By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — After the death of three family members in a relatively short amount of time, Rolando and Maria Gonzalez decided to return to the Catholic Church with their children.
Rolando and Maria each had been baptized, made their first Communion and confirmed in the Catholic Church, but both fell away prior to meeting each other. “We were distracted and had been away from the Church for a while,” said Maria. When the couple married 23 years ago, they did so outside of the Catholic Church.
When the family deaths occurred, Maria said it was time to go back to church and her husband agreed. They attended one Catholic church, but didn’t feel it was the best fit for their family.
Rolando said a friend of his told him about the Thanksgiving and Christmas food basket drive at St. Anthony Parish in downtown Davenport. Because of their financial situation at the time, the Gonzalez family signed up for a food basket. When they learned that St. Anthony’s was a Catholic church, “I thought, maybe we should try this church out,” Rolando said.
The couple’s oldest son, Rolando Jr., 9, also had been asking a lot of questions, so the couple decided it was time to bring the entire family into the Catholic Church.
They attended St. Anthony’s and loved it, Maria said. “The first person we met was Sister Judy (Herold, SSND, pastoral associate). She made us feel so welcome,” Maria said. Rolando agreed.
After a while, Rolando and Maria enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) to become reacquainted with the Catholic Church and they enrolled their children in religious education classes. “It was great,” Rolando said.
Rolando Jr. said he has learned so much in religious education classes and was excited to receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist during the Easter Vigil this year. “I asked a lot of questions.” His sponsor was his uncle, Ruben Gonzalez.
Rolando’s three younger siblings, Brianna, 6; Bianca, 5; and Enrique, 1; will be baptized later this year when family from Texas are able to come up for the event.
“It’s been a joy to work with Maria and Rolando Gonzalez and their family,” said Sr. Herold. “The growth in faith over the past year has been remarkable: participation in religious education for the children, involvement in the adult sessions for parents, and the level of sharing and insight all add up to an active family who loves Sunday morning and carries it over to the rest of the week.
“This certainly gives evidence to the importance of faith formation for parents and its effect on the children. Rolando Jr. was so proud and happy to receive the sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil! And, Rolando and Maria renewed their faith commitment at the same time. This is a gift to the family and a gift to our parish,” Sr. Herold said.
Maria said the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion service at the beginning of Lent in Iowa City was beautiful and Rolando Jr. was very excited to meet Bishop Martin Amos in person.
Bianca said she has learned that Mary is Jesus’ mom and she likes to color pictures of Jesus in her religious education classes. And she really enjoys seeing Father Apo Mpanda, pastor of the parish, and getting a hug from him each Sunday that they attend Mass.
Prior to the Easter Vigil, Fr. Apo visited the family and blessed the home. It was a visit the family said meant a lot to them.