Through the Catholic Student Coalition at the University of Wisconsin — Whitewater, Kyla Schmidt was not only introduced to the Catholic faith, but she also met her husband, Mike Schmidt. (Catholic Herald photo by Allen Fredrickson)
Whitewater campus ministry welcomed her to church
By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald
Third in a series of articles featuring individuals who are entering into full communion with the Catholic Church this Easter season.
WHITEWATER - Author Flannery O'Connor said, "You don't join the Catholic Church, you become a Catholic." For Kyla Schmidt, her journey into the Roman Catholic Church, after growing up Presbyterian, echoes O'Connor's proclamation.
She attended North Park University in Chicago, a private Christian college, and appreciated the faith aspects of the school, but never found a group of friends to deeply share that faith.
After disclosing her frustration to a close friend, Kyla learned that her friend, a practicing Catholic, was involved with a group of friends through UW-Whitewater's Catholic Student Coalition.
"I decided to transfer to Whitewater and began attending those meetings with my best friend Brenda," she said, adding, "and all those great friends she told me about welcomed me into their close-knit circle."
Through those meetings, she met her future husband, Mike, who was also involved in the Catholic Student Coalition.
"We were friends for a few years, began dating and eventually became engaged," she said. "Mike and I then decided to marry in the Catholic Church since he was raised as a Catholic, and because we met in the Catholic Student Coalition."
Kyla and Mike attended marriage preparation classes required of all engaged couples planning to marry in the church. Through the classes, under the direction of Fr. Rafael Rodriguez at St. Patrick Parish, Whitewater, Kyla, 24, began to understand more and appreciate the teachings of the Catholic Church.
They were married Aug. 16, 2008 at St. Mary Parish, Waukesha.
"After Mike and I got married, I decided it was important for me to become a Catholic for us to have unity in our faith to strengthen our marriage, as well as to provide a unified family for our future children," Kyla said.
Under the direction of Steve Letellier, RCIA coordinator at St. Patrick Parish where the couple are members, Kyla attended classes to enter into full communion with the church at the Easter Vigil. Since September, she has met catechumens of all ages and backgrounds who share the same goal - to be part of the Body of Christ.
"We all want to become Catholic for different reasons, but we are able to use those different experiences to help each other learn about the Catholic faith," she said. "It also provided a safe place to ask questions and learn without feeling as if you are the only one who doesn't know."
While she said the faith can be intimidating to outsiders, at times, Kyla felt reassurance from Letellier and the other members as she learned about the Mass, its memorized prayers, why certain prayers are said, and the importance of each of the elements.
Choosing a sponsor was easy for Kyla, who chose her husband - the person she most admired and looked up to for his steadfast faith while immersed in a secular world.
"I admire the way that he has lived his faith," she said. "Especially in college, it's not necessarily 'cool' to attend church every Sunday, or a voluntary faith-based meeting every Wednesday. Mike continued to do those things because they were important to him, and a shared faith is important to us as a married couple."
Breaking the news to her family members that she was setting aside the faith of her childhood met with no resistance, only love and support - a testimony to the self-less example of the faith of her parents.
"My mother was raised as a Catholic and began attending the Presbyterian Church after she married my father, so she understands the desire for unity of faith in a marriage," Kyla explained. "They both know that I am following my heart."
The opportunity to receive the Eucharist for the very first time was an anticipation that grew from her college days and more intensely each week as Kyla prepared for the Easter Vigil.
"Since college, I have regularly attended Mass both with friends, as well as with my husband and his family," she said. "Every week when it came time to receive the Eucharist, I had to stand to let the other parishioners pass me by. This Communion is a special shared moment, not just between the recipient and Christ, but with the entire parish and I look forward to being a part of that."
In her marriage, her friendships and in her job as a traffic coordinator for Entercom Radio in Madison, Kyla believes that receiving the Eucharist on a regular basis will leave her renewed and strengthened.
"I have always felt a strong faith in God, and have regularly attended church my entire life," she said. "For me, one of the most important things about faith is sharing it. I have been blessed with great friends and a husband who shared their Catholic faith with me, and in turn, I feel very welcome and accepted by the Catholic Church and look forward to sharing my Catholic faith with many others."