The Monterrey family (from left: Miguel Monterrey, Mirko Monterrey, Michelle Monterrey and Misha Monterrey) along with Fr. Matthew Widder at the Baptism of Mirko and Misha earlier this month at St. Joseph in Waukesha. The family has participated in a number of sacraments this year. (Submitted photo)

The best relationships are distinguished by a couple who, together, seem to create something greater than the sum of their parts. That’s Miguel and Michelle Monterrey, who know that if they join forces, they can achieve anything — whether it’s running a triathlon, buying a house or growing in their Catholic faith.

This has been a milestone year for the Waukesha couple. Not only did they welcome their second child in July, but this spring saw Michelle received into full communion with the Catholic Church, followed soon by Miguel’s Confirmation on Pentecost. Their two children, Mirko and Misha, were baptized together in early August at St. Joseph Church in Waukesha.

Reflecting on a year of sacramental graces, Miguel Monterrey said, “It’s been amazing.”

“It’s a whole other way for us to talk to each other, about each other, for each other,” he said. “It’s really awesome.”

The Monterreys first met in 2014, when Miguel returned to his native Wisconsin after living for a time in Miami. The couple was paired as sparring partners at a kickboxing class.

“It was love at first strike, I guess you could say,” quipped Miguel. They were close friends for some time before they became an item, encouraging each other in their career goals, their physical fitness and their personal growth. “I knew when I asked her to be my girlfriend, I was really asking her to be my wife,” Miguel added. They married in November 2017 and welcomed their first child in 2019.

Miguel was born and raised Catholic and has deep roots in the Waukesha Catholic community, where his uncle is a permanent deacon. However, he had decided against receiving the sacrament of Confirmation as an adolescent. “For a long time, I stepped away. I never lost my faith, but I stopped practicing,” he said. Michelle was raised Methodist, attending church every Sunday. When the two married civilly, Miguel didn’t want Michelle to feel pressured into converting, even as he began to feel drawn back to the practice of his Catholic faith following a family health crisis.

But Michelle was feeling pulled in her own way, too. Becoming Catholic “made sense,” she said. “I like how everything seems very encompassing in the Catholic Church. It seemed more involved; it didn’t seem like I was just going through the motions.” She reached out to Peggy Lanser, adult and family ministry coordinator at the Catholic Community of Waukesha, to begin RCIA.

Lanser said it was “fulfilling” and “a great joy” to accompany the Monterrey family on this “journey of deepening faith.”

“They were both so committed to learning about the Catholic faith, and their hearts were open and full of desire for God and receiving all of these sacraments together as a family,” she said. “It is never too late and you are never too old to reawaken your faith. By being intentional about making personal prayer a part of your daily life, God will guide you to the people and places that will help you in the process of practicing your faith in its fullness.”

RCIA was a chance for Michelle to discover things she didn’t even realize she needed in her life. “I told Peggy, I don’t know what I don’t know,” she said. Two-year-old Misha would accompany her mom to the classes and began asking faith questions of her own, and the family found a community in the parish’s Tiny Tots program.

“Everything is ‘Baby Jesus’ with Misha, unless it’s Papa Jesus — Baby Jesus is Christmas, Papa Jesus is everything else. And Mama Mary, of course,” said Miguel with a laugh.

The couple’s marriage was convalidated this spring, and just days later at the Easter Vigil, Michelle came into the Catholic Church. “It was really moving to stand up in front of everybody and say, ‘Yeah, this is my calling, this is really what I want,’” she said.

Miguel received the sacrament of confirmation a few weeks later on Pentecost. He credits Michelle with inspiring him to take that important step. “She really motivated me to be a better person and to embrace my faith and say, ‘I can uphold this contract now,’” he said. “I‘ve been Catholic my whole life but Michelle was a fully confirmed Catholic before I was. It was awesome to see her asking questions and getting to discuss things that we had previously discussed, but through a whole new lens.”

After the arrival of baby Mirko this summer, the couple’s two children were baptized in a joint ceremony in early August.

“Seeing my babies being baptized together was something special,” said Michelle. “It filled me with great joy to see them get their sacraments and be welcomed into the Church.”

As they look to the future, the Monterreys say they are excited to embark on this new chapter of their faith — together.

“She’s seen my full transformation, and she’s shown me that I can be better, that we can be better,” said Miguel. “Because anything we’ve ever worked on together as a team, we’ve just knocked it out of the park.”