Our faith is important to us and we are very involved in our church community. We attend a small church that is very diverse in terms of racial identity, ethnic heritage, and income level. It is Catholic and rooted in the African American tradition. This is Nora’s home church; she was raised in this parish and was a member of the gospel choir through her teenage years. Nora’s parents volunteered in the soup kitchen and Nora remembers helping to make big pots of chili every third Sunday. The elders in the church showed love, compassion and support that made a huge difference in Nora’s life.
After college, Nora moved and stopped attending services there. After we were married, we spent quite a few years trying to figure out life and our spiritual identity as a couple. Then, one Sunday, Nora asked Mike to attend a service at her “home” church. He fell in love with the community and, to make a long story short, was baptized into the faith.
As a couple, we are now very active in the church and it has made a huge, positive difference in our lives. Nora teaches Sunday school and is a member of the Tolton Society (the Tolton Society is named for Father Augustus Tolton, a former enslaved person who became the first African American priest and will soon be made a saint). Mike’s ministry is pretty unique. Over a year ago, he started baking cookies for the food and fellowship that follows the Sunday service. The congregation fell in love with those snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, butterscotch, mint…. cookies and he is sometimes referred to as “the cookie man.” He wakes up at 5 a.m. on Sunday, puts on gospel music and bakes. People now put in requests for their favorites. When Mike learned that one of the children was allergic to eggs, he devised a way to make eggless cookies. Some of the older ladies fill plates to take home to their grandchildren. One mother told us her three year old is excited to come to church because of the cookies. This made us laugh. Even though it’s a small thing, the cookies are Mike’s way of showing gratitude for what the church has brought to our lives.
Another neat aspect of belonging to this church is that Nora’s sister and brother and their families attend as well. We now take up almost two pews. It’s great to be able to share this part of our lives with our brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews and it has brought us even closer as a family. When we think about holding our own baby while sitting with our families and celebrating mass, it brings us such happiness. We also know that our child, no matter her race or heritage, will benefit from being part of a welcoming family and inclusive community that educates and celebrates racial and ethnic diversity through music, programs and social events.
In addition to our church community, we carry our faith life into our home and other parts of our lives. Though we are far from perfect in our practice, we pray together, attend bible study when we can and try to live our lives in the example set by Jesus - to be loving and compassionate, to help others whenever we can, to know that ALL people, without exception, are children of God.