Parish Stories

St. Monica

Mishawaka, IN Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend


“It was the highlight of their week.”

Mark Havard

I am a speech pathologist working in long-term care. When COVID-19 came on the scene in March of 2020, everything shut down and no one except employees were allowed in the facilities. The residents were not allowed to come out of their rooms except for doctor's appointments. Family could visit through a closed window and talk by phone. All activities and religious services were discontinued until further notice. 

One day at the end of April, one of my patients mentioned that she missed receiving Communion. I was inspired to speak to my priest and facility administrator to see if it was possible to bring her the Eucharist. After agreeing to follow the safety protocol, I was allowed to bring her Communion. She was so happy and it was a powerful moment. 

Then I thought that other Catholics would like to receive Communion. This began a ministry of bringing Christ to 30 to 35 residents every week for a year and a half. I visited each patient’s room, putting on a gown, mask, and shield. Each week it was an honor to bring the Eucharist to the elderly suffering illness, disease, and loneliness. For many, it was the highlight of their week.

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“I felt an overwhelming sense of peace”

George Spohrer

I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. I went to Catholic school all the way through twelfth grade. My family went to Mass every Sunday and prayed before meals. But we didn't talk very much about the faith at home. When my sisters and I had questions about the faith, our parents would try to answer them the best they could, but that was about it. I think my parents assumed the schools were to be the primary educators about the faith. 

The faith was presented to us as essentially just a set of rules: Go to Mass every Sunday and just sit there and watch, and outside of Mass, don't do any of the bad stuff and you'll be okay. I remember as a child I absolutely hated going to Mass because I felt I was being forced to go. And of all the things I remember learning in Catholic school, I don't remember ever once hearing about the importance of having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus and rekindling it every day. 

We never prayed a Rosary together as a family nor did we ever go to Adoration together. Over the years we gradually stopped praying before meals and my sisters all fell away from the faith after they left high school. By the time I was the only one left in the house, I was still going to Mass, but only to say I went; I wasn't intentional about it at all. My freshman year of college, I was fortunate to have a Catholic church right across the street from where I lived on campus, but I was still only going to say I went. I didn't get to know anyone at the church, not even the priest. Once Mass was over, I was out the door and didn't think about it until the following week. Then I transferred to another university where the closest Mass was a 30-minute walk. I made no effort to go. I only went when I was home for break. 

For the next two years I was an unhappy wreck. Not only was I straining to keep up with my grades and finding internships, but also one of my biggest struggles was comparing myself to others. Whenever I would see people doing well in something that I couldn't do as well, I would ask myself, “Why are they so good at this or that and I’m not?” I was so focused on how well everyone else was doing but not on the things I was good at or how I could make myself better. I would tell myself I wasn’t good enough and question my own self-worth. It was exhausting and frustrating. I also didn't have very many close friends. Growing up, I was often picked on and had trouble relating to those around me, so I hardly ever let myself be vulnerable. At this particular school, you could either request roommates or have them randomly assigned to you, which I did every semester I was there, including summer sessions, so I must've had 20 roommates during the four years I was there. 

In my third year at the school, I came back to the apartment one day and saw an invitation to a Catholic Mass slid underneath my door. I didn't know who put it there. I was intrigued, as I was at a public school and I had not seen this before on campus, so I kept the invitation. But the problem was Mass would start during one of my evening classes. 

September 9, 2013 – a normal Monday – is a date I will never forget. I walked out of that evening class and I saw Mass going on across the street. I couldn't hear the priest but I could tell he was giving a homily, so I decided at that moment to go. I was expecting 15 to 20 people to be there, but there were at least 40 to 50 people, including my roommate! It was there where I first encountered FOCUS, which had been at this campus since 2009. This school didn’t have a Newman Center but it had its own Catholic Student Organization: I couldn't believe I had missed out on it for two years! Most people might say that the random roommate who invited me became my roommate by chance, but I'm not sure about that. I truly think God put him in my life to invite me to come back to Him. 

About a month later I was invited by the CSO to a retreat off-campus but I was a little hesitant. I had gone on retreats before and felt refreshed and energized after each one, but it didn't take long for that excitement to fade because I was just going through the motions, doing what everyone else was doing. This time I decided to go and signed up at the last minute. It was at this retreat where I learned that this was more than just another club on campus. These were fellow students, men and women my age, who were living intentionally for the Lord and striving to become disciples. We had a lot of fun and bonded over that weekend, but it was much more than that. 

What I remember most from that weekend is Adoration. It was the first time I had gone since high school. The moment it started I felt an overwhelming sense of peace that I had not felt in a long time. For all my life I had thought that the bread and wine were just symbols of Jesus' Body and Blood. But it was during that retreat where I first heard that they weren't just symbols, they actually were His Body and Blood and that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist! 

