‘THE CHURCH is ALIVE!’: The Benedictine Catholic Communities ACC Welcomes Seven New Members

In St. Joseph, 37 catechumens and candidates were welcomed into the Church in the last 12 years — including the 11 welcomed this year by the Benedictine Catholic Communities ACC, which includes St. Joseph Parish in St. Joseph and St. John the Baptist Parish in Collegeville, and their partnership with the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. 

“The Church is alive!” said Marian Bach, director of faith formation in St. Joseph, who works with those discerning joining the Church, particularly through the Rite of Christian Initiation, or RCIA. 

Tina Fortier and Daniel Hickman assist with preparing and welcoming new members to their faith community. Photography by Paul Middlestaedt


In back-to-back years, 2021 and 2022 respectively, parishioners Daniel Hickman and Tina Fortier became full members of the Catholic Church. 

“I wanted to find some truth in a chaotic and dishonest world,” Hickman said. “I was blown away when I first saw the beauty of the church of St. Joseph. Something stirred in me at that time and that developed into my wife, Alicia, and I joining the Church.”

Fortier always felt like something was missing.

“I looked into becoming Catholic,” she said. “Once I started the RCIA program, I could sense that was where God wanted me to be.”  

Although they both joined the Church in two different years, they have something in common. This year, they served as team leaders for St. Joseph’s RCIA program.

“It is a joy that both Daniel and Tina were so touched by the RCIA process that they wanted to come back to support the program and share their journeys with the catechumen and candidates,” Bach said. “Having the new participants witness someone who has taken the same journey and has come out of it full of joy provides encouragement and life.” 

Hickman and Fortier will also serve as sponsors — Hickman for Vladimir Matuscsak-Martinez and Fortier for Mallory Mondloch. 

“I love sitting next to Mallory during Mass and pointing out things for her — where to find prayers in the missalettes or to answer questions for her about why we do certain things as Catholics,” Fortier said. 

“I’ve encouraged Vladimir to never stop learning,” Hickman said. “There’s more to learn about our faith than would be possible in 10 lifetimes so make the best use of the life you’ve got.” 

Both have shared where they find beauty in Catholicism. 

“The apostolic succession is a powerful truth that makes our religion so unique and powerful,” Hickman said. “The idea that our bishops and priests derive their authority directly from Christ himself is such a powerful truth.” 

Fortier added, “I feel the most beautiful thing about our faith is the Eucharist. I cherish having a real friendship and relationship with Jesus that I’ve never had before and having a church home where I can visit Jesus in the tabernacle. I know I will always have him and everything will be OK.” 

Both Hickman and Fortier continued to live their life of faith in their parish and their homes. 

“I’m a proud member of the Knights of Columbus,” Hickman said. “Our group hosts breakfasts and hamburger cookouts to raise money for great causes.” 

“Incorporating family prayer has brought us closer as a family and has brought us peace,” Fortier said. 

Their shared hope is that their lives serve not only as witnesses to Mallory and Vladimir, but to others, as well. 

“If people are considering becoming Catholic, I want them to know it’s not as intimidating as it seems,” Fortier said. “What I felt joining the Church — the sense of family and home — I want everyone to feel that.” 

Lizzi Peterson
Photography by Paul Middlestaedt


Lizzi Peterson grew up in a house without prayer and attended a nondenominational church irregularly on holidays. Now, at 18, she is choosing a different path. Of the seven who entered into full communion in St. Joseph, she was the youngest to receive the sacraments at the Easter Vigil Mass this year.

“I’ve been waiting so long,” Peterson said. “Now, I’m fully accepted into the Catholic Church, and I’m very excited about that.” 

“Lizzi has a great longing and enthusiasm to learn anything and everything she can about the Catholic Church,” Bach said. 

Peterson credits her longing and interest in becoming Catholic to an ex-boyfriend and his family. 

“I was dating someone for two years. He and his family were Catholic. They were practicing their faith and were so joyful and at peace,” she said.

“I sat down with them and talked about prayer and how they had a relationship with God. I had never had prayer in my life or understood what it meant to sit down and talk to God.” 

Since that original encounter with Catholicism, she dived into additional resources. 

“I have read the catechism, the Bible and other Catholic books including ‘Word on Fire Bible: The Gospels’ by Bishop Robert Barron,” she said. 

Bishop Barron is one of the first Catholic influencers she followed, along with Father Mike Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth.

Another role model is her sponsor, Alyssa Dobmeier. 

“Hearing about what Alyssa does in her work every day inspires me, and her willingness to come to Mass with me makes me feel so much better,” Peterson said. 

Dobmeier believes that Peterson has also impacted her faith life, “Lizzi is so on fire for the Catholic faith. I’ve been Catholic since birth so to see a young person who is so ready to live their faith and how obvious the choice was for her has allowed me to reexamine my faith and determine where I have room to grow.”

At the Easter Vigil Mass, Peterson took on the name of St. Maria Goretti as her confirmation name.  

“I have had a lot of things happen to me and I was struggling with forgiveness. I learned about Maria Goretti. Seeing her forgive Alejandro had me ask myself why I can’t forgive those who have wronged me. She inspires me so much and I strive for a life of forgiveness,” she said.

Finding someone you can connect with, whether online or in person, is something Peterson recommends for all Catholics, especially young Catholics. She also recommends consistency in prayer.

“Don’t give up and keep it consistent. That’s key. I was struggling with whether the Catholic Church was the true faith and if God was real. But I kept praying the rosary and it became apparent to me — this is where I need to be.”

Benedictine Father Brad Jenniges addresses the candidates and catechumen March 10 at St. Joseph Church in St. Joseph. Photography by Paul Middlestaedt


About a year ago, Preston Park, a senior at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, was invited to join the Saint John’s Abbey Schola for Holy Week. 

“I sing with the men’s chorus on campus. Last year, a priest on campus invited choir students staying on campus for Easter to sing with the schola during Holy Week,” Park said. 

From there, the Cannon Falls native continued to sing with the schola when they needed help. 

“Singing with the schola and spending time with the brothers and priests within the abbey community called me to the Catholic faith,” he said. “I wanted to be able to fully understand and practice the faith.” 

When he returned to Saint John’s this fall, he enrolled in the RCIA program through SJU Faith, the campus ministry program. During the first semester, the group met once a month to study Catholicism and this semester they’ve met every Sunday. 

This Easter, Park received the sacraments and was brought into full communion in the Catholic Church.

Inspired by St. Benedict and St. Christopher, Park continues to discern where his new-found faith will lead him. 

“I’ve been drawn to the Benedictine community here. I am also exploring religious life. It is still part of my discernment process,” he said. 

WIth his sponsor and roommate, Richard Guerue, who joined the Catholic Church last year, the journey to a deeper faith continues. 

“Richard has been with me on my journey the entire way. We go to daily prayer and Mass together a lot,” Park said. “And, if there is a question either one of us has, we’ll work together to find answers.” 

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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