Two women — one a university student who once didn’t believe in God and the other a mother of three searching for deeper spiritual connections in her life — will be fully initiated into the church at the Easter Vigil
Twenty-three catechumens and 45 candidates will enter fully into the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil at parishes across the diocese March 26.
Among those being welcomed are Miriam Junggeburth, who will be confirmed and receive first Communion at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, and Rebecca Ott, who will receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and first Communion at Mary of the Visitation in Becker/Big Lake.
Although the women share a similar love for the Catholic faith, their journeys toward full initiation took different paths.
No God to knowing God
Junggeburth was born and raised in Germany and first came to the United States as a foreign exchange student in New London, Minnesota. Afterward, she returned to Germany, finished high school and started college. She later transferred to St. Cloud State University and has lived here three years. She will graduate this spring and plans to be a science teacher.
Junggeburth was baptized Lutheran but wasn’t very involved in the church during her youth.
“I thought church was boring, I didn’t think there was a God and I was happy living my life like that,” she said.
During her time at SCSU, she met Paul Olson, who is Catholic, and the two began to date. At first, they didn’t really talk about religion. As their relationship developed, the topic of God began to enter into dinnertime conversations.
“Paul is really intelligent and he would kind of sneakily ‘argue’ with me and get me to argue back about why I thought God didn’t exist,” she said. “Every single argument I would lose. Every single one.”
Junggeburth said she became frustrated and decided to do her own research, listening to speakers on YouTube and reading a variety of books. Eventually, she sought out Deacon Rick Scheierl, RCIA coordinator for St. Mary’s Cathedral, to see if there were any classes she could take.
“I came to the conclusion, that OK, maybe there is a God,” she said. “Now I want to know what my options are.”
Deacon Scheierl encouraged Junggeburth to attend the RCIA classes that were just beginning at St. Mary’s.
“At first, I said no because I didn’t want to become Catholic, I just wanted to learn about [Catholicism],” she said. “But he gave me the books, and so I did more research, prayed about it and started slowly changing my view on things.”
At first, praying was awkward for her.
“The first time I prayed, I thought, ‘OK, am I just talking to myself? Is anybody really there?’” she said. But then something changed.
“I was praying about whether or not I should go through with confirmation. And something happened. It was like I heard an answer and I’d never had an answer before.”
After that light bulb moment, she said she’s been trying to “convert more and more ever since. It’s a lifelong process and I know I’m at the very beginning but that call was so clear.”
Junggeburth feels very supported in her journey toward becoming Catholic. Olson, who is also her sponsor, and his family, have patiently fielded her questions.
About a year ago right around the time she was starting RCIA, she was looking for a place to live. A co-worker mentioned she was looking for another roommate, too.
“It turned out that all of my new roommates were Catholic,” she said. “We started going to Newman Center Mass together every Thursday night. That was just another thing drawing me in. Piece after piece, God brings these people and keeps bringing them into my life, people that have helped me along the way, even when I struggle. It’s amazing.”
She said her roommates are excited to attend the Easter Vigil at St. Mary’s as she takes the next step. Her host family will also be there to support her.
“I’ve had nothing but a positive experience through this,” she said. “But I feel like I’m still missing something. I’m really looking forward to being part of the community and [to experience] that true joy of being part of God’s people. I am hoping that with my conversion I will more and more deeply feel that I know God.”
Sharing a love for God
For Ott, the path was a little different. She grew up Baptist but said she “strayed.” A divorced mom of three, Ott said she felt like all she ever did was work and take care of her children.
“I felt so alone at times. Lost. It took some time but I finally figured out that what I needed in my life was God. So I picked a church and went,” she said.
She also felt that she needed to “be with someone who also knows that he needs God in his life,” she said, and Ott began online dating. There she met Greg Scherber, a member of Mary of the Visitation in Becker/Big Lake.
“We talked about our faith and what’s important to us right away,” Ott said. “When he told me he was Catholic I started researching it and then asked if I could go to church with him. … I thought it was better to see if we’re spiritually compatible up front.”
To her, that meant sharing the same beliefs.
“If you’re spiritually compatible you’ll be able to walk this path side by side, helping each other along the way, not holding the other back,” she said.
Scherber was intrigued — and inspired — by Ott’s inquisitive nature.
“Something that always excited me about Rebecca is her interest in learning, and when she asked so many questions about my Catholic faith it was really great because it opened discussion about something I loved to talk about,” he said, “and it made me hit the books as well. I needed to look up answers to some of her questions.”
Scherber had always wanted to go through the RCIA program to learn more himself. So, when Ott said she’d like to go through the program with him, Scherber was ecstatic.
“Then, for her to find meaning in all of it and decide that she’d like to join the church honestly wasn’t what I was expecting,” he said.
Ott said that she’d never been in a relationship that revolved around God.
“It’s a wonderful thing to be able to share this with another person,” she said. “I love all the discussions we’ve had through the RCIA program, the questions that come up as we’re doing the readings together, praying together. It is a completely different experience.”
Both Scherber and Ott are excited to continue their education and to do outreach together with her children and his children.
“But more important than us is the newness in her,” Scherber said. “She’ll be one with Christ, she’ll have new life in her, and I couldn’t be happier for her.”