After losing light of his life, man seeks light of Christ

CHESTERTON - A sense of darkness and uncertainty came over George Veenstra Jr. when he lost the light of his life. Now a light grows brighter at the end of the darkened tunnel that George has traveled for the past two years. That light was the light of the Easter candle which glowed brightly as he was welcomed into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil on March 30 at St. Patrick.
“I’m excited and looking forward to it. Looking forward to being a member of the Catholic Church and bringing our children along with me,” said Veenstra before his baptism.
His wife, June, passed away on Feb. 10, 2022, at 52, following a battle with cancer. The couple have two teenage children, George III and Gianna.
Both children have been very supportive of his faith journey. “They respect me and my decision. I want to be a role model for them. I want to show them how to have faith. Hopefully they’ll follow me down the path,” said Veenstra.
“One diagnosis and a couple months later your whole life changes,” said Veenstra as he choked back tears. He shared how he and his wife had their future all planned out. Their children would soon be heading off to college and retirement wasn’t too far off. As Veenstra said, “We had everything planned. Everything was going great.”
Veenstra knew something was wrong when June had two minor fender benders in one week and wasn’t upset about them. “I looked into her eyes, and I could tell something was wrong. Her facial expression and eyes were dull and blank.” Visits to the doctor and tests revealed the numbing truth, that Jenny (her nickname) had multiple myeloma, a form of leukemia. 
He described how the disease fogged Jenny’s brain and caused extreme pain. “I prayed that if it was going to end that she’d go quickly and not suffer,”admitted Veenstra. She passed just three months after the diagnosis.
“I’m sure she knew for a while before we went to the doctor,, but she didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for her,”  he added.
With the woman Veenstra had been with for 31 years - 18 as his wife -  gone, he reflected upon how she caught his eye but shot him down the first time he asked her out. She mistakenly thought he asked her to a Colts game instead of  The Cult concert. Perseverance and clarification paid off as she finally accepted his invitation.
“She was the love of my life. She had a big heart, pretty, with a million-dollar smile,” grinned Veenstra.    
He added that her true beauty came out as she lived her faith. “She was a very caring and loving person. Her devotion and how she led her life and put family first was special”  
The couple were married by Father Jerry Schweitzer at Sacred Heart in Wanatah, and she wanted the couple’s children to be raised Catholic and attend her alma mater, St. Patrick School. “It was fine with me. She turned out great and it was a great school. I definitely wanted them to be brought up with the Lord,” said Veenstra.
With Jenny gone, the future became foggy and uncertain. “I was very empty and lost. We were together for 31 years, everything was planned out and within months it’s gone. What do I do? Where do I go? I’m by myself.”
Veenstra said he turned to prayer. “I wasn’t angry. I just didn’t understand. Why would you take somebody like her? I’m trying to figure out why,” he noted. “I never got any answers. I’m sure I will, eventually.”
Veenstra said he turned to the faith that was instilled in him as a youth, recalling how his maternal grandmother was rooted deep in her Catholic faith. His mom was Catholic, while his dad wavered, so the family didn’t go to church much. “I wasn’t sure what to follow,” admitted Veenstra. He does remember reading the Bible and listening to radio stations with Biblical programs while growing up.
A near drowning when he was six or seven years old greatly impacted his faith life. “It seemed like there was an intervention. It weighed on me my whole life. There’s no way I’d be here today if a boy didn’t give me that life preserver,” said Veenstra.
“You have to have faith. You could go the other way and lose it or just try to hang in there and pray,” said Veenstra. The first thing he did after Jenny’s passing was to call Father Schweitzer, “He was great. He provided guidance about moving forward.”
Part of moving forward included praying and reading sacred scripture. “Since I’d been praying more, the more scripture I read, I’ve felt more inner peace,” he said.
He realized his calling was to begin the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) process. “It’s something I definitely wanted to do, especially with Jenny passing,” said Veenstra.
“I’m very thankful for the ladies who run the program. They’ve been very hospitable,” he said, adding that many were friends of his wife, which provided much consolation.  “It’s been a blessing. It was very therapeutic and healing. It’s nice to see other people turning to faith to get by. It’s a strength in numbers kind of thing.”
Veenstra offered words of advice to those suffering or struggling. “Hang in there and follow God, get closer to Him. Talk to God as much as possible. Pray and pray and pray. You’ll feel better. You really will,” he said. 


Caption: George Veenstra Jr. sits with his children George Veenstra III, 19, and Gianna Veenstra, 17, in the Cathedral of the Holy Angels, awaiting the Rite of Election on Feb. 18 in Gary. Veenstra, Jr., who entered the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil at St. Patrick church in Chesterton, endured with his family the loss of his wife and his children's mother, June Veenstra, who passed away in 2022 after a battle with cancer. He hopes to lead his children deeper into the faith and find peace in life. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)