US Catholic Faith in Real Life

A spectrum of faith

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In a letter to the editor, a reader explains how she and her siblings hold on to faith through sorrow and joy. 

Guest blog by Fay Obergfell 

What a lovely surprise to open to Femme fidele and see my sister quoted there regarding her 30 years of service to the church as a pastoral associate! Now I feel compelled to comment on the rest of our family, as my sisters and brothers and our spouses fall on a spectrum of Catholic thought and faith.

There is my oldest sister who is a deacon's unsung wife, a musician, an elementary teacher, a mother and grandmother, a caregiver for my handicapped brother, and a strong keeper and defender of the faith.

There is my younger sister who was a church secretary, had been a caregiver for my brother and handled my handicapped uncle's and my mother's business and comfort until their deaths, and is a mother and grandmother, a volunteer for Bethlehem Farms ministry in West Virginia, a helper in all things family, and a strong advocate for social justice.

My handicapped brother’s fondest wish throughout his life was to enter the priesthood, and I can think of few children who could recite the Latin Mass responses completely at age 5 as he could. The church is his life, his faith is the simplest and strongest of all of us in difficult times, and he has been a blessing throughout our lives, though sometimes we had to look a little harder to see it than other times.

My youngest brother is no longer a Catholic, but an involved and holy Lutheran, strong in faith but unable to find comfort and peace in the Catholic Church of today. He is a father and grandfather and has spent most of his career in child protection, the most difficult job I have ever witnessed.

I fall in the middle, a mother and grandmother, a retired special education teacher, a skeptic and critic of many church positions, most notably as they relate to women and gays and others that God created in His/Her image and likeness. I am too Catholic to be anything else, but the church hierarchy tries my patience as nothing in my life ever has. My role in my little country parish has been nearly every one available at some time or another, but currently has settled into serving others by serving food, after funerals and at parish social gatherings. It is satisfying to be allowed to feed God's people in some way.

We are faithful, we are called, we are diverse and yet the same, and all of us see need for change in the church that we love or loved. The holiest moments of our collective life occurred last spring when we all prayed with, comforted, and held our mother in her last days, and accompanied that holy woman on her earthly journey of faith to her new life, where she moved from us to her parents, her husbands, her miscarried children, her brothers, and friends in the next life. It is the ultimate transition.

It is not without sorrow that we live, but the joyful moments of pure faith more than erase them. May it be so for our beloved church on earth as we faithfully accompany her on a journey to a new life, erasing the pain that the hierarchy has caused every one of us in this lifespan. We are men and women of faith.

Guest blogger Fay Obergfell is a reader from Lexington, Indiana.

As a supplement of the January 2011 special issue on women, U.S. Catholic is asking guest bloggers, “How do you keep the faith as a woman in the church?” To submit your answer (about 500 words), e-mail

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.