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Making a commitment to Christ

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

By Carmen M. Hubbard

ST. ANDREW DEANERY — As a husband and family man, Bret Hawkins of Loveland knew he wanted to set an example for his children. The father of three said he put off his salvation and commitment to Christ long enough, leading to his decision to become Catholic.

“My journey is probably like many people,” he said. “I have been a believer since I was young and attended church on and off as a child and teenager, but didn’t really feel a sense of community or belonging. Later in life, always a believer, I certainly did little to strengthen my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.”

That all changed 10 years ago when Hawkins married his wife, Julie, a cradle Catholic, and the couple made the decision to raise their children in the Catholic faith. Hawkins and his family have been part of the faith community at St. Columban Parish since moving to the area from Anderson Township in 2004. His wife is actively involved with children’s liturgies at the parish and encouraged Hawkins to attend Mass with her and their children. He agreed, and has found the parishioners to be very warm and friendly.

In spite of the welcome he received at St. Columban, Hawkins felt he was just “attending” Mass and was hesitant to move forward in his faith. Finally, last year, with his oldest daughter entering the second grade and preparing for her first Communion, he felt compelled to take that next step.

“After seeing the strength in other people and families at St. Columban, I felt that there was something missing in my faith and I did not want my lack of strong faith to hold something back from my family,” he explained.

St. Columban hosted monthly meetings for those seeking to join the church before the RCIA process began last summer with four adults and four children. A separate program is held for children at the church. During the classes, Hawkins was paired with a sponsor to assist him as he learned about the church and developed his faith.

“I was fortunate to have Jim Brinks, a man of tremendous faith as my sponsor,” Hawkins said. “His faith has kept him going through some tough times, including a family illness, and that has been very inspiring to me.”

Scott Mussari is the director of faith formation at St. Columban. He said he has been humbled to witness Hawkins’ faith as it has grown.

“I think it’s great. I’ve really grown to respect Bret and his journey,” Mussari said. “He’s a good friend. I’m humbled to be part of the process. He helps me to examine my own faith and I don’t think I’m alone in that. We’re happy for Bret.”

As for Hawkins’ family, he said his wife is also very happy for him. His children — Lauren, eight, Anna, six and four-year-old Sam — think it is “funny that Daddy will be baptized on Easter.”

Hawkins said his decision to become Catholic and join the faith community at St. Columban has been more rewarding and “less painful” than he had anticipated. He attributes his wife’s multiple invitations to attend Mass with her to helping jump start his relationship with God.

Looking back on his journey, Hawkins said, “(The RCIA) program seemed like such a commitment. It truly became a great part of my week. It’s not dreadful, I think, because of my participation at the parish and people being supportive and helpful. I felt led. I didn’t have a good reason why I should wait any longer.”

“It was much more fulfilling and enlightening than I anticipated,” he added. “I get more out of the readings and homilies now because of the knowledge I have. The reason why we (Catholics) do things is much more clear. I feel like I have such a solid foundation in the Catholic Church. I’m not so lackadaisical now about my thoughts and my relationships. I’m more aware of the gifts and blessings I’ve received and continue to receive, and of God’s presence in my life.”

As he prepares to receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — and be welcomed into the church at Easter Vigil, Hawkins said he is “looking forward to further embracing Catholicism and strengthening my relationship with God.”

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