Becoming Catholic Together: Joining the Church at the Easter Vigil Is a Family Affair in Michigan

It was the ‘children who started asking questions about faith.’

The Vickers family will enter the Church at the 2024 Easter vigil Mass.
The Vickers family will enter the Church at the 2024 Easter vigil Mass. (photo: Courtesy photo / Courtesy photo)

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Vickers family of Michigan will set out on a journey of faith at the Easter vigil Mass while their relatives and friends lend support and prayers.

Dr. Dan Vickers, 50, a radiologist, and his family live in Muskegon, a city on the shore of Lake Michigan, and had been seeking a church home but had not found the right place. “I have a wonderful family and a practice I love. It’s the American dream,” Vickers told the Register. “But something was missing. There was a ‘God hole.’” His wife, Alex, 43, said much the same, adding, “It was my children who started asking questions about faith, and it was my sister who helped us along the way.”

The Vickers and their daughter, Ally, 15, and son, Anderson, 13, considered themselves Christian and had attended various Protestant congregations but had not remained at any. But they will now join the parish of St. Francis de Sales, which other family members attend, in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. They, along with Ally’s boyfriend, will be baptized, and also receive the Eucharist and confirmation, at the liturgy celebrated by their pastor, Father Steve Geerling.

The Vickers family had occasionally attended Christmas liturgies with Alex’s sister, Angie, and her family. Twenty years ago, Angie entered the Church before her marriage. She and her husband, Don Kalisz, will serve as godparents. Angie Kalisz told the Register, “They had been attending once in a while. But I think they were really inspired by the Christmas Mass. They wanted to find a church to call home but didn’t find anything that could settle with them. But then they saw how beautiful the Mass was and wanted to be a part of it.” It was in the fall of 2023, Angie said, that her sister and brother-in-law decided, “This is it; this is what we want to do.” That was when they began the process of the Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (formerly RCIA).

Dan Vickers recalled for the Register the first time he and his family attended Mass at St. Francis de Sales, one of five Catholic parishes in the Muskegon metropolitan area, with the Kalisz family. “We sat with them, and it was very overwhelming. We felt out of place; we didn’t know when to sit, stand or kneel. It was beautiful, and it was something we never saw in Protestant churches. But everyone at the church was so kind and understanding. They were warm and accepting,” he said.

Dan also gave credit to relatives who lent a hand, saying: “I cannot emphasize too much how important it is to have people like Don and Angie in your life as sponsors who are practicing and active Catholics who are strong in their faith and continuing to learn and help. If others had such sponsors, they could help explain the beauty of the Church.”

Vickers family Rite of Election.
Vickers family attends the Rite of Election.(Photo: Courtesy photo)

Dan said he is grateful for his wife, Alex, saying, “It’s everything when your wife is on the same page and to have that support” about entering the Church. “I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have interference from my loved ones.”

Last September, the Vickers family began attending catechesis classes. And it was the following weekend that Nyle Eggert, 17, a high-school senior who dates Ally Vickers, joined the family at Mass. “Apart from funerals, I had not been to a church,” he told the Register. “I like to have a schedule, and knowing what I am going to do every Sunday is good.” He will also be received in the faith at the vigil. Eggert said that while his parents are split on his conversion, his non-practicing Catholic father does approve.

Anderson Vickers told the Register, “I’ve enjoyed it and learned a lot. It’s really interesting,” when asked about OCIA. He has been involved in the parish youth group and activities. “I want to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. Alex affirmed Anderson’s enjoyment of parish activities: “Everyone was so kind. He didn’t feel out of place, and he can’t wait for the day when he can fully participate in the Mass and other activities. ”

In mid-2023, Ally Vickers began having fainting spells that frightened the whole extended family. “Ally was diagnosed with POTS [Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome], which is both triggered by anxiety and causes even more anxiety,” Alex recalled. Ally’s condition brought together her wider family, she said.

Ally told the Register that she has been home-schooled due to her fainting spells to “take pressure off public school.” She said that her diagnosis was “overwhelming” and that she and her family wanted to start going to a church. “We wanted to put it in the hands of faith, rather than trying to handle it ourselves,” she said. Once she entered OCIA, “I found it helpful, and it was a place where I didn’t feel judged as a beginner who didn’t know anything. They just wanted to help us.” Comparing her journey in Catholic catechesis with her experiences at Protestant congregations, she said, “It was a whole different journey going through it with people who aren’t judging.”

Ally’s aunt, Angie, was emotional when she recalled for the Register the suffering Ally experienced and the emotional and spiritual toll it took on the family. “2023 was interesting — and rough,” Angie said. “When they first started going through that, one of the things that Alex and I talked about is that there is so much you can get [spiritually] by just sitting down and talking to the Virgin Mary as our mother.”

“Having that relationship is a beautiful bond, and asking for her prayers is so powerful. In that moment, when you are lost and can’t see your way through something, who has a better perspective than Mary? When I shared that with Alex, she immediately started having those kinds of conversations that bring peace of mind. Having that holy conversation with someone who knows suffering and can feel that pain and struggle is one of the most beautiful things about the Catholic faith,” Angie said.

Father Geerling told the Register that this will be the first time he will preside over adult baptisms, having prepared his parish by introducing the Vickers family. “The community of faith is excited,” the priest said.

Acknowledging that there may be pushback from some familial quarters when it comes to conversion, he said, “If you want to save the world, save the family. Here, we have the Vickers family coming home to the Church together. So, thankfully, there isn’t any tension between spouses. But I tell RCIA classes: ‘Be ready for pushback; be ready for persecution.’ To see the Vickers family coming in together is a powerful witness to the importance of a family that worships together as Catholics.”

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