ST. CLOUD, Minn. —Inspired by her daughter’s pursuit of faith, Andrea Tiebel from St. Joseph, Minn., is preparing to enter the Catholic Church this spring.
She says her daughter, Chyna Matos, helped her bring her faith full circle.
As a child, church wasn’t a big part of Tiebel’s life. Her mother, who was baptized Lutheran, allowed each of her five children to explore their own spiritual paths.
Tiebel recalls feeling a deep sense that there was “something else out there.” After graduating from high school, she entered the U.S. Navy, where she continued to explore her faith.
During her military career, she got married and welcomed daughter Chyna. The baby’s father was Catholic, and the couple agreed she would be baptized in the Catholic faith, so their child received the sacrament on a military base in Tennessee.
As she grew up, Matos said, she encountered all kinds of faith experiences, attending various churches with her mom, while also attending Mass with her father’s side of the family.
“I just never really felt like I had a spiritual home,” Matos told The Central Minnesota Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of St. Cloud.
It wasn’t until she left for college that she really felt drawn to seek answers.
After an emotionally charged start to her first year of college at the University of Kentucky, Matos decided to move back to Minnesota to be closer to her mother, who had retired from the Navy, gone through a divorce and settled in St. Joseph. Matos resumed her studies at nearby College of St. Benedict.
She began asking her mom a lot of questions about God and the church, which prompted Tiebel to connect her daughter with Marian Bach, the faith formation director at St. Joseph Parish.
Bach, who has served at the parish for nine years, has had a lifelong call to ministry, working with all ages and stages of faith formation. She has a special affinity for working with those entering the church through the n of Adults, known as RCIA.
“RCIA is always a joy, working with a different group of individuals each time, all who are at different stages of longing,” Bach said. “I love to see them learn and to hear their thoughts and questions. As a cradle Catholic, I learn so much from them. They teach me about my own faith.”
Bach and Matos often met one-on-one. “We really had a lot of good conversations,” Bach said. “She was longing for something more. Her enthusiasm was contagious and her commitment, she never quivered, she never doubted.”
Matos immediately fell in love with learning about the historical context of the Catholic tradition and soon began preparation for full initiation into the Catholic Church through the RCIA program.
“She would come home so excited and tell me everything she was learning,” Tiebel said. “It really got me interested, too.”
It wasn’t long before Tiebel knew that she, too, wanted to go through the RCIA process, but she wanted her daughter to “have her moment.”
“I wanted the focus to be on her. And at the same time, she was educating me on what to expect for myself. In her own way, she was preparing me and making it comfortable for me to take the next step,” Tiebel said.
Then COVID-19 hit. Matos wasn’t able to receive first Communion and confirmation at the 2020 Easter Vigil as planned. Along with baptism, these are the church’s sacraments of initiation.
She finally was able to receive the Eucharist and be confirmed with the high school confirmation students in September 2020.
“When I (received) my sacraments, I was nervous, but after receiving them I felt way calmer,” Matos said. “I was especially nervous about receiving the sacrament of reconciliation, but afterwards it felt like a weight was lifted off my chest. … I feel like going through the process and receiving them has made me have a better outlook on life and a better understanding of the church and what the sacraments mean to me.”
Matos has continued studying the Catholic faith as well as other world religions, including taking a theology course in college.
“There is just so much in the faith that is misinterpreted, so much that isn’t explained or doesn’t take into account the historical context that people need to know about,” she said. “If people took the time to really learn about it, they would have so much more understanding.”
Her eagerness to share her newfound faith and Bach’s welcoming encouragement inspired Tiebel to start RCIA last fall.
“Chyna and Andrea are the epitome to me of knowing your faith, longing to know your faith, growing in faith and going in faith,” Bach said. “It’s just such a beautiful story.”
When Tiebel receives the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and confirmation at this year’s Easter Vigil, her daughter will be by her side as her sponsor.
“I’m just so happy that my daughter is my sponsor and is supporting me in my journey,” Tiebel said, adding that they both continue to ask questions and learn about Catholicism and other religions.
“I am blessed to be able to share in this experience with my daughter,” she said, adding that the experience has not only renewed her faith but “opened up a whole new world.”
By Kristi Anderson, associate editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic, magazine of the Diocese of St. Cloud.