Parishioner Profile | Baptism Formation Team: Hammerhead Sharks

Yes, this article is a profile of the Baptism Formation Team at Our Lady of Perpetual Help; yes, it will include hammerhead sharks; and yes, it will all make sense by the end. 

I hope. 

Baptism Formation at Our Lady is facilitated by a team of volunteers, some who have participated in this ministry for years and others who have only conducted a handful of sessions so far. The team is coordinated by Karen Cook, Director of Adult Faith Formation, and also includes Deacon Kopczewski. Formation sessions take place a handful of times throughout the year and typically last ninety minutes with a variety of different speakers on different topics. Karen further explains that instead of Baptism Formation, attendees should consider this “Baptism and Beyond.” Instead of merely preparing these new parents for the Sacrament of Baptism, the goal is to prepare them for their responsibilities in starting a Catholic family. Their own domestic church. 

Deacon Kopczewski also alludes to that responsibility during his presentation. Most of his talk explains the logistics and procedures of the sacrament itself. In particular he focuses on the questions that will be asked of the new parents explaining, “When we ask you a question it’s either asking for information or an affirmative. If you answer ‘no’ to something we’re just going to stop and figure out what’s going on.” He does attempt to reassure the attendees that they will be nervous, and it is not at all uncommon for the parents to be asked the name of their child and the husband and wife suddenly and silently stare at each other with wide eyes having completely “blanked out.” 

However, Deacon Kopczewski also stresses the importance of the questions, explaining they allude to the Nicene Creed recited at every Sunday Mass. “Do you understand the responsibility because baptism can never be undone.”

Team member Jason Gale also refers to this during his presentation on fatherhood. “Your central goal is to arrive at Heaven’s Gates… with your family.” He further adds, “When you make those baptismal promises it’s real. Your child’s life and salvation depend on you.” 

However, the formation session also stresses that parents are never alone and are not the first ones to go through whatever trials they are facing. Jason explains the sacrament affirms that parents are the first teachers of their children, “But not the only teachers.” Team member Meredith Adams expounds on this theme during her presentation on Keeping the Commitment. She stresses the importance of surrounding yourself with a Catholic community regardless of whether parents choose our parochial school, public school and PSR, or some other combination. New parents can lean on that community for advice, support, or simply a few words with a friendly face.

During her closing remarks, Karen also reinforces that sense of community. “You’ve met us and know who we are. If you see us at Mass or anywhere else and have questions or simply want to ask us to pray for you don’t hesitate to ask us.” Deacon Kopczewski also records the names of the parents and children of every baptism he performs and includes them when he prays the Divine Office daily. Meredith reinforces that new parents are never alone spiritually, “God is the one who guides us and leads us… be one with Jesus.” Deacon Kopczewski adds that during the sacrament we ask that, “All the saints who are, who ever will be to pray for your child.”

A central theme of the formation session is attending weekly Mass as a family. Deacon Kopczewski simply states, “The most important thing you can do is bring them to Mass. This is their home. No matter what happens they belong to Jesus Christ.” During her presentation Meredith explains, “Mass is about what you are giving; you are teaching them.” However, all the speakers acknowledge the challenge of attending Mass with children. Meredith has an entire section of practical tips for attending Mass with young children and adds, “Sometimes you just make it to Mass with them and somehow survive it and that’s okay.” Jason elaborates that a parent’s example matters, and their children are always watching them. “You’re being watched every day to see how serious you are. You need to be intentional.” All the presenters reassured the attendees that a rambunctious child at Mass is a blessing and not a distraction. Perhaps Meredith most succinctly explained this, “Remember a noisy Mass is a living Mass.”

Deacon Kopczewski again referenced the responsibilities these young parents were about to undertake. “Until they’re sixteen they’re not going to be able to make it to Mass on their own. Don’t prevent them from going.”

“Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’ And he laid his hands on them and went away.” (Mt 19:14 – 15)

Perhaps most importantly all the speakers expressed solidarity. Each of them is a parent and has gone through many of the same things the attendees are currently going through and will go through. They all provided deeply personal anecdotes; some humorous, some instructional, and some agonizingly heart wrenching. However, the common theme was these trials never drove them away from God, but instead drew them closer to Him. 

Following the session, I had the opportunity to interview the team members. During these interviews I often ask what the greatest challenge of the position is, and for the Baptism Formation Team, the universal answer was, “It’s not challenging… it is a joy… every time I leave refreshed.” They repeatedly stated that conducting this formation brought them determination, grace, and inspiration and made them even more resolved to shepherd their own families. 

