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Faith’s ‘daily tools’ help newlywed find Catholicism as foundation for marriage

By Karen Mahoney
April 14th, 2008
Catholic Herald (www.chnonline.org)

RACINE, Wis. (Catholic Herald) - Lisa Vandegriffe Trautman learned about God by attending a variety of non-denominational, Catholic, and Baptist churches. The daughter of a Catholic mother and Baptist father, her parents encouraged Lisa's personal pursuit for a permanent faith home. She attended a Christian youth group with friends and, at 17, was baptized at the First Presbyterian Church in her hometown of Jefferson City, Mo.

Lisa began exploring the faith of her mother and grandmother while in her mid-20s. At the time, she was dating Brian Trautman, a Roman Catholic chiropractor from Racine.

"I began to seek more outside myself and began to have time to develop my purpose, and as mine developed, it seemed to continually point in the direction of God," she said.

As the couple's relationship grew, Lisa and Brian attended the enrichment program for engaged couples while planning their Nov. 17, 2007 wedding at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Racine.

To some couples, the engagement program fulfills a requirement to marry in the Catholic Church, but to Lisa, the Christ-centered, family atmosphere left her wanting more.

"The choice to become Catholic wasn't so much to be titled 'Catholic,' but more driven by Catholic faith formation methods, focus on family, and childhood education," she admitted. "I found the enrichment program for the engaged couple to be extremely helpful in providing couples with daily tools to build a better relationship with one another through God. That is what being Catholic is to me - providing tools to make life more fulfilling."

With the help of Anna Marie Clausen, RCIA coordinator at St. Paul, Lisa, 27, prepared for full reception into the church during the Easter Vigil at the parish.

"I had to travel extensively back and forth from St. Louis to Racine during the wedding planning, and Anna Marie provided a few books and suggested readings regarding the topics of discussions that I would miss at the RCIA classes," she said. "It was helpful in many ways. I tend to shy away from discussing feelings, especially with 'strangers' I had just met in RCIA. Anna Marie is an insightful Catholic. She is the perfect person for the position of RCIA director."

Coffee-klatch catechism

Initially, Clausen and Lisa would meet over coffee to discuss the topics of the week, which would eventually roll into personal questions on faith formation.

"That was the beginning of my RCIA experience, thank goodness," Lisa said. "By meeting with Anna Marie initially, I was more open to discuss and share my thoughts with the RCIA group."

The sharing experience opened up a desire for Lisa to share her faith, and others began to take notice, especially Brian.

"He was so happy to see the change in me," she said. "Also, at the Rite of Election, Anna Marie asked Brian to bring down the book of candidates. By making him a part of the ceremony, he had a rejuvenating moment in his own faith."

Finding a new comfort in sharing feelings, faith and Scripture, Lisa and the other candidates are a close-knit group.

"Each week we attend Mass and after the homily, we dismiss for discussion of the readings," she said. "My favorite discussion we have had was the reflection retreat. It was a daylong event that included reconciliation, Scripture studying and fellowship. You learn a lot about yourself and become more conscious of God's presence."

Instrumental in Lisa and Brian's marriage at St. Paul was co-worker Reanne Maney, who works with Lisa at Brian's chiropractic office. Lifelong Catholics, Reanne and her husband Mark began attending Mass together and shared conversation, lively faith discussions, game and movie nights, wedding planning, and the beginning of a new life.

"Reanne and Mark had their first child in July, Adelynn, and this miracle was a true testament to their faith and its contribution to their marriage," Lisa said. "It was an unforgettable moment to be with them as they became new parents."

Because of their close bond, Lisa asked Reanne to be her sponsor, and throughout their frequent nights of shared dinners and Trivial Pursuit, Lisa found answers to her faith questions.

"I didn't have any major faith formation questions," she confessed. "Mainly, I had logistical questions about when to do what. Brian's favorite lesson he learned at St. Francis all-boys Catholic high school in Buffalo, N.Y. is 'Spirit of the Law vs. Letter of the Law.' This simple outlook clarifies much of the confusion about faith formation."

‘Unconditional’ relationships

While busy with her administrative job in her husband's practice, Lisa finds time to volunteer. But some of her duties may change, however, as she and Brian prepare for the birth of their first child.

"Another miracle, due Nov. 6! I look forward to deepening my faith and relationship with God. It is comforting to be released from control and trust God to move me in the direction he has planned for me," she said. "My marriage, parenthood and friendships will blossom in this new perspective. I enjoy participating in community worship and I learn a lot through the different interpretations of parishioners."

Becoming Catholic is a necessary component in the completion of her relationship with God, Lisa said. While building a stronger relationship with God, she has noticed that her relationships with her husband, family and friends have become more significant.

"The relationships become 'unconditional,'" she said. "Acceptance of yourself and others is peaceful. Love does not feel as 'vulnerable' and feels more fulfilling."

While they may not share the same beliefs, Lisa's family is supportive of her choice to become Catholic and to go where God is leading her. However, one member is very happy to see Lisa join the Catholic faith.

"My grandmother is particularly excited because when I come home, she has a new person to celebrate Mass with," Lisa said.

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