Some 20 years ago, Julie Highman and Joshua Towery walked down the aisle together at St. Lucy Parish, Racine, on the occasion of their first Communion. Two decades later, they became man and wife as they were united in the sacrament of matrimony at the same Catholic church. (Communion photo courtesy the Towery family; wedding photo courtesy Bach Photography LLC, Racine)

When Julie Highman, then 21, stopped at a bar to meet friends after work, she didn’t expect to meet her future husband. Joshua Towery, 23 at the time, felt the same attraction Julie felt for him when their eyes locked. As they began dating, they felt their “chance meeting” was more like a match made in heaven.

“It was the little things,” Julie said about their relationship. “We had so much in common; it was the little things … just like the very little, ironic things that I was like, ‘Wow, he’s just like me!’”

“Very random,” Julie, now 28 and a receptionist for Wheaton Franciscan Hospital, said about the night they met. It wasn’t until more than a year after they started dating that they discovered that maybe God had a bigger hand in their paths together than they originally thought, as a long forgotten photo reappeared in their lives.

“His dad was going through his house and brought over just albums and albums and albums of photos, so one Saturday we decided to start going through them, and as we’re paging through, that’s me!” She laughed, mimicking her reaction of seeing herself in one of Joshua’s first Communion photos. “It was just very bizarre.”

P2WEDDING-3-11-10Posed for the traditional picture, 10 year-old Joshua, in the customary white tux shirt and black bow tie, was 20 years ago paired to walk down the aisle with an 8-year-old Julie as they received their first Communion at St. Lucy Parish, Racine.

“I saw the picture and thought, ‘OK, it’s meant to be!’” she said.

Julie laughed, as Joshua, who works for a trucking company, nodded in agreement. “When I saw the picture it was just one of those moments where you felt like this is where I’m supposed to be in life. This is proof!” she said.

Although they were photographed standing next to one another only a few feet away, they never realized their connection until they were formally introduced years later.

“We had no contact with each other all those years,” Julie said, explaining that she attended St. Lucy Parish School all through elementary school, while Joshua attended a local public school. “So, just to meet randomly and see that picture was very, very strange.”

More than 20 years after they walked down the aisle together for the first time, Joshua proposed marriage to Julie on a warm Memorial Day weekend in Lake Geneva. After a year and a half of planning, they again traveled together to the altar last October, this time to become husband and wife.

While they agree God has planned their marriage from the beginning, that didn’t mean that marriage preparation was without problems. In between meeting with the priest, taking the FOCCUS test and attending required marriage preparation classes, both discovered much about the other that they never even thought to ask beforehand.

“We felt like we kind of knew it all,” Julie said about the eight-hour archdiocesan Engagement Enrichment class they were required to take. “But then, as we went through some of the preparations, you know, the communication, things like that, you really do learn about each other. It was nice.”

During most of their five-year courtship, neither practiced his or her Catholic faith, although both had grown up in Catholic families who belonged to St. Lucy. After witnessing their friends and family members living their Catholic faiths, they discovered that was what was lacking in their relationship, and together helped one another come back to the church.

“When we first met, we were the farthest away from going to church,” Julie explained. “That wasn’t our priority. But I think as we grew and as our relationship grew, that’s when we decided that it was important to us.” Joshua agreed.

“I think that believing in something together makes the marriage a lot stronger,” he said.

“For me, I think it makes you a stronger person, and I think if you’re stronger – you have strong faith with yourself – then it makes your marriage a lot easier,” Julie explained of the couple who attend Mass together weekly and have committed to volunteer at St. Lucy’s annual summer festival.

“We know that we have something – common roots – if and when something gets bad. We always have that as our strength and to turn to, and in good times to help celebrate our faith. It’s important,” she said.