are the first recipients of the archdiocese’s Water into Wine Award. Named in honor of Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding feast of Cana, the award recognizes extraordinary efforts for marriage and family ministry. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

It’s hard to decide which of the two stories is more wonderful about the love that Jon and Renae Schoening have shared through the years.

Is it the story of how they first met and became attracted to each other?

Or is it the story of the special commitment they have made during their 23 years of marriage, a commitment that has led them to be honored as the first recipients of the archdiocese’s Water into Wine Award, which recognizes extraordinary efforts for marriage and family ministry?

Let’s start with the fun story of the way they first met.

“We met playing softball in 1996,” Renae begins. “We had a co-ed work league, and we needed a sub for the last game of the season. And so a friend on our team called Jon and asked if he would play with us that night. We ended up in the outfield next to each other.”

Jon continues the story, “As we were running in from the outfield, from the grace of God I said, ‘So, when are we going out?’ She said, ‘Whenever you want to.’ ”

Renae adds, “After the game, we stayed and talked for three hours at the field. We talked about our faith that night.”

Jon finishes the story, “Two weeks before, I had ended a relationship and asked God, ‘If you could, send me a good Catholic girl.’ Two weeks later, I met Renae. After the third or fourth night together, I knew she was the one. And lo and behold, 23 years later, here we are.”

They were married on Jan. 11, 1997—a union that has produced six children ranging in ages from 23 to 5, and “four in heaven,” says Renae, referring to three miscarriages and the death of another child just hours after birth.

Considering their busy family life and work schedules—Jon works 60 hours a week in two jobs and Renae works from 12-20 hours a week outside their home while also homeschooling their four youngest children—it would seem the couple from Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Beech Grove would have time for nothing else.

And that leads to the second telling story about them. For the past 21 years, they have been involved in the archdiocesan Pre Cana ministry, helping engaged couples prepare for the sacrament of marriage.

Each year, they have set aside three to four hours on a weekend once a month, for about 10 months each year, to share their experiences and the Church’s teachings about sexuality in marriage and natural family planning.

That dedication has led to them being honored during the archdiocese’s “Co-workers in the Vineyard” virtual awards ceremony on Sept. 29, a ceremony that celebrated the contributions of people who work in the areas of Catholic education, catechesis, youth ministry, and marriage and family ministry.

“We both grew up Catholic, but without a full understanding of the Theology of the Body and what the Church teaches about marriage,” Renae says. “And so as we learned more about that in our engagement and our first year of marriage, we were really blown away by what we learned. It so shocked us that we felt compelled to help other people learn about it.

“We feel the information has been so valuable to our marriage that we want to be part of helping couples understand the beautiful understanding that the Church gives about sexuality.”

Knowing that their topic is such a sensitive one, Jon and Renae use touches of humor in their talks with engaged couples.

“We try to keep it fun,” Renae says. “I think it helps to make them more receptive to what we have to say, that we’re not preaching to them. We try to witness to the blessing that the Church has been in our marriage.”

Jon adds, “Every time we get ready to give our talk, we go to the chapel and pray, ‘Lord, can you let us reach at least one couple now?’ ”

For the Schoenings, that prayer reflects their fundamental approach to marriage.

“There are three in our marriage,” Renae says. “We truly try to have God be a part of it, to be at the center.”

They encourage other married couples to join the Pre Cana ministry, which needs more leaders.

“For us, it all starts with what Christ did for us—sacrifice,” Jon says. “It’s a good sacrifice. It’s our way of giving back to the community.”

Renae says, “I certainly understand that everyone is busy, but it’s just three or four hours once a month to help other couples start their marriage on the right foundation. The witness of couples giving information is so impactful to other couples starting their life together.”
 

(Married couples interested in becoming involved in the Pre Cana ministry should contact Gabriela Ross, who directs the marriage and family life ministry of the archdiocese. She can be reached at gross@archindy.org or at 317-592-4007.)

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