By Celine Klosterman
Julia and Beth Ross are looking forward to finally receiving Communion as a family.
During Easter Vigil Mass at St. Mary Church in Oskaloosa, Julia, 42, and her daughter, 17, will do so together for the first time. The two are completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at the parish, where they’ve attended Mass for years with husband and father Tony Ross, who is Catholic.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” said Julia, a loan officer, of her religious quest.
Her journey to the Catholic Church was gradual. After growing up in the Dutch Reformed Church, she initially wasn’t sure about joining her husband’s faith. But after the couple, who’ve been married 19 years, had a son, Jacob, and daughter Beth, Julia started attending Mass and bringing the children. Beth and Jacob were baptized and received their first Communion.
But as the time for Beth’s confirmation approached, the family was moving from Oskaloosa to Des Moines. Amid the process of settling into a new city and new jobs, Beth’s confirmation fell to the wayside.
Last year, though, Beth decided she wanted to receive the final sacrament of initiation. Her family had returned to Oskaloosa and she had gotten engaged. She and her fiancé of nearly a year, Joseph Whitehead, agreed they wanted to get married “the right way, under God’s eyes,” she said.
To wed in the Catholic Church, Beth needed to be confirmed. Seeing that her daughter was planning to go through RCIA, Julia decided to as well.
“I had thought about it at different times over the years, but this was perfect timing,” Julia said.
Despite some initial uncertainty about what the process would involve, she said she’s grown comfortable with it and her six fellow candidates and catechumens. “We’ve had really good teachers,” she added. What’s enjoyable is learning explanations for why Catholics do certain things — such as tracing a cross on their forehead, lips and heart before the Gospel is read at Mass, she said.
Beth said she’s appreciated being able to go through RCIA with her mom. “We’re incredibly close. It’s like going through it with your best friend,” she said.
“It has been a treasure for all to see the relationship they have with each other, their joining our Catholic family and their growing relationship with God,” Dave Groet said of the Rosses. He is an RCIA team leader at St. Mary.
It’s unique to see a mother and teen daughter going through RCIA together, he added.
Tony said he’s “very happy” for his wife and daughter. Julia now will be able to fully participate during Mass, and she understands more about the faith, he noted. “I think that’s great.”
Both Julia and Beth cite Mass as their favorite aspect of Catholicism. “I really like the comfort of the ritual, and knowing that you’re going to get some readings from the Bible every week,” Julia said.
For Beth, the Catholic Church has been helpful on the road to marriage. “Joe and I need that spiritual connection for our relationship,” she said. Parish premarital counseling has offered relationship-strengthening skills, and going to Mass and praying are “things we can do together.”
Soon, receiving the Eucharist will be something Beth and her mom can do together. “I’m looking forward to being able to join in with my family and take Communion on Sundays,” Julia said.
Beth added that she’ll like no longer having to leave mid-way through Mass for RCIA class. “I really will enjoy getting to stay through all of church again,” she said. And being able to receive the Eucharist with her family is appealing, too. “That’s a really exciting thing.”