Regarding their most impactful moment, all of them referenced this session I had the privilege to observe. At the conclusion attendees mingle with the team members and an older child, around 7 years old, was there with his parents and was the one to be baptized. The session took place at 9 am on a Sunday morning, and he wanted to schedule his baptism for Monday. The next day. He was so excited to join our shared Catholic Church that he did not want to wait a single day more than necessary. 

So, hammerhead sharks. 

Until recently Jason was a pilot and aircraft commander for a Coast Guard C-130. I have quite an affinity for the C-130 as I have close family members that were a flight engineer, pilot, and navigator for an Air National Guard unit flying that aircraft. Jason and his crew had been in Central and South America flying drug interdiction missions where they endlessly patrolled vast stretches of empty water looking for boats transporting illegal drugs into the United States. 

On one of their glorious downtime days, he received a call that five divers had gone missing in an area rife with hammerhead sharks that researchers use to study them. These kinds of search and rescue missions were one of the reasons why a farm kid from landlocked Ohio joined the Coast Guard, so Jason immediately agreed to the mission. When he explained it to the crew the overwhelming consensus was, “We never find divers.” The aircraft is flying too high, too fast for the crew to ever spot something as small as a human on the ocean. Spotting a 20-foot boat is challenging, but a human head bobbing on the surface of the water is nearly impossible. 

Still, they spent the next twelve hours flying over empty water counting sea turtles to keep their eyes acclimated to examining the ocean (my older twin Henry was quite excited to hear about the sea turtles.) With twenty minutes of fuel remaining, they had to choose between two airfields and turned back towards the coast. Their choice brought them almost immediately and directly over two of the missing divers. The C-130 dropped a life raft to the survivors and directed ships to their location. Jason would later learn the divers had been continuously attacked by hammerhead sharks and jellyfish during their time in the water. 

Even though they “never find divers” Jason reminded his crew that this was someone’s son and this was their mission. If seven aircrew in a C-130 will make that kind of effort to save someone else’s son in this world, how much more important is our mission as parents to save the eternal souls of our own children. 

If you are a parent of any age with children of any age, I would encourage you to attend a Baptism Formation session. As Meredith says, “Every time I speak at one of these there’s something new to take away.” Karen also explains, “They call us ‘practicing Catholics’ because we’re practicing at it, not because we’re experts at it.”

The next Baptism & Beyond session will be Sunday, November 7 at 9 am in the Life Center. Anyone interested in attending can register through the parish website (ourladygc.org) under Sacraments > Baptism > Baptism & Beyond Parent Formation Registration. 

The members of our Baptism & Beyond Formation Team are:

  • Karen Cook, Pastoral Minister
  • Deacon Michael Kopczewski
  • George Adams
  • Meredith Adams
  • Diane Boyden
  • Emily Gale
  • Jason Gale

By Eric Brooks

Parishioner Profile: Bev Killian

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Cor 12:27)

“On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable…” (1 Cor 12:23) 

Generations are important to Bev Killian. After having lived in Philadelphia, New Jersey, North Carolina, and rural western Ohio, Bev and her husband finally settled in Grove City five years ago to be near their children. From her accent to cultural differences to big city versus rural, Bev “learned so much from each place we lived.” However, in Grove City the two of them found a home, “We just love being here.” It was the generations of their children and their grandsons that drew them to our parish. 

As a recent retiree Bev joined several social committees and volunteers at Mt. Carmel, but she “had the yearning” to do something more spiritual for her life. Two-and-a-half years ago she noticed an advertisement in the bulletin asking for help providing the Holy Eucharist to homebound persons. (My first reaction at hearing this was, “So people actually do read the bulletin!”) For the next eighteen months Bev coordinated the Extraordinary Ministers who bring the Eucharist to the elderly and other persons who are not able to regularly attend Mass. 

No doubt if you read the bulletin (people actually do read the bulletin!) you know a recurring theme I have encountered is the Holy Spirit working through other persons to guide us when we need a subtle, or not so subtle, nudge. For Bev it was one of her Extraordinary Ministers who pointed out, “So you’re on the list of us able to distribute the Eucharist, but I don’t see you actually distributing the Eucharist.” That was all Bev needed to involve herself more intimately into this ministry. 

Bev has always been a “people person” and greatly enjoys walking into a home and simply chatting with the person and their family. She explains, “You get to know these people… they become like family.” Currently she provides the Eucharist to the 95-year-old matriarch of a farming family and has the privilege of meeting five generations of that family at the same time in their farmhouse. Bev finds purpose in simply the “joy of talking about God and faith” with all of them. She pauses and then adds, “It’s just the little things.”

