Journey of the Suttons
I think, as kids, we have ideas about the plotline our lives are supposed to follow. We go to school for a while. We find jobs or start companies. We fall in love if we’re lucky. We have families. Our families grow up and repeat these steps with mild variation. We may suspect our spiritual lives will take a similar path – smooth and upward. We’ll get a greater understanding of God as we age. Our deepest, most intimate questions about the nature of life and humanity will be answered. We’ll eventually see God as our greatest teacher, ally and friend… but alas, this is not how things work. In fact, for most everyone I know, spirituality is a constant process of course correction, learning, and still more questioning, whose end is nowhere in sight.
People reach spiritual maturity at widely varying ages. I, personally, see a lot of men in their early to mid-60’s, who retire, actually start paying attention to their inner life, commit to service, make new friends, and absolutely come alive in their faith. I know several young couples who were just kind of “doing their thing” before they were married. They get married and only upon having a child of their own, realize there’s another dimension to life, and they invite God into their lives with voracious energy, and start doing “His” thing instead. Life is beautiful in that way, and we always like to hear the stories of the people that come through RCIA – because there always is a story. Most people don’t just wake up one day and decide they want to be Catholic, so I sat down with Barbara & Bill Sutton (mother and son), and tried to figure out where they’re coming from on their journey and what they hope to gain through the process…DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
Damian: So, Bill, what motivated you to become Catholic at this point in your life?
Bill: You know, my kids were both raised Catholic, and my wife is Catholic, so when we moved to this area of town, it was right around the time the Parish was being established and that first Pastor we had… I can’t remember his name, but he was really a genuine individual.
DH: You mean Father Sullivan?
Bill: Yes, and really, every one we’ve had since him has just been great – and Father Bob is a perfect fit at Blessed Pope (John XXIII).
DH: You’re on a roll! Haha, tell me some other things you like about the Parish.
Bill: The environment in general is very warm and welcoming, the people are very social, and the amount of charity work being done is impressive.
DH: I would agree. Our people are very generous. At charity events throughout the country, our Parishioners are disproportionately represented.
Bill: And it keeps expanding! Just look at the ministry that’s been built up around the Villas. Kathy and I started volunteering over there as soon as it opened. Our Church hasn’t even been open that long.
DH: So Barbara, what’s drawn you to our Parish?
Barbara: Well, I was brought up in the Anglican Church, but my father was Roman Catholic. I was raised in Trinidad in the Caribbean and followed my mother’s religion for the longest time.
DH: Which was… Anglicanism?
Barbara: Yes, but then I got married and moved to America… this is sort of where my adherence to religion fell apart. My husband’s family were members of the Church of Christ – in fact his father was a pastor in the church.
DH: That sounds problematic… the way you’re describing it.
Barbara: He didn’t even recognize other religions. So there was some tension there. For a short while I had to attend that church, but luckily my husband was shipped overseas. At the time Bill was only 9 months old, and my husband was in the Air Force.
Bill: Yes, his thing was communications and electronics. He supported radar sites throughout the world, so he lived in a lot of different places.
DH: So how did you guys get to Fort Myers?
Barbara: My husband moved us here in 1968 and there wasn’t much here, but I started working for Publix, and actually, so did Bill.
Bill: Yeah, Publix was a great company to work for. They’re one of the largest privately owned businesses in the nation.
DH: I bet you could talk all day about the world of grocery retailing. So tell me more about your RCIA journey.
Bill: We had some neighbors that would have dinner with Father Bob pretty regularly, and then we started having him over, and I got to talking to him about the process of becoming Catholic… so it was really just “time”.
DH: What about you, Barbara, how did this all start for you ?
Barbara: You know, I always resented the fact that I was unable to follow my father’s religion growing up. After I retired I moved to Tennessee to be close to my daughter, but then my home burned down – along with 48 other people’s homes – and my son, Bill, said “Oh just move back to Florida already!” So I’ve been down here a while and after getting to know Father Bob, I thought to myself, you know, this is the faith I’ve had all along. This is the faith I had as a child. I needed to become a Catholic.
DH: And so if it’s the faith you had as a child, why wouldn’t you already be a Catholic?
Barbara: Back in those days, children always followed the faith of their mothers – which as I’d mentioned, was the Church of England.
DH: And tell me the difference between Anglicanism and Catholicism?
Barbara: Anglicans were the first faith to break away from the Catholic Church. I think it all comes down to the confessional. Anglicans believe you should just go directly to God.
DH: So have you been to confession yet?
Barbara: Well, I haven’t because I’m in the middle of my schooling.
DH: Could you sneak in? Like, can’t you have one of your friends let you in the back door?
Barbara: Ah-haha! No! That is one thing I’m really looking forward to though.
Bill: In all honesty though, we were all raised with faith. I got my first Bible when I was 5 years old and used to read it daily. Now, as an adult, I go to CatholicPrayer.com and go through their daily readings. So I’m getting myself in the mindset of being “ready” for this process. And praying in the morning really sets the tempo for the day.
DH: Right! Instead of asking forgiveness at the end of the day for all the havoc you’ve caused! Haha. Tell me something you’ve learned about the faith during your journey that you were sort of surprised by.
Bill: I think unless you are educated correctly on the topic, you don’t really know the significance of the presence of the Body & Blood of Christ. Also, I’ve learned through scripture that, what Jesus really did, was invest time in people. And that’s something we can carry into our daily lives. We can very easily help people get through difficulties just by investing time in them.
DH: So what do you think about this new Pope we have?
Barbara: I just love him. I feel like my time has come to join the Church, and he’s such a big part of that.
Bill: He’s a real man of compassion. I think he’s teaching people to return to their humanity.