By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
(Editor’s note: More than 200 men, women and children are expected to enter the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Davenport during the Easter Vigil this Saturday. Here, Byron and Pam Keefe share their story.)
Throughout his life, Byron Keefe never felt comfortable with many teachings in his Protestant faith.
In third grade he was kicked out of Sunday school class one day for questioning his teacher. In sixth grade he was told he was no longer welcome in Sunday school and that he should go to adult classes because of his questions. And as an adult attending Scripture class, he noticed that others turned away from him for asking too many questions.
“All my questions I had growing up I never got good answers for. Now I have answers,” said Byron, who will enter the Catholic Church along with his wife Pam during the Easter Vigil on April 19 at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine.
When the adults in his class didn’t want to discuss Byron’s questions, he decided to do research on his own. “I discovered the early Church was the Catholic Church. I had never been taught that before.” He read more about Christ’s mercy, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and that Catholics didn’t add seven books to the Bible — Protestants took out the seven books. “Reading led me to the truth,” he said.
He agreed with the Catholic Church’s teaching that it’s not by faith alone that we are saved, but by faith and works.
Byron decided to talk directly to someone in the Catholic Church and called Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish. “They put me in touch with Father Joseph Sia (parochial vicar at the time). The next day we met and talked for an hour and a half.”
“Pam and Byron began their journey to the Catholic Church a year ago in March,” said Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, the parish’s director of religious education and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). “Faithfully we met each week and in September of 2013 Pam and Byron joined our RCIA group that met each week on Tuesday night. They have warmly embraced their journey to the Catholic Church,” Sr. Demmer added.
“It’s been a long process to get here and I look forward to the Easter Vigil,” Byron said. Accompanying them on this journey of faith are six recently adopted children — five with special needs. “These children will witness their parents being received into the Catholic Church as they await their own baptism. For Pam and Byron, this is truly the day the Lord has made,” Sr. Demmer noted.
Byron and Pam selected as their sponsors the mother-daughter team of Michelle and Julie Schaapveld. They met their sponsors through Monday rosary group. The Blessed Virgin Mary played a small role in the church the couple had belonged to. It took a while for Byron to understand Mary’s larger role in the Catholic Church. But he welcomed it, and eventually purchased a rosary. Sr. Demmer suggested Byron get it blessed. Father Jason Crossen, the Muscatine parish’s pastor, blessed the rosary. Byron started attending rosary group every Monday after that.
Pam said she thought her faith journey had been complete prior to coming to RCIA. “Apparently not,” she laughed. But she looks forward to continuing her journey after she is a full a member of the Church.
Besides reciting the rosary, the couple attends Theology on Tap. Byron has a Knights of Columbus flier ready to turn in once he’s officially a member of the Church and he plans to attend a Bible study.
He is open to doing things for the parish that are “behind the scenes.”
Although retired, Byron and Pam keep busy with the children. They have five older children out of the house, six adopted children between the ages of 4-10 and three grandchildren. “They all keep me pretty busy,” Byron said.