Eden Valley man overcomes odds to join Church with young daughter

‘There’s always more to God’s plan’

Life has not been easy for Shane Bartels. From having an abusive mother and then living in less than ideal foster homes to finding his father and then losing him unexpectedly, the road so far has been rocky.

But through all of it, he always knew God was with him.

Shane, along with his 11-year-old daughter Jade, who attend Mass at Assumption Church in Eden Valley, have made the decision to join the Catholic Church.

Shane Bartels signs the Book of the Elect March 1 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud. (Photos by Dianne Towalski/ The Central Minnesota Catholic)

Honestly, God’s always been in my life,” Shane said.

He has felt this way, even during the most difficult times. His mother was an addict who took drugs during her pregnancy and Shane’s early years. It came to a point where she knew that he was no longer safe with her and she sought out foster care.

I’ve gone through a very difficult life, but every time I struggle, God’s always been there,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything more difficult than I’ve been able to handle. There’s always been the light at the end of the tunnel, always a way out. There’s always something.”

During his time in foster care, one of the families he stayed with were committed to their Christian faith. He learned prayers and Bible stories and even started praying that he would find his father.

I prayed to God for my father, so I would know him,” he said. “One day my father came, and he took me out of there. I went to live with him, and my life was a lot better and a lot happier.”

Life improved and his dad, who grew up in a religious family, helped him get back on the right track in life, he said.

After graduating from Clovis East High School near Fresno, California, Shane joined the Navy. He served for six years as a rescue swimmer and boatswain’s mate — a deck seaman who has supervisory duties in the operation of the deck force and the maintenance of equipment.

Jade Bartels and her father Shane will join the Catholic Church at Easter.

While he was in the Navy, he learned that he had a daughter. He left the Navy to be closer to her when he realized that she was in the same situation he had been in as a child.

I had always promised myself I would not let my child be in a situation like that,” Shane said. He moved in with his mom, with whom he had reconnected, and started his fight for custody of his daughter. His relationship with his mom was strained, though, and he experienced emotional and financial stress as well as mental abuse.

It’s part of God’s grand plan, though,” he said. “I was ready to give up. That was probably one of the darkest periods of my life, and then my dad was taken from me.”

While grieving the death of his dad, it seemed that God had provided the answer again, a way out of the dark place he had been in.

I was going to kill myself and God gave me a way out,” he said. “I might not have liked his answer at the time, but there’s always more to the plan.”

Shane inherited his father’s house in California. He sold it and bought a home in Minnesota. Without that help, he might not be where he is today.

I would not have been able to get up on my feet and be [in a place] where I can take care of my daughter and take care of the household,” he said.

Shane wanted a fresh start for himself and Jade, so they moved to Eden Valley in 2017.

Shane Bartels’ sponsor, Ken Gruenes, places his hand on Shane’s shoulder during the prayer over the Elect and Candidates during the Rite of Election at St. Mary’s Cathedral March 1.

He became friends with his neighbor, Sharon Schettler, and her brother Ken Gruenes, who were members of Assumption Parish. Ken also is a single dad, and their daughters would play together.

The two dads became good friends. While Shane helped on Ken’s pig farm, they would talk and Shane would ask questions about the Catholic faith. Eventually he started attending Mass.

I sat in the back at first,” he said. “I was nervous. I didn’t know anybody and I felt really out of place.”

He was introduced to Becky Haag, sacramental assistant at Assumption Parish, about two years ago.

Becky asked if I was ready to proceed with baptism, and I told her I wanted to wait. I wanted to do it with my daughter,” Shane said. It was hard to wait, but he wanted Jade to be ready. Sharon is her sponsor and Ken is sponsoring Shane as they join the Church this Easter.

Working with Shane has been delightful,” Becky said. “He was looking for something true and something serious. He latched on to the truth of the Catholic faith, and that was refreshing.”

Shane is in a good place now, and he credits Sharon, Ken and Becky for helping him get to this point in his faith life.

Participating in the Rite of Election on March 1 at the St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, adding his name to the Book of the Elect and watching Jade add hers, was a little overwhelming, but he feels like part of something bigger than himself.

Catholics feel like a group of people who watch out for each other, like the military, especially the Marines, he said.

They are brethren. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, if you served together or not, you’re still a Marine. It feels like that with Catholics,” he said.

Father Aaron Nett, pastor of Assumption Parish in Eden Valley and St. Anthony Parish in Watkins, has been impressed with Shane’s curiosity and openness to the rituals and rich traditions of Catholicism, he said, and the grace of the sacraments, prayer and spiritual readings will help him as he searches for peace and order in his life.

It is a story like Shane’s that’s the cause for rejoicing for the Church on the Easter Vigil,” Father Nett said. “It’s a story of redemption, new life and joy. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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