Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Meet the Community: One Family's Journey of Faith - An Interview with Jean-Guy, Lori Ann and Sophie-Claire
In our first installment of “Meet The Community” we interview a tight knit family as they share their inspirational thoughts on their early religious experience, how they found St. Philips and what they get from being part of our parish life.
Jean-Guy and Lori Ann are a professional couple in their forties, they are the proud parents of their 10 year old daughter Sophie-Claire. This family enjoys spending time together, hiking, canoeing and listening to classical music.
Early Religious Experiences
Jean-Guy is a husband, father and nature enthusiast who has excellent skills in fine wood working. He also bikes extensively with club Vélo Passion. His relationship to the church began as a boy at a time when church was part of school. Jean-Guy was raised as a Roman Catholic and he fondly remembers how he helped to serve mass for several years. He explained that he had a much closer relationship to the church than most children do today. Jean-Guy laments the fact that church has been pulled out of schools and has now been replaced with academic teachings rather than spiritual guidance.
Sophie-Claire is a bright eyed girl who enjoys horseback riding, dog sledding and taking care of the family's Labrador Retriever. She elaborated on her father's words saying that at school she takes a course called "Ethics and Culture," where they learn about politeness and cultural diversity.
"I find that is not helping them connect with their interior, their inside force if you will," Jean-Guy said. "To talk and have a dialogue with the spirit. So being exposed as young kid having the priests come into the home and at school, it was very present from month to month, it was not something in the background, it was part of our lives. Which is maybe something that is missing, taking the time just to go into just your inner feelings of what you really feel when you are praying for instance."
Lori Ann is a wife and mother who loves to knit, her interests include ballroom dance, ice dance and Ashtanga yoga. All four of Lori Ann's great-grandparents came from Eastern Europe and they were very religious. Her paternal grandmother would go on pilgrimages and she was also a major contributor to the MaryKnoll Sisters. In addition, her paternal grandmother put Lori Ann's cousin through seminary and he is now a Monsignor.
She recalls that her great grandmother's house was full of religious iconography. As she put it "you could not escape Jesus' gaze, because there were so many pictures it was intimidating." Like so many Catholics during that time, she was constantly being warned that "God is going to punish you."
Although Lori Ann's parents were not very religious and even though her family did not regularly attend church, Lori-Ann always felt a very deep connection with the divine. As Lori Ann described it "it was all here in my heart," she said motioning to her chest.
Lori Ann treasured her children's Bible and a prayer book her mother had given her, but she felt no connection to the Catholic priests that she knew and while she went to catechism, she came back with what she describes as "very little."
In high school Lori Ann started going to church with her friends, but after she graduated she got caught up in her job and other material preoccupations. But as time went by she started to feel an absence of meaning pervade her life and she felt like she needed to come back to the church.
How They Discovered St. Philip's
In response to a question about how they came to be part of the parish at St. Philip's, Lori Ann described how when she first moved to Quebec seven years ago she was struggling with day to day preoccupations of having a child and home ownership
"I felt life becoming increasingly overwhelming. We’re not getting younger, we had Sophie-Claire later in life, and I naively imagined that life would become easier with age’’, she said. "To us, it was becoming apparent that amongst our friends, life was all about what you have, as opposed to what kind of person you are. It was superficial and shallow. At times we were putting way too much importance on things, nearly seven days a week. I was starting to burn out. Sadly, the past few Christmas seasons I was completely overwhelmed. The ‘’race’’ was moving with increasing speed, and all I could think was, where is the meaning in all of this?"
She recalled a conversation with a religiously inclined girlfriend who would refer to some church-goers as C&Es, (people who only go to church only on Christmas and Easter). Although it did not sit well with her she was forced to admit that technically she was indeed a C&E.
The materialistic preoccupations of her peers was overwhelming. Lori Ann was feeling empty, even though she was going to yoga, she felt like she needed the kind of peace and the tranquility that she could only get from a church. She was also looking for a place for Sophie-Claire to continue with her sacraments, study and have her first communion.
These concerns provoked conversations with her husband Jean-Guy. Together they resolved to give church a try and they started attending different churches in their neighborhood. They attended francophone churches and they tried anglophone churches, but none of these experiences worked for them.
Nonetheless, they both believed that there was something better out there. At this point Lori Ann had a very bad bout with rheumatoid arthritis. At the same time Sophie-Claire was doing ballet at St. Philip's church. They ended up driving past the church on Sunday morning just as people were filing in for service.
Lori Ann was curious, she said "OK, it’s an Anglican church, but what does that mean?" She started going online to research Anglicanism while asking herself, "is it going to be hell, fire and brimstone if we change?" She had many heart to heart conversations with God about the prospect of attending an Anglican church.