Over the years I wanted so badly to get involved in the Church and keep Jesus at the center of my life, but I wasn't sure what God was calling me to do. I went to World Youth Day 2019 in Panama, and one of my prayers at that time was “Lord, whatever your will is for my life, that's what I want.” One day we visited churches around Panama City. In one of the churches there was a statue of Our Lady and beneath it a plaque describing Our Lady of La Antigua, the patroness of Panama. It’s said that her feast day is September 9 and that she was canonically crowned in 2013. Remember that date? I had to walk out of the church and catch my breath. It was a clear message from God that I was right where I was meant to be. It didn't answer what He wanted to do with my life, but it erased any doubt that He does have a plan for my life! 

There are still times where I fall into old habits, but the last few years have been transformative because I've learned to recognize triggers that cause me to start comparing myself to others and I'm incredibly grateful for what God has given me in my life. I've also learned to allow myself to be vulnerable to those around me, especially to Jesus during prayer. It's opened up opportunities to have conversations about the faith with my family, especially my mom, who was raised in a strict Catholic household. She's now on a journey of deepening her faith. I think there's a spark in at least two of my sisters at the moment and I'm still praying for all three of them to return to full communion with the Church and for my two brothers-in-law and four nieces and nephews to follow them home.

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“I can see the difference of life with the Eucharist”

Jackie Moody

I spent three years away from the Sacraments because I was not in a state of grace. I continued to attend Mass and was involved at my parish during that time, but did not present myself for Communion. I can't explain in true words the ache I felt during that time, and how much I missed that time with Jesus. Strangely, I felt the healing and transformative power of the Eucharist when I was away from it. 

Praise God, and through His mercy, I am on the other side and once again in full communion with the Catholic Church. As dark as that time away from the sacraments was for me, I am truly grateful for it. In hindsight, I can see the difference of life with the Eucharist, and without. There is so much joy, strength, and the knowledge that Jesus is with you during all life's ups and downs. I will never take for granted that most wonderful gift that Jesus gave to us for the first time at His Last Supper, and I will celebrate it in awe, at every Mass for the rest of my life.

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“God has something truly wonderful planned for me”

Peter Roeder

My greatest experience with the Blessed Sacrament occurred when I was in high school. I traveled to a different city over a weekend for a music competition through the school. I stayed with a sibling overnight and attended Mass in the morning at an inner-city parish. I was in a state of mortal sin at the time and acted a tad childish in my heart about not being able to receive the Blessed Sacrament. I even half contemplated receiving Jesus on an unworthy soul to keep up appearances. The Consecration at Mass that day completely changed my mind. 

At the elevation of the Host, it was reminiscent to me of Pentecost and the driving wind. While the priest elevated the Host, the bells rang in the church and the steeple, everyone made the Sign of the Cross, and it seemed like there was a huge wind coming from the altar and blowing through the congregation. The same thing happened during the elevation of the chalice, where it seemed like a loud, powerful wind was coming off the altar. There was no physical change – no one had their hair blown or clothes ruffled, but I felt it just the same. It seemed like a voice was also in me telling me to pay attention and worship. It was not an audible voice, but reminiscent of the pointed looks I would get from my parents as a child telling me to focus on what is happening. 

The last sign came during Holy Communion. I was still undecided about receiving Jesus, but after some deliberation, I decided to stay back and wait until after Confession. Immediately I felt like a hook at the base of my heart, and words were softly spoken, “I want you, I want you.” 

Since then, I’ve still struggled with keeping my soul clean for the Lord and have had to go many Sundays without receiving Jesus. However, I know in my moments of sadness and sometimes despair, that he gave me that sign for a reason. God wouldn’t give me this grace for laughs and giggles, He has something truly wonderful planned for me. That is why I always keep returning to the Blessed Sacrament. I say this not for my glory but so that He may be glorified in all things. 

I also especially love Adoration and being able to sing. God has blessed me with a talent for music and I absolutely enjoy being able to sing His praises and lead others (hopefully) closer to Him in song.

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“I was drawn in by God’s grace”

Jen Havard

Our family came into our current parish, St Monica’s in Mishawaka, in July of 2019. It’s incredible looking back at all the Lord has done in us since then, even with Covid and all the craziness that brought. 

I am a cradle Catholic and was brought up in a wonderful, faith-filled Catholic home in Southern Alabama on the Gulf Coast. My parents were involved in the charismatic renewal. The desire grew for them to form Christian community, which led them to a community that started in South Bend and spread around the country in the ‘80s. Mark and I joined that community as young adults and have been members for all of our adult lives, while still participating in parish life. In community life, we have been a part of lots of praise and worship, charismatic prayer, and have grown up with a great awareness of the Holy Spirit’s power and action in this world, which has been powerful and wonderful. But because that particular community was ecumenical and not specifically Catholic, the emphasis was not on our sacramental life. 

