Nurse finds her family as she places her faith in God

PORTAGE – As Skylar McElheny walks into Nativity of Our Savior church, all the stress of her work as a registered nurse in the Emergency Department at Franciscan Health Michigan City melts away.
She is at home with her faith community, ready to learn more about the Catholic Church on her journey toward baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation that she received at Easter Vigil services.
“Going to RCIA classes … and learning about God’s love for me … makes me feel like I belong in the Catholic Church” McElheny. “I never understood before, but all the things we lean on as humans, none of it means anything but God’s love. I’ve put all my eggs in one basket now, and my life is so much better.”
Originally from Chesterton, McElheny graduated from Valparaiso University and moved to Portage about three years ago. She began attending Mass at Nativity of Our Savior as she planned for her wedding. Raised as a non-denominational Christian, “I wanted to go back to church, and Nativity was near my home,” she noted.
Working at a Franciscan hospital for the past four years also brought her into contact with the Catholic faith, especially with one young co-worker who became a special friend, Sister Emmanuel, also a registered nurse and a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration.
“She came to work in the ER, and I was asked to train her,” recalled McElheny. “I was so scared, because I had never had any experience with a nun, and I didn’t think I could do it. As it turned out, she became a big spiritual light for me; she just exudes Christ, and she gently nudged me toward the faith. I think God put her in my life to steer me towards the faith.”
As McElheny and her fiancé began going through Marriage Preparation instructions for their wedding last June, “I really fell in love with the Catholic faith. Sister Emmanuel has been there for me through everything, and even though she was recently transferred to Outpatient Surgery, we have stayed close.
“Right now we are doing a book study, meeting every two weeks, on ‘Interior Freedom’ by Jacques Philippe, and she is trying to start a book club at the hospital, which I think would be great,” added McElheny, who also attended the national SEEK ’24 conference hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students in St. Louis with Sister Emmanuel.
“It was my first experience with Eucharistic Adoration and it was overwhelming. I cried like a baby, she admitted.
McElheny began RCIA studies last September without a godparent, but not for long. “The RCIA staff was so welcoming and I really like hearing everyone’s opinion; I hope to stay involved in that ministry,” she said. Staffer Karen Kirk made such an impression on McElheny that she asked her to be her godparent/sponsor. “She is so bubbly and so friendly,” noted McElheny.
“I am so excited and eager to receive the Eucharist,” she said prior to her Easter Vigil baptism, First Holy Communion and confirmation. “It is so beautiful to get to bring God into you each time you receive.
“I’m a crier, so I guarantee you I will cry. To be alive with the Holy Spirit, I know I will feel the presence of God very strongly,” she added.
While McElheny’s parents have passed away, her sister, Taylor McElheny, lives in Valparaiso. “She isn’t really religious, but she came to the SEEK conference with me and she said she’s going to start praying with Sister Emmanuel, so I am praying for her (to accept the faith).
“If I had to explain to a nonbeliever what I feel, I’d have to say the peace the Catholic faith brings to me drew me in,” McElheny said. “Christ is always with you, through all of your struggles.”  


Caption: Godparent Karen Kirk of Nativity of Our Savior in Portage places her hand on the shoulder of catechumen Skylar McElheny during the Rite of Election service at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary on Feb. 18. "They really make me feel like I belong in the Catholic Church," McElheny said of Kirk and other members of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) team she studied with in preparation for her baptism at the Easter Vigil on March 30. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)