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Neff Family Joins Church at Easter Vigil
ROGERS CITY -- The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, April 23, at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Rogers City was a special one for the Neff family, who live in Hawks just outside of Rogers City, in Presque Isle County.
That night, Torrey and Kendra Neff, along with daughters Kaitlin, 7, Rebecca, 6, and Samantha, 3, were each baptized into the Catholic faith. The event culminated an eight-month journey that began in August of last year when Torrey and Kendra began participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program at St. Ignatius.
Torrey said he first started thinking about becoming Catholic after Kaitlin gave him glowing reports of her education at St. Ignatius Elementary School.
"She would come home and tell us about things," he said. "It seemed like they were teaching good stuff."
Torrey and Kendra then decided that they should meet with Fr. Arthur Duchnowicz, Pastor at St. Ignatius.
"He sat down and talked with us for a little bit," he said. "We went home and discussed it for about a week. We talked to Fr. Arthur, and he set us up with Sr. Rita."
Sr. Rita Epple is the Pastoral Administrator for St. Dominic Church in Metz, also in Presque Isle County, and serves a cluster of three churches, including St. Ignatius in Rogers City and St. Casimir in Posen. She said during the time she spent with the Neff family, she tried to teach them "everything about our faith" -- for example, Scripture and how it applies to everyday life, the Eucharist, the hierarchy of the Church, feast days and the rosary, just to name a few.
"It's been a beautiful experience," Sr. Rita said of working with the Neff family. "They were most accommodating to make sure we get together. They are very interested in the Church."
For his part, Torrey said Sr. Rita was instrumental in helping the Neffs navigate their faith journey.
"She is a wonderful lady," he said. "She helped us understand what goes on every step. She's explained it phenomenally."
Torrey said their three children -- Kaitlin in particular -- were a big help to their parents. He said Kaitlin is now able to talk with her parents about what she has learned about the Catholic faith.
"They've handled it great," he said. "Our oldest is really happy and she understands what we're going through. It's been real helpful for her too. Now she comes home and we can have a conversation about it."
Torrey also said Bishop Bernard Hebda, Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, did a great deal to ease their anxieties about the RCIA process.
"He made it as comfortable as can be," he said. "We're pretty happy about it. It's been a good experience so far."
The family attended the Rite of Election at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord the First Sunday in Lent in which those from throughout the 21-county diocese who are to be baptized into the Catholic Church at Easter are presented to the Bishop and have their names inscribed in the Book of the Elect.
Plenty of family members were on hand at the Easter Vigil to support Torrey and his family and they took the next step in their journey, including his sister, his mother, his mother-in-law, and his father-in-law.
Sr. Rita was there too, working with Fr. Arthur to make sure the ceremony went smoothly," she said.
Reflecting on the Easter Vigil and her familys experience, Kendra was overwhelmed with emotion.
It was absolutely beautiful, she said, and everything went so well. And the girls it was so funny, Kendra laughed. During the rehearsal, our youngest didnt really want anything to do with it. But that night, her Godparent was there and picked her up and Samantha almost dived into the baptismal font!
The whole experience was just so heartwarming and wonderful, she added. One of the most special moments was when we used our baptism candles to light everyone elses in the Church. It was so meaningful. We just felt so welcome and it has made us all closer.