The Lord very quickly moved my heart toward the sacred beauty and His presence that we encountered at St. Monica’s. I felt drawn to daily Mass, something I had not experienced before or done regularly. I went to daily Mass as a Lenten sacrifice, but I never just chose to go because I truly wanted to go. I began to notice that the more frequently I attended daily Mass, the more drawn I became to the liturgical seasons, saints’ feast days, cycles of readings, and most especially to the Eucharist. I also began to notice that after morning Mass, my day at work was more doable: I had been working at a pregnancy resource center and that was wonderful, hard, and emotional work for me. It was a daily spiritual battle, and the Eucharist filled me with the grace I needed to do that work for a couple more years. Praise God. 

I had never been part of a parish that had regular holy hours, and started to go to the Thursday evening holy hour at St. Monica’s. I struggled to know what to do for an hour sitting there. I didn’t know the prayers or the responses. But over time, I was drawn in by God’s grace. I now hate to miss any opportunity and I am sad when I can’t be there. I can struggle with distraction, usually from within, and sometimes even doze off after a long work day, but I know that in the end, I was with the Lord for that hour and that is priceless!

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“The wondrous reality of what the Eucharist is blows my mind”

Maddie Garcia

He waits for us. No matter how many times we ignore Him or turn away, He waits there humbly in the tabernacle. His greatest desire is for us to know Him, waiting there as long as it takes for us to turn around and realize our God loves us to the point of sharing His Body and Blood to heal our souls. 

Growing up as a cradle Catholic, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was by no means unfamiliar territory. We would often spend our Thursday afternoons in front of Jesus. Regretfully, this wasn’t an experience I necessarily enjoyed or embraced. Like many Catholics, I had become so fixated on the rules we believed and the prayers we practiced that I had missed the point of our faith–a deep, personal, living relationship with Our Lord. With that piece lacking, adoration time wasn’t really fruitful. It was something to check off the list. Something to do because I was told, not because I personally desired it myself. 

This deeply changed once I started to truly know Jesus. I finally realized that Jesus had been patiently waiting for me to let Him know me. Adoration became transformed. While in college I discovered a little adoration chapel and I’d steal time there. Whether it was 10 minutes before or after classes, or maybe some time in between, walking into that chapel revealed an indescribable peace and calmness, something I’d never found anywhere else. This was not a normal peace or calm, rather it was an unearthly, “God is truly present in this place” calm. 

To this day, the wondrous reality of what the Eucharist is blows my mind. It’s God; the King of the Universe; the healer of my heart; existence itself. It’s God’s Body and Blood and He’s waited for all eternity for me and for you to come talk to Him. How can you not let that transform you? 

It’s in adoration, at the feet of Jesus, that we let ourselves be transformed. I used to think I needed to be saying or reading so many words to make it meaningful. But no, you just show up. Whatever burdens you carry with you, you walk in and sit at the feet of Jesus and let Him love you. There doesn’t need to be a single word said. His love transcends words. You just look at Him and He looks back at you. And you let yourself be transformed by the most life-giving love.

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“Jesus showed me the way through”

Cathi Kennedy

January is a time when people choose a word for the year. This is often something like “courage,” or “resilience,” or “light.” This practice can be a good tool to help focus on positive self-talk or an aspiration for professional growth. I did not choose a word for the year but I did have a word that came to me during Adoration: “Resentment.” That’s the word that, in quiet communion with God, came upon my heart. 

It was not what I was expecting and I was confused at first. Resentment? Why not “connection” or “encouragement,” something with a more positive connotation? Something to aspire to? But as I sat in front of Jesus and thought about it, I realized it is exactly the word I need. As always, He showed me the way through. 

Working through the resentment that’s built up in my heart will create the space for good things like encouragement and connection, and maybe some peace.

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“It was like a reawakening”

Gregory Dolezal

As a cradle Catholic, I was the recipient of 12 years of Catholic school training. I don't remember anyone ever being emphatic in teaching the true presence of Our Lord. As I grew older, I knew, but didn't feel, that presence. I don't remember what started opening my mind to really focus on what was happening during the Mass, but it was like reawakening. In time, I became aware of stories about Eucharistic miracles. I didn't feel a need to investigate them to believe, but I was curious about what was happening and what the Church was doing with it. I am still fascinated by the science and mystery. 

By chance, a friend invited my wife and me to travel to Italy with them. Among the holy sites we visited, I was most awed by going to Mass in the chapel in the church in Lanciano where the Body and Blood of our Lord in the monstrance was displayed for adoration. I was humbled to be in His presence. I had to take a picture, which now hangs on my wall as a continuous reminder of God's love for us. On the night before we came home, we exchanged small gifts with the person whose name we picked out of a bowl. When my wife's gift was given, she received two identical medallions, which included a picture of the monstrance from Lanciano and the words RELIQUIA MIRACULO EUCHARISTICO, representing the relics of a Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano in the eighth century.

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