Sponsors appreciate faith journey of those coming into the Church 

With Easter right around the corner, we should not be thinking about jellybeans and bunnies, but about the passion and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ and his Resurrection.

On Holy Saturday, the Saturday before Easter, the elect and candidates are welcomed into full communion with Christ and his Church during the Easter Vigil.
This season of Lent is a special time of preparation for the candidates and elect who hope to be received fully into the Catholic Church – and for their sponsors.
Julie Wojcik, coordinator for the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults at Queen of All Saints in Michigan City, said the sponsors at her parish have various backgrounds and knowledge of the faith, but all have a similar desire to be the best sponsors they can be. 
“I love to see things blooming in people,” she said. “Some of them have really connected. Being a sponsor can be such a rewarding experience. I am in awe.”
Tom Gushrowski, sponsor for 23-year-old John LaCorte, appreciates the opportunity to bring his faith to life as he walks with his elect. “I feel reinvigorated. I am there to help him and we talk a lot. He is smart and interested in studying about the faith.”
Gushrowski is also growing in his faith. “Everything takes on a little deeper meaning. When I pray, I think more about my faith and what I am doing; I feel more intentional,” he said.
Sponsor Liv Sensenbrenner said her relationship with 11-year-old Violet Johnson has been a humbling experience. Sensenbrenner, who received a master’s degree in Theology from Notre Dame University’s Echo program, was honored to be Johnson’s sponsor. “I was really convicted…I was so excited,” she said.
The 23-year-old campus ministry apprentice at Andrean High School was praying after Mass at Holy Martyrs Parish in Merrillville when Johnson’s father asked her to be his daughter’s sponsor. “He told me he was new to the parish and that he was looking for the right fit for his daughter’s confirmation sponsor. He said he saw me and appreciated my reverence during the Mass.”
With her theology degree and knowledge of the faith, Sensennbrenner said it is humbling to let herself be taught by others. “The Lord can speak to you through the words they say. As a sponsor, I must be present and let the Lord speak to me the way he wants.”
Ross Blankenship is sponsoring his wife, Maggie. He said the journey has not only brought them closer together as a couple, but the family has grown closer to God as well. 
Blankenship loves being able to share his faith with his wife and watch her develop her own understanding and relationship with Christ. “Being a sponsor has been a great opportunity for me to reflect and sort of ‘relive’ these chapters of my own faith journey that I went through while growing up.”
Blankenship, a parishioner at Our Lady of Consolation, Merrillville, said it is “cool” that the elect are going to have memories of their baptisms. “It feels odd to say that I’m a bit ‘jealous’ of those who are old enough to have this permanent, personal memory of their baptism, but I do think it must be an incredible experience to be baptized as an adult.”
Lisa Maciejewski, who is sponsoring her nephew’s wife Cassandra “Cassie” Egenlauf, also spends extra time with her. “We text and get together on occasion – not only to talk about her journey but life and everyday things.”
This is the second time Maciejewski, a long-time parishioner of St. John the Evangelist, St. John, has sponsored a candidate. “I feel it can be a little more challenging sponsoring someone you know because you want to walk with them on this journey and offer encouragement without overstepping bounds. (You’re less likely to do that) with someone that you have just been introduced to.”
Maciejewski said she loves so many things about being a sponsor. “I love attending the OCIA meetings and hearing the speakers – I learn and relearn new things each time.  I love hearing everyone’s stories. And most of all I love attending the Easter Vigil and standing beside that person.  I hope to be a continued resource and find the answers needed when I don’t have them readily accessible.”
Candee Walsh is currently sponsoring Brisa Sanford, the third young woman she has sponsored in as many years, and she appreciates the Holy Spirit’s work in selecting her. “As a mom of three sons, having these mother-daughter-type relationships has brought me tremendous joy!”
Being a sponsor at SJE has been rewarding for Walsh on so many levels. “Being a sponsor has not only helped me better understand the genius of Catholicism and further solidify why I choose to be Catholic, but the elect themselves have positively affected my faith journey. I am amazed and inspired by the number of young people who are coming into or back to the faith because they recognize it as the one true faith instituted by Christ.”
Sponsorship extends beyond the Easter Vigil. “It's important for me to stay connected to my former sponsors and continue to encourage them on their journey,” Walsh said. “Nothing warms my heart more than seeing them live out their faith!”
For those interested but unsure about becoming a sponsor, Tom Gushrowski would encourage you to pray about it. “Yes, I would encourage people to consider it, to search your own soul and if you can, commit to it. I don’t know everything, but I don’t need to know everything,” he said. “It’s so rewarding. My favorite part is seeing John’s excitement. I love joining him on his journey.”


Caption: Liv Sensenbrenner shops with Violet Johnson, whom she is sponsoring into the Catholic Church, on March 2. They spent the day together and bought Johnson's dress for the Easter Vigil service. (Provided photo)