One day when she was with Sophie-Claire she summoned up the courage to go into St. Philip's with the intention of grabbing some literature from the back. Then and Sophie-Claire said, "why aren't we going in mummy?" Despite a litany of excuses she provided to keep her from going into the church, she peeked through the door and after looking inside she said to herself, "I want to come here."
Lori Ann proceeded to talk to Jean-Guy and they said they will give it a try. She called Father Pratt right before Good Friday and they had a nice long conversation. As Lori Ann put it, she "felt like my gosh this is all clicking. I am really looking forward to this."
They began attending St. Philip's church on Palm Sunday and they have not looked back since.
A Deep Appreciation of St. Philip's
Prior to attending St. Philip's, Lori Ann was not a morning person, particularly when she was sick, but she does not feel like that anymore. "I actually feel, yes I want to go," she said. For Lori Ann St. Philip's brings her the peace and tranquility she was seeking. She appreciates the message, the fellowship and the music. She is also enamored with the gothic architecture of the church.
Lori Ann deeply appreciates the leadership of Rev. James Pratt, "I love Father Pratt's sermons," Lori Ann said, "I love listening to him."
As Lori Ann explains it, there are many facets that they enjoy at St. Philip's. ‘’Returning home after church we enjoy being together as a family. We are quietly content. There is a simpatico, a quiet simplicity, a calming; it’s something that we didn't always have on Sunday afternoons", she said.
Jean-Guy said he appreciates the formal service at St. Philip's, "the singing, the organ, are all part of it. I found in trying other churches I felt that the services were rushed through to some extent" he continued, "I like that the church is a small, I find it helps you connect with other people."
Jean-Guy describes services at St. Philip's as a "moving experience." "To me I find Father Pratt very inspiring." Jean-Guy said indicating that Father Pratt helps to guide his thought process. "I am not sure I would have connected with the church had father Pratt not been there and when we started coming I actually said that I do not know if I am going to St. Philip's because of my own needs or because father Pratt is inspiring me for my whole week. So its a mix of between the service and the actual delivery of the service but also what I get out of it for my week through the teachings, the readings and seeing how the other people also tend to be a closely knit group. There are different currents that pull in different directions nonetheless there is still a community aspect in this church."
Father Pratt helps to build connections within families. "You have a lot of families that are for whatever reason not living together, they live under the same roof, but they are not a family, they are not connected, they dont pass on knowledge," Jean Guy said. "That is how I felt Father Pratt was very inspiring to me...That is what I need in a priest to help me with my thought process and my feelings about different things. You cant just be left on your own in the church, thinking that you will work it through by yourself. To me the leader of the church is extremely important [and this is] a huge responsibility."
Lori Ann continued with Jean-Guy's train of thought saying, "I’ve never ever had an experience like I have had here at St Philips, I don't want him [Father Pratt] to stop talking... I could listen to him all day! I feel so fulfilled, to be able to take home these inspirational messages every Sunday. I wish I could convey this to others!’’
Lori Ann added, ‘’my experience at St. Philip's makes me feel centered. We are trying to instill these things in Sophie-Claire." When asked about what she likes most about St. Philip's church Sophie-Claire was quick to mention the Children's message given by Rev. Pratt. When asked if she had a message for other children who may not know about what you can get out of church she responded, "[I like church] to recharge our energy...it is good to learn about things, to know more and more about Jesus."
Lori Ann went on to say, "I hope that we can help somehow . . . with our words perhaps . . . to instill in others that this is an enriching experience. I didn't think that we would get so much out of it. Every week our experience has been inspiring. Father Pratt’s sermons have enlightened me over the past six months! Oftentimes, in the middle of a stressful week, something that was said at Sunday mass will come back to me . . . in reflecting on these inspirational messages, I can find tranquility and calm.’’
"I’ve found that my patience has increased (and I am quite a patient person already). I can feel the calming, centering energy from Sunday coming through me during the week. Often this is just the right remedy to remind me to take a step back, breathe and say, everything is OK."
The Church Community as an Antidote to our Consumer Culture
Jean-Guy concluded by saying that there is a lot of competition for their attention from clever marketers. He points to our consumer culture which he refers to as an insatiable new religion based on instant gratification. Church is an opportunity to slow down and get involved with community. "[Y]ou need to create a sense of community, you can show up at church every so often but you will never connect, it takes time, it takes time to develop, you grow into connecting with others, growing into a community"
As explained by Lori Ann, what she gets from church cannot be bought in stores. "[T]hese experiences . . .you take with you wherever you go, no matter where you are; at work, at home, happy times and sad. If one could reach deep down inside and get in touch with these amazing feelings, it may help to stay at peace and to live with hope.’’
"For me the church is extremely important. This was a missing component, and I’m thrilled to bring this experience back into my life," Lori Ann said.