By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Being married to a Catholic spouse inspired both a father-in-law and his son-in-law to prepare to enter the Catholic Church this year during the Easter Vigil at St. Mary Parish in Wilton.
Dick Wallerich and Casey Koehler were interviewed by The Catholic Messenger during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion celebrated Feb. 18 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Dick married his wife Jewell eight years ago. Born and raised Lutheran, he attended a Lutheran church in Cedar Rapids on Saturdays and Mass at the Wilton parish on Sundays. The ultimate decision to join the Catholic Church was his.
“There are a lot of similarities between the two churches,” Dick said. To begin the process he obtained an annulment of his first marriage through the Diocese of Davenport. Jewell’s first husband was deceased.
Dick said his classes in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) were quite interesting and he learned a lot. Classes have been held in Muscatine with Sister Cheryl Demmer, PBVM, director of religious education for the Wilton and Muscatine parishes.
Sr. Demmer said Dick has been going to St. Mary’s for years and is a very “faith-filled man. This decision was very much his own. He comes to class every week and he is always happy.”
“At age 78, I don’t get nervous,” Dick said. So he felt comfortable meeting Bishop Thomas Zinkula at the diocesan celebration and looks forward to the Easter Vigil at St. Mary‘s.
Sitting in the same pew with the Wallerichs at the diocesan celebration were Casey and Meagan Koehler, who have been married eight years. Meagan is Jewell’s daughter.
Casey was born and raised Baptist. He and Meagan were not married in the Catholic Church. Being in the military, they were married in a ceremony at which a Protestant minister presided. The couple had their marriage validated in the Catholic Church earlier this year.
Casey said Sr. Demmer has helped him to learn that the word catholic, with a small “c,” means universal. More things fell into place as he learned about the Catholic Church. “It brought a lot of clarity.”
Classes were eye-opening and many misconceptions about the Catholic faith were cleared up in class.
Sr. Demmer said Casey “has a great spirit and is not afraid to ask questions. And he asked them. He didn’t want things sugar-coated. He wanted straight answers.”
“I have had a really good experience learning and talking about Christ,” Casey said. “I went from a guy who knew nothing to learning a lot.” He encourages Catholics to attend RCIA to learn more about their own faith.