‘It just felt right’

Topeka women take next step toward communion

by Marc and Julie Anderson

TOPEKA — The faith journeys of four Topeka women —  Lindsay Brees, Pam Karns, Brittany Rygaard and Kristen Turley — converged this Lent as they took one final step toward full communion with the Catholic Church at the Rite of Election ceremony at Christ the King Church here March 16.

The ceremony is one at which those who will celebrate the sacraments of initiation (the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and confirmation) at Easter formally announce their intentions. Catechumens, or people seeking baptism along with entry into the church, are formally presented to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at this liturgy, along with their godparents. Likewise, candidates, or those previously baptized into a Christian faith and now seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, are presented separately. During the ceremony, each catechumen also signs his or her name in the Book of the Elect as a public witness of his or her desire to enter the church.

For Brees, the anticipation of celebrating the sacraments with her family this Easter has brought  great joy.

Lindsay Brees was raised Methodist, but the family did not attend church often. Then, she met Rory Brees. Rory was a cradle Catholic, a graduate of Topeka’s only Catholic high school (Hayden) and a member of a large extended Catholic family.

While the two dated, she often attended Mass with Rory and his family. Eventually, the two married at Topeka’s Sacred Heart Church (part of Sacred Heart-St. Joseph Parish) and had two girls, both of whom were baptized as Catholics.

According to Lindsay, Rory never pressured her to join the church. However, when the children started religious education classes, Brees decided she wanted to learn more.

“It just felt right,” she said.

The family just welcomed a third daughter, and Brees said knowing all five of them will be one faith brings her much joy already. She explained that life is not about material goods, this party or that activity; it’s about religion and family.

“That’s what I want to instill in my girls,” she added.

Brees has found additional support from her mother Pam Karns, who undertook RCIA preparation when she did. They’ll be entering the church together at Easter.

Kristen Turley, a senior majoring in social work at Topeka’s Washburn University, didn’t attend church as a child — her family just did not go.

As a teen, Turley got involved with a Protestant church in the Kansas City area, which her mother also attended. When Turley moved to Topeka for college, however, she didn’t really know many people. Eventually, she met Alex Dinkel.

Like Rory Brees, Dinkel was a cradle Catholic. His extended family was involved with his home parish of St. Matthew in Topeka.

“It always really intrigued me,” said Turley. And like Rory Brees, Dinkel never once pressured Turley. She just wanted to learn more about his faith because it was important to him. It had brought him through a difficult period in his life — a bout with cancer when he was in high school.

Turley started going to Mass with Dinkel and his family. She was intrigued by the structure of the Mass, the music and the congregation’s participation. What really impressed her, though, was the indistinguishability of the Mass, no matter whether she attended Mass in Cincinnati or in Topeka.

“I can go anywhere in the world and know what they are doing,” said Turley.

“I also saw the unity of Alex’s family. I want to seek that out,” she added.

When Turley and Dinkel got engaged, she received encouragement from a surprising source — her mother. She encouraged Turley to plan the big Catholic wedding that would be important to her fiance and his family.

That’s when Turley decided to enroll in the RCIA.

“I’m learning so much,” she said, adding she looks forward to being able to participate in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

“I’m excited,” she said. “I’ve always been that person in the pew.[But now] at Easter, I will finally be able to receive Our Lord.”

While Turley might have been that person in the pew, Brittany Rygaard, a native of Hiawatha and also a senior at Topeka’s Washburn University, has had a slightly different experience.

A cradle Catholic, Rygaard made her first Communion as a child. Shortly thereafter, however, her family left the church.

While a sophomore in college, she was invited by a friend to the Catholic Campus Center at Washburn University. Over time, she became immersed in the life of the campus center. Participation in Prayer and Action, a weeklong program in which college students combine prayer with outreach to the disadvantaged, also increased her faith.

“That was a life-changing experience for me,” she noted.

This fall, Rygaard decided to enroll in the RCIA. Since the campus center does not offer instruction, she enrolled in the program at St. Matthew Parish.

She also returned to the sacraments of reconciliation and Communion.

That choice led to the end of a relationship with a boyfriend who did not understand her newfound faith. And although they are not standing in her way, Rygaard said most of her family does not understand her  return to Catholicism either.

But there is one person that Rygaard says is overjoyed about her return to her childhood faith — her grandmother.

“‘One of my prayers,” she told Rygaard, “‘has finally been answered.’”

About the author

Marc & Julie Anderson

Freelancers Marc and Julie Anderson are long-time contributors to the Leaven. Married in 1996, for several years the high school sweethearts edited The Crown, the former newspaper of Christ the King Parish in Topeka which Julie has attended since its founding in 1977. In 2000, the Leaven offered the couple their first assignment. Since then, the Andersons’ work has also been featured in a variety of other Catholic and prolife media outlets. The couple has received numerous journalism awards from the Knights of Columbus, National Right to Life and the Catholic Press Association including three for their work on “Think It’s Not Happening Near You? Think Again,” a piece about human trafficking. A lifelong Catholic, Julie graduated from Most Pure Heart of Mary Grade School and Hayden Catholic High School in Topeka. Marc was received into the Catholic Church in 1993 at St. Paul Parish – Newman Center at Wichita State University. The two hold degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. Their only son, William James, was stillborn in 1997.

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