Kristine Siegrest finds it hard to explain what drew her to Catholicism, but she knows how she feels when she steps into her new church.

Kristinesiegrist4Fr. Charles Zabler, pastor of Our Lady of Good Hope baptizes 32-year-old Kristine Siegrest in the baptismal font at Our Lady of Good Hope Church, Milwaukee, at the Easter Vigil in April, where she also celebrated the sacraments of Communion and confirmation. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)At home. Welcomed. Part of a community.

“The congregation has accepted me into the fold with open arms,” said Siegrest.

Becoming a Catholic was the culmination of a spiritual quest for the 32-year-old who became a member of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish at the Easter Vigil. Siegrest was not raised in any faith, but had occasionally attended Mass with her Catholic grandparents while she was growing up.

“I had moved to the neighborhood about two years ago. Last spring, as I was seriously considering the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process, I began to attend Mass to check it out,” she said. “I instantly felt a great respect for Fr. Charlie (Charles Zabler) and, after having several discussions with him, I decided to join.”

For years, something was missing, and often Siegrest felt her heart leading her to the Catholic Church. She attended Mass on Christmas Eve and Easter with her aunt, Deborah Wierzbinski, and her family.

“It was around this point that I had felt that there was something missing from my life,” she admitted. “After I began attending Mass at Our Lady of Good Hope, I realized what it was – God. I had not allowed him completely into my life.”

Fr. Zabler was touched to see Kristine’s spiritual life develop through attending various liturgies, such as weddings, funerals, and Easter..

“Over the past year, Kristine began to attend our 5:30 evening Masses on Tuesday and Thursday, and then entered the ‘period of inquiry’ and attended RCIA sessions,” he said. “She began to realize that she had found a faith tradition and felt called.”

With her aunt serving as sponsor, Siegrest participated in RCIA in addition to working full time as a patient care assistant, and attending MATC full time as a nursing student. According to Barbara Krieger, pastoral assistant and RCIA coordinator at the parish, despite her long hours, Siegrest was energetic and joyful for all of the classes and parish activities.

“Her faith journey was a true priority. People just seemed drawn to her, and part of her exposure to the parish involved helping out at our St. Pat’s Fest. Even though she was coming off a 14-hour shift at the hospital, she still maintained her magnetic smile, worked an extra shift, and said at the end, ‘That was really fun, everyone here is so friendly and nice,’” said Krieger. “I always say that I get more out of their journey than I put into it. Walking with the catechumens and candidates is one of the best parts about my ministry. Kristine reminds me that really being present to others is far more important than whatever chapter we have read; that Jesus did marvelous things without a written agenda and committees; that childlike wonder and awe at the mystery we call faith is not reserved for children.”

Going through the RCIA gave Siegrest a connection to OLGH parishioners and helped her understand the Catholic faith.

“It was just an amazing experience; Barb and Mary (Dunn, RCIA team member) are wonderful!” she said. “We were able to have very open and frank conversations about the topics we were discussing. These women have made me feel so accepted into the church and I could not have gone through this journey without them.”

Despite the Catholic family background on her mother’s side, Siegrest has no regrets about her mother’s decisions to raise her without religious roots. On the contrary, her call to the faith as an adult has made her more appreciative of being in full communion with the Catholic Church.

“My family is very proud of my decision,” she said. “My mother chose to not raise me within the church because she felt that it should be my decision as to whether I wanted to be Catholic or not. Because of this, I feel an even closer connection with the church. I am a member by my choice and not just because I was raised within it.”

During the Easter Vigil, Siegrest celebrated the sacraments of baptism, Communion and confirmation in the ancient rituals of the church. While the celebration was lengthy, Siegrest said she was moved deep within her soul and felt a stronger connection to the parishioners.

“I can’t even put into words some of the things I was feeling; all I can say is that I feel I have a certain glow that I didn’t have before,” she said. “I feel closer to our Lord due to everything that occurred during the Easter Vigil and I was overwhelmed at the time with all the other events that were going on.”

Siegrest’s enthusiastic spirit captivated the parish as well, according to Fr. Zabler.

“She was welcomed at the Lord’s Table to great applause, tears of rejoicing and ovation,” he said.

For Krieger, it was a moment that reminded her why she chose to become involved in the RCIA ministry.

“She was a delight to get to know, and I was privileged to have journeyed with her,” she said. “She is truly a blessing to this parish and especially to me.”