School community inspires siblings to join the Church: Braxton and Brynlee’s parents support them on the journey

Bishop Thomas Zinkula distributes Communion to Brynlee and Braxton Ellenberg during the Easter Vigil April 8 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. The siblings received the sacraments of initiation of baptism, confirmation and Communion that evening.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Fifth-grader Braxton Ellenberg and his sister Brynlee, a second-grader, enjoy attending Mass with their classmates at All Saints Catholic School and their joy is even greater this Easter season. The siblings became members of the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil on April 8 at Sacred Heart Cathedral, with the support and love of their parents, extended family, school family and parish.

Their journey to the Catholic Church began when they talked about something they wanted to do during Mass. “We just wanted to receive Communion,” Braxton said. Their desire intensified when All Saints religion teacher Mary Jacobsen began teaching Brynlee’s second-grade class about the Church’s seven sacraments. “A lot of my friends were baptized,” said Brynlee. The lessons on baptism strengthened her desire to be baptized. “I wanted to be closer to God.”

Terry and Kara Ellenberg chose to enroll Braxton at All Saints when he entered kindergarten. “We fell in love with the school. It was very family oriented, very welcoming,” said Kara, a baptized Catholic who did not grow up going to church. She and Terry knew their children might want to join the Catholic Church someday. “We put them in that environment. When they decided to do it, we decided to do whatever it took to get them there,” Kara said.


They began attending school Masses when possible. Then, “we started going to Sacred Heart Cathedral and felt it was a good fit for us. We felt comfortable. It has been by far the most welcoming environment. Everyone is so nice,” Kara said. Terry, who grew up in the Methodist church, nodded in agreement. “We didn’t have them baptized when they were young. I felt they should be able to make that choice on their own,” he added.

Kara approached Susan Stanforth, the cathedral’s faith formation director, about the process for Braxton and Brynlee to become Catholics. Kara had seen Susan at the dance studio where the daughters of both moms take dancing classes. Soon after they talked, Susan said she wanted Braxton and Brynlee to attend the weekly 9 a.m. Sunday Mass and children’s liturgy. The family honored that request. “Church is definitely a part of our weekly routine now,” Kara said.

The siblings participated in sacramental preparation classes at All Saints and met with Susan for additional preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. They participated in a mini-retreat with Susan, read books at home about saints with their parents, discussed their choices for confirmation names and wrote reports about their saint. “We talked a lot about saints and their stories and helped narrow it down,” Kara said. Brynlee chose St. Ann and Braxton, St. Christopher.  “I think Braxton and Brynlee have started many conversations about living out their faith at home,” Susan added.

Susan offered to serve as Braxton’s sponsor and Mary as Brynlee’s sponsor. “We were both very excited,” Susan said. “Everyone was excited,” Kara added. For Mary, a first-time sponsor, “It was really special.”

On Holy Saturday, following an Easter egg hunt, Braxton and Brynlee participated in a rehearsal of the Easter Vigil with Bishop Thomas Zinkula, who was “very good with these two kids,” Susan said. She advised the siblings to take a nap before the nearly three-hour Easter Vigil that began at 8:30 p.m. The whole family agreed that was a good suggestion!

Terry and Kara, their parents and other relatives attended the Easter Vigil to support Braxton and Brynlee as did some All Saints families. Bishop Zinkula baptized each child, Brynlee first. He

Mary Jacobsen congratulates Brynlee Ellenberg after she was baptized during the Easter Vigil April 8 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport. Jacobsen was Brynlee’s sponsor. Also pictured is Deacon Dan Huber. Brynlee’s brother, Braxton, also entered the Catholic Church during the vigil.

poured water from a pitcher three times over each one’s head. They described the experience as very wet. Baptism was the highlight of the vigil for Brynlee. For Braxton, it was “getting my first Communion.”

During Lent, Susan gave a canvas to each sibling. She asked them to write on their canvas what they wanted to do as new Catholics. Both wrote that “they wanted to share their faith and both wanted to go to heaven,” Kara said.

Last week, Braxton and Brynlee were thrilled to attend school Mass and receive Communion with their schoolmates. However, Brynlee’s classmates must wait until May to make their first Communion. “Everybody was asking me, ‘What did it taste like?’” Brynlee said, smiling. “A lot of my friends, my close friends, they were all happy for me,” Braxton said.

“It’s really special to see young people joining the Church,” said Mary, “and having such a supportive family to help them along the way.”

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on