A Grafton family’s plans to go to Disney World are taking a major faith detour to Indianapolis.

The Liz and Nick Hammetter family had planned the Florida vacation as a work trip add-on for their family of five children, ages 3 to 15.

“Everyone was really looking forward to it,” Liz recalled.

But late last fall, publicity about the National Eucharistic Congress kept coming to the family’s attention — for example, during Relevant Radio’s nightly “Family Rosary Across America.”

Liz and Nick decided the family should forgo the theme park trip and instead join about 50,000 people in attending the five-day congress that begins Wednesday, July 17, at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indianapolis Convention Center.

“Our Catholic faith is first in our lives. Nick and I felt that we needed to attend, we need to be a part of this life-changing, once-in-a-lifetime event surrounded by thousands of Catholics,” Liz said.

In the meantime, Liz’s mom and dad, Jeanette and Greg Kirchner, had also considered attending the congress, and Jeanette was especially delighted to learn of the Hammetters’ plans.

“My heart was filled with joy! They chose Jesus! How beautiful! She immediately told me that they wanted us to come with them,” said Kirchner, a longtime member of St. Monica, Whitefish Bay.

“I told Greg I felt that the Holy Spirit was calling me to go,” Kirchner said. Not long after that, Greg gave her an envelope on her birthday that contained the Congress logo and a note “WE ARE GOING!”

Why is Kirchner eager to attend? “Number one — to show Jesus how much we love him! And for the opportunity to hear some of our greatest theologians and leaders of the Catholic Church speak on the Eucharist. This will be life changing!” she said.

The families will share a rental house in Indianapolis for the congress, which will feature revival nights with some of the best-known Catholic evangelists in the country, as well as numerous other daytime speakers, worship opportunities, music, special activities for families and other events.

The Hammetters, members of St. Francis Borgia, Cedarburg, will be joined by their children: Anna, 15; Quinn, 13; Olivia, 10; Gemma, 9; and Zachary, 3.

“We believe that attending congress will help increase our children’s faith and love for Jesus. It will light a fire in their hearts to know, love and serve the Lord. As Catholics, is there any better place to bring your children? No, this is where we need to be. We will attend the family sessions and grow together,” Liz said.

Liz does not underestimate the challenges of bringing the entire family to such a large-scale event, acknowledging it is “overwhelming” to consider.

At the same time, she said, “I know attending such a massive and amazing event will impact them positively for the rest of their lives. My children already love their faith; we say the Rosary as a family, they serve at Mass and sing in the choir, they know prayers and are very well educated in the faith — some have even considered the religious life. I hope attending the congress will help them continue on this path so they can grow up with a strong faith.”

“We may have long lines and logistical challenges — but we are all seeking Jesus, so I know the atmosphere will be grace-filled,” Jeanette said.

What are Jeanette’s hopes for her grandchildren attending the congress?

“I pray that each of them will have a deep encounter with the Lord that will keep them close to him their entire lives. I hope that they will never forget the sacrifice that their parents made to share this experience with them. That in their family, Jesus comes first,” Jeanette said.

Both Liz and Jeanette also said they look forward to their own spiritual growth.

“I have been Catholic all my life, and recently I have been diving deeper into my faith. I hope attending the congress will deepen my love and understanding of the Eucharist and what it means to be Catholic,” Liz said. “I want to learn how to incorporate my faith into everything I do in life. I know what I learn and experience at the congress will help me on my path to heaven.”

“I am praying that my faith will be strengthened,” Jeanette said.

Echoing the hopes of organizers, who hope and pray the event has elements of a new Pentecost, Jeanette added, “I hope to receive the grace I need to share my love for Jesus in the Eucharist with others so they too will know the depth of his love for us.”

Jeanette and Greg Kirchner camp with relatives — including the family of their daughter, Liz Hammetter — in Door County in late June. The Kirchners will attend the five-day National Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis next week with Liz, her husband Nick and their five children. (Submitted photo)