As Kevin and Rebecca Gitzen look forward to becoming Catholics at the Easter vigil, a unique part of their journey was the recent baptisms of their infant sons. After extensive meetings with Father Patrick Brosamer, assistant pastor at St. Elizabeth’s, who was assured of the parents’ intentions to raise their children in the Catholic faith, the Gitzen twins were baptized on their first birthday, Nov. 20, 2016.
“The baptizing of our boys was not only for their own personal salvation, but the initial event symbolizing Rebecca’s and my commitment to raise them within the Catholic faith in a newly Christian household,” Kevin said.
A walk last year along a path through their neighborhood to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in south Anchorage, and a chance encounter with a friendly deacon, led the Gitzens on the road to full communion in the Catholic Church.
A journey that officially began in September of last year, when the couple enrolled in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, will culminate with their reception of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil liturgy on April 15.
Looking back, this young couple sees how their road to the Catholic Church began years ago.
Rebecca, born and raised in Anchorage, recalled going with her mother to St. Elizabeth’s annual holiday bazaar for many years. The parish’s welcoming and robust community impressed her. Beyond those annual bazaar outings, her experience of any faith was limited to an occasional church service, usually following a sleep over with friends.
Recalling what drew her to the Catholic faith, Rebecca said, “I would watch movies about the faith and gravitate towards it.” She added, “I definitely think it was a trip to Europe in 2002.”
There she was impressed with the repository of faith physically evidenced in Europe’s many cathedrals.
“The Catholic faith is filled with the longevity of history,” she said. “It felt like the original faith and its teachings validated my thinking over 30 years or so.” A visit to the Vatican clarified that thinking even further, she said.
Kevin, who grew up in Washington State, attended Unity Church in north Seattle as a boy, not necessarily by choice, but as a family activity.
Across the years, he also observed his paternal grandmother praying the rosary at times, and on a visit to extended family he attended an Irish Catholic church with his stepfather’s mother.
“As an adult, I realized that both of these amazing strong and independent women found their strength in Jesus Christ under the aegis of the Catholic Church,” he said. “With that strength, they were afforded the ability to work to improve those around them, through volunteering and vocation.”
While these seeds of faith began to take root, Rebecca and Kevin first met at Robert Service High School in Anchorage during their senior year. Their bond of love was forged over several years of college. After returning to Anchorage, they were married in 2011. In November of 2015, they welcomed their identical twin sons, Robert and Larry.
Rebecca works as a procurement specialist for an oil company, while Kevin, recently laid off from the North Slope, is employed by a private contractor and works as a plumber in Sitka. A work schedule, which averages 60 to 80 hours a week and irregular opportunities to return to Anchorage, has necessitated his enrolling in the RCIA program at St. Gregory Church in Sitka.
GROWING IN FAITH
While their instruction in the faith in two different locations is less than ideal, it has not dampened the enthusiasm kindled by a chance encounter with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Deacon Kurt Adler, on that life-altering fall day last year.
“If he had been less than welcoming, this would have been completely different,” Rebecca said of the man who was pivotal in their decision to become Catholic.
After attending only two or three Sunday Masses, where, Rebecca said, “not having any faith background, I didn’t know anything that was going on,” the desire to join the Catholic Church took root and rapidly grew. Kevin cited “Deacon Kurt’s genuine balance of calmness, willingness to teach and explain to Rebecca and I any questions we had,” as being pivotal in their decision to begin the process of becoming Catholic.
Thus began a whirlwind of instruction and initiation into a faith about which they had only the rudiments of understanding and experience. The process has, at times, been daunting. Rebecca said she felt like she was continually repeating her questions, trying to comprehend the volume of information presented.
A pleasant surprise for the couple was “realizing a majority of what we are doing is being with the congregation, being with family,” Rebecca said.
Kevin added, “I enjoy the inner peace I feel with my family in the church, learning about the church history and how that affected world history.”
Another attractive feature of Catholicism is outreach and service to the community of faith and the larger community, they both said.
The demands of work and raising toddler boys limit their time for outreach, yet the couple fully intends to partner with other Catholics who are actively engaged in giving of their time, talent and treasure to their community. Reflecting on his grandmothers, Kevin stated, “Our lives are easy. It is important to give back to the community.”
Looking toward the Easter Vigil, Rebecca said she is excited to enter the waters of the full-immersion baptistery at the church. Another catechumen (unbaptized) and several other candidates will join her and her husband in their profession of the Catholic faith that night.