Perhaps tellingly Bev further explains, “I’m a firm believer that God puts the people in your life that you need when you need them.” For her this family has become her family. All the people I have interviewed have expressed how much more they get out of their ministries than they put into them. It was Karen Cook that first introduced me to Bev and her story and humorously added, “I’m so glad we were able to find a family to take care of Bev.” 

When I ask her the most powerful moment she has experienced in this ministry, Bev does not hesitate. The youngest member of those five generations was recently born with a severe heart defect that required open-heart surgery at the tender age of 6-months. His family was attempting to order some holy water from the grotto at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France. Bev and her husband had previously completed a pilgrimage to Lourdes and had some of that holy water at home. She immediately agreed to bring it to the family. Two days after the surgery the infant developed fluid around his heart and the prognosis was not positive. His family sprinkled him with that holy water and prayed over him and trusted God and the medical staff. 

A mere few days later Bev was holding him in her lap in the farmhouse. One of the family took a picture of that scene and it is now framed in his bedroom with a caption referencing this is the lady who brought the holy water. Bev smiles and says, “You’re ministering to the whole family.”

If she had one wish Bev wants all of us to show more peace and harmony. She acknowledges this seems like an impossible wish at the moment given the nearly constant vitriol we throw at each other. Bev further explains that, “We can disagree, but we can respect each other even if we disagree.” 

Outside of ministering to the homebound Bev enjoys reading and golfing although she describes herself as more of a “hacker” than a golfer. She loves the personal interactions with the homebound and their families but finds the logistics challenging in coordinating Extraordinary Ministers with those needing this assistance. In fact, when I was able to interview Bev in the morning, that evening Marti Hurd and Fr. Yokum were holding a meeting to address the coordination difficulties. The dedicated members of this ministry are growing fewer and older, and they could use help. 

For anyone who might be interested in this ministry, Bev assures me that it is not nearly as difficult as you would imagine. All the Extraordinary Ministers are given cards that walk them through the necessary prayers and readings. She also explains that praying and proclaiming the Gospel in a small group is extremely powerful. 

I am reminded of Fr. John Riccardo who is an avid golfer. He recounted having an associate pastor who was an equally avid hunter and once asked him, “When you’re sitting up there at the altar do you sometimes think about hunting?” When that priest replied in the affirmative, Fr. Riccardo responded, “I’m so glad because I just spent almost an entire Mass thinking about golfing.” For those of us who regularly attend Mass it can become routine, regular, and perhaps even boring.

Bev assures me that praying and reading the Gospel for the homebound and their families is anything but boring. She also adds that you may think you do not know enough regarding scripture, prayer, or our shared Catholic faith. In fact, those same concerns kept her from actively participating in this ministry until the Holy Spirit dragged her into it. Bev assures me, “It’s completely okay to say, ‘I don’t know’ but I’ll find out.” 

If you feel the Holy Spirit is drawing you towards ministering to the homebound you can contact Marti Hurd in the parish office at 614.875.3322, ex 318 or through email at mhurd@ourladygc.org.

By Eric Brooks

Parishioner Profile: Brigitte Bowman | Transformation

In his radio program, “Christ is the Answer,” Fr. John Riccardo once spoke of how “big of a tent” the Catholic Church is. How it has ministries and orders, clergy and laity, that can accommodate any personal charism or interest. To paraphrase him: if you want to be out in the world teaching or serving you can do that, if you don’t want to leave your house you can do that too; never want to talk, we’ve got places you’re not allowed to talk, like to talk we’ve got some groups that never seem to stop talking. From a young age Brigitte Bowman has been drawn to that Charismatic Renewal and missionary work. 

When I prepare for one of these interviews, I typically write a dozen or so questions and topics that I think would be helpful to explore and use those to help guide the conversation. With Brigitte I simply mentioned her time at Our Lady’s parochial school and then just sat back and enjoyed the ride, so to speak, for the next forty-five minutes as my hand began to cramp from furiously taking notes. She is so filled with charisma and passion for our shared faith that it pours out of her in an unending tide of joy. I left the interview somewhat exhausted and somewhat in awe of this young woman’s close and personal relationship with God. A personal relationship she wants to share with everyone she meets.

