OLSH eighth grader makes journey of faith
Thursday, March 25, 2010
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
ST. ANDREW DEANERY — In most respects Aaron Webb is a typical 13-year-old who likes having fun and hanging out with friends. Yet there is also a more thoughtful, serious side to Webb, an eighth grader at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in Reading, as evidenced by the faith and commitment he has brought to his journey to join the Catholic church.
Webb attended Evendale Elementary School through the end of fifth grade when his mother, Amy Conley, made the decision to transfer to him to OLSH. “I didn’t want him to continue at public school, and I saw the values and the family atmosphere here,” she explained.
Raised in the Church of Christ, Conley lost her father when she was just 16 and recalled how “the church was our family. They took care of us.” That experience, along with her father’s faith-filled example during his illness, led Conley to realize how “important it is to have a relationship with God.”
|Aaron Webb, left, prays at Mass with classmates Chad Crable and Freddie Ballard. (CT/Colleen Kelley)|
Amid the struggles of being a single mother to Webb, Conley was determined to share her faith with him and it is something they have frequently discussed. Those mother/son talks had a profound affect on Webb, who quickly embraced the practice of daily prayer and weekly Mass at OLSH.
“It seemed strange at first,” he admitted, “but then I started to realize what being Catholic really meant. I realized what Jesus did for us and how He will always be there. I wanted to be able to express my faith and share it, so it became very important to me to take that next step to become Catholic.”
Webb approached his teacher, Wendy Schworer, toward the end of seventh grade to express his interest in joining the church. After several discussions Schworer recognized the young man’s dedication and understanding of what would be involved and mentioned it to Father Ron Williams, OLSH pastor. Webb has spent the past year preparing to be received into the church under Schworer’s tutelage at the same time his fellow eighth graders prepared for confirmation.
Conley said she “couldn’t be more proud,” of her son. “I’m behind him 100 percent. It’s your relationship with God that matters, and how he pursues that has been up to him. What’s important is that he has faith and a values system.”
As Webb has gone through the RCIA process, he has had the prayers and encouragement of the entire OLSH community, with the liturgical rites taking place at the school Mass rather than on Sunday so all the students could take part.
“It’s been really great to have all their support,” he said. “The teachers and my friends have definitely helped me out, and I couldn’t have gotten through this without them.”
Schworer said Webb’s journey of faith has been a learning experience for the entire school. “It’s been an opportunity to look at ourselves and our faith and a chance to understand the RCIA process. It’s been a blessing for all of us.”
“Aaron’s already a great Catholic and good example for his classmates,” she added. “He always participates in class and is very helpful. He really understands what a commitment this is.”
“This is Aaron’s community, his home,” said JoAnne Fischesser, principal. “His journey has engaged all of us, from the kindergartners on up. Everyone is excited for him.”
In preparing to join the church Webb said he had become even more aware of how much his faith and relationship to God mean to him. “I love God and know how important He is in our lives. He is the one we can turn to. He’s our future.”
“I want to be the best Catholic I can be,” he added. “I want people to know that you’re not a nerd if you’re Catholic. You can be cool and still progress in your faith. People don’t realize how important God is in our lives. They need to take more responsibility for getting to know God and remembering what He did for us.”
Attending Mass with her son, watching him grow in his faith, and experiencing the sense of community at OLSH has inspired Conley, also the mother of 6-year-old Brindon, to consider following her son’s example. “I would like to embark on this journey as well,” she said. “For now, I’ll support him and be there for him. I’m so excited and very, very proud of him. He has matured so much.”
Conley will be watching proudly as Webb is received into the church at the Easter Vigil. Many of his classmates, Schworer, Fischesser and other members of the OLSH school community will also be present.
As this step on his journey of faith ends and another begins, Webb, who will attend Moeller High School in the fall, said, “I’m going to be very excited and nervous at Easter Vigil in front of that crowd of people, but I know it’s going to be one of the greatest nights of my life.”