Corning family locks in firmly on its faith - Catholic Courier

Corning family locks in firmly on its faith

CORNING — While moving to different parts of the United States over the years, the Garrity family attempted in earnest also to find a spiritual home.

Though John Sr. was raised Catholic, he had drifted away from the faith while serving in the United States Army. In recent years he willingly accompanied his wife, Gretchen, and two children to various Protestant churches. Then the Garritys arrived in Corning from southern California in August 2006, and discovered that St. Vincent de Paul Church — a worship site of All Saints Parish — was just a couple of blocks over from their new home.

And that stirred something inside of John Sr. that had been missing for quite some time.

"I knew, in my heart of hearts, I was going to go there," he said.

For the first time Gretchen began attending Mass with him, feeling that perhaps it was time that she explored her husband’s native faith after he had been so adaptable for her sake.

"You know, he’s just followed me (to churches) all over the place," Gretchen remarked.

That willingness paved the way for much more than a few casual visits. Deborah, 18, and John Jr., 17, went along for the spiritual ride as well, and have landed solidly in the Catholic faith along with their mom. All three were welcomed into the Catholic Church during last year’s Easter Vigil Mass at St. Vincent de Paul, and the Garritys have been flying high in their faith ever since.

Gretchen said her positive convictions about Catholicism resulted from extensive study of history and documents related to Christianity.

"I seek truth above all. I wanted the true church," she recalled.

In the end, what mattered most to her was the 2,000-year tradition of the Catholic faith that has held up so well, along with congregations’ deep reverence for receiving holy Communion. Add it all up, she said, and "how could I be anybody but Catholic? I felt like a weary, weary wanderer who had finally come home."

"She was really studying why Catholics say there’s one church. I guess she found out why, because we’re Catholics," John Jr. quipped.

And yet, Gretchen insisted that she did not pressure her kids into joining the Catholic Church.

"You can’t force something like that. The Holy Spirit has to do its work," she said.

John Jr. said he felt he was "pretty well-prepared" to become a Catholic, and he willingly entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with his mom. Deborah, however, was a different story.

"I want to use all the arguments against the Catholic faith. It was like I didn’t want to do it at all. I was a diehard Protestant," she acknowledged. "Then one day I was sitting in Mass and looking at an image of Christ. I don’t know, I just felt, ‘This is right.’ I just realized it’s all in the heart."

Deborah joined RCIA as well — "it was all kind of last-minute," she said. This family affair led to the Garritys being selected to present the gifts at the Chrism Mass, held last March 18 at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. Four days later Gretchen, Deborah and John Jr. officially entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

A month after that, the family got to see Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to New York City. More recently, all four Garritys took part in the March for Life this past Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. Despite riding in a crowded van and getting little sleep or food, they said they were glad to have the chance to speak out as Catholics against abortion. Deborah, for one, said she "couldn’t just let myself glide" once she had become Catholic.

"The March for Life was a natural decision. I wasn’t hiding behind excuses not to go," she said.

John Jr. also takes his faith quite seriously, saying that he formerly rated his church experiences on how good the music or sermons were.

"Before I was a Catholic, I was not revering Christ. Now I’m there for Jesus, not for me. I’m not saying I don’t benefit, but I’m there to get Jesus," he explained.

Being a Catholic family has further tightened an already strong bond. As John Jr. put it, having the same faith means "it’s not so confusing as it was before."

John Sr. said he enjoys being able to say that "now we have a domestic church," noting that church leaders regard the Catholic family as the domestic church. He added that at least one family member is involved in an All Saints parish activity almost every weeknight.

Gretchen said "the importance of the local parish welcoming us was extremely helpful," but that it’s actually the community’s interior life she finds most satisfying.

"A Catholic church is not so different from others on the outside, it’s different in the soul. I’ve never found that anywhere else," she said. "And believe me, I’ve looked."


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