Sponsors crucial to faith journey


SPARTANBURG — “It’s time to get acquainted with a new day.”

That is how Lenka Spencer described a recent spring-life morning with the sun bursting forth to burn off two weeks of rain and to drive away the dreary gray of winter. That also is how she is moving forward in her faith — with confidence and a bounce in her step.

Spencer is a new bride whose husband, Tom, is sponsoring her journey into the Catholic Church. She’s excited. This is something new, fresh and vibrant in her life, and Tom is helping to keep her faith thriving.

Sponsors are crucial in helping people on their spiritual journey.

They help reassure candidates and catechumens, and they play many roles. They are both witness and guide, companion and role model to those searching for their beliefs, said Andrew Vitale, director of Religious Education at St. Paul’s Church.

“In reality the whole community is bringing them in and fostering their conversion,” Vitale said, “but they usually catch the spirit of the church from their sponsors.”

Some potential sponsors don’t come forward because they feel the burden on them is too heavy. They think they have to know it all in order to properly guide a candidate or catechumenate. That’s a shame, Vitale said.

He called the experience a faith-sharing voyage for both the candidate and the sponsor. It strengthens both their beliefs, and brings both closer to the Lord.

If a sponsor is stumped by a particular question, he can turn to anyone in the community for help in hunting for the answer. And in many instances, that search helps the sponsor grow, too.

Joe Gelotte, who is sponsoring his wife, Donna, agrees with that. “If I don’t know (the answer to a question), then I have to be honest enough and tell her I don’t know,” he said. “Then I call someone who does.”

Gelotte said that openness has brought them closer together. “It’s really been enjoyable for our family.”

Donna Gelotte said she is lucky to have her spouse as a sponsor. “He’s real supportive,” she said. “There’s things that I talk to my sponsor about that I’m not going to mention in class. I feel more comfortable with my husband as my sponsor.”

And Joe Gelotte said the best thing he can do as a sponsor is live a true Christian life. That, more than anything else, sets the example for his wife.

Some might call it “a family that prays together stays together” cliché. It also is true for Don and Doris Vennergrund.

Doris Vennergrund became a Catholic last year, with her husband as sponsor. “I was missing the link in our family,” Doris said. “Everyone else was Catholic. I was the only one who didn’t take Communion.”

She starting thinking about becoming a Catholic when her granddaughter came up to her one day and said: “I’m going to receive Communion before you do.”

So Doris took up the challenge to become Catholic and has not regretted it. Today, she’s still discovering the depth of that faith and learning more every day.”

“Our marriage was strong to begin with,” she said. “This has made it stronger.”

With Easter just around the corner, others are continuing on that journey of faith toward the Catholic Church, with sponsors helping them to open the door and “get acquainted with a new day.”