Parish Stories

St. Monica

Mishawaka, IN Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend


“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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