|Father John Kuchar, administrator of St. Patrick Church in McEwen, anoints the youngest child of