Brigitte’s path to developing that personal relationship began when she was trained as an altar server at OLPH. Serving in this role allowed her to become close to the Mass and she began to know, on an intuitive level, the Eucharist truly was the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. At that young age she was unable to fully articulate these feelings but looking back now she can see that seeds were being laid in her faith and it was a transformational moment. 

After completing eighth grade at Our Lady of Perpetual Help’s school Brigitte continued to Bishop Ready High School. In her junior year she began to have a yearning that there was “something more” yet was afraid to step into the fullness of what God was offering her. Despite that Brigitte began to pray in the chapel most days before classes and took strength from her fellow OLPH alumnae at Bishop Ready who were undergoing their own faith journeys. 

Her second transformation moment came during an Encounter Ministries retreat at Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (I suppose despite the taint of the University of Xichigan a few good things can happen in Ann Arbor!) Encounter Ministries is a charismatic outreach organization and when Brigitte walked into the church, the retreat was in the midst of praise and worship. Her first confused thought was, “Did I stumble onto a protestant congregation?” She soon realized these were, in fact, fellow Catholics and was encouraged to hold out and open her hands in a physical gesture representing her opening her heart to God.

What resulted was Brigitte encountering the Holy Spirit in a deeply personal and intimate manner. Suddenly she realized, “all of this is real” and felt overwhelming peace and love. Brigitte soon resolved to open herself to whatever the Lord wanted for her. After graduating Bishop Ready Brigitte knew she wanted something more for her faith than university but was unsure what her next steps would be. As I have heard from so many other people during the course of these interviews, the Holy Spirit worked through a family member when her mother suggested she apply to Damascus Catholic Mission Campus in Centerburg, Ohio. 

Brigitte knew nothing about Damascus and submitted her application on the last possible day. She was accepted and is now working her third consecutive summer and her second year as a full-time missionary. Her first summer Brigitte had no idea what to expect and was assigned to the “Programs” field where she oversaw high adventure activities such as ropes courses. During the summer, Damascus provides a full summer camp experience to children and this year is expected to have 500 of them participating weekly for a total of more than 4,500 over the course of the season. 

As she describes Damascus Brigitte becomes even more passionate and explains, “there are literally miracles happening in front of my eyes.” She relates one anecdote of kids from an inner-city parish and largely disadvantaged backgrounds who attended a retreat. “They didn’t want to be there, but then we started 

Brgitte Bowman | Transformation, Continued

having fun.” Brigitte compared it to the OLPH Life Teen program and slowly the kids began to learn that “the Catholic Church isn’t boring, it’s an adventure.” 

The experience was so transformative that one high school kid, an avowed atheist, was brought to tears at the end of the retreat as he proclaimed how powerful the retreat was for him in developing a newfound relationship with God.

I am reminded of Fr. Larry Richards who once recalled exploding at one of his high school students that being Catholic is not meek and easy, but one of the hardest and most adventurous things anyone can undertake. 

Having undergone her own transformation Brigitte was now instrumental in transforming other lives. As a full-time missionary at Damascus, she also participates in organizing street ministries in communities surrounding the campus. These are missionaries who approach average people on the street in a nonconfrontational manner to present the Gospel. This is much in the same manner as the St. Paul Street Evangelization ministry. While summer at Damascus is devoted to youth camps, as a full-time missionary, Brigitte also facilitates other retreats during the off-season. 

Brigitte explains that she has witnessed so many transformations at Damascus, not because of the missionaries, but because God is present at Damascus. “We open the door and invite Him.” 

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)

For one of the first times during our interview Brigitte pauses and then adds, “God wants to bring OLPH into a deeper relationship with His love and power. We just need to open the door.”

Following her tenure at Damascus Brigitte intends to maintain being “a missionary for life.” She is feeling called to missionary work in other countries and has made it her goal “to renew the Catholic Church.” Her one wish is that everyone could encounter the love of God in a deep and personal way. For all of us to be transformed as she continues to undergo her own transformation. 

When I ask Brigitte her hobbies and what she does for fun she is momentarily confused. At Damascus the missionaries live in households and her precious few free hours are devoted to building community within her household and prayer. Brigitte also adds, “[this life] it’s a commitment.” 

As we conclude she asks me if she could do something for me. Now I am confused and answer in the affirmative to which she responds, “Can I please pray for you?” Hours later I am still humbled by this.

I meet somewhat regularly with parochial and school staff, and very rarely have we ever begun a meeting in prayer and never have I been asked, nor have I personally asked anyone, if we could pray for one another. Contemplating this reaffirms to me that Brigitte’s goal of transformation is already working. 

By Eric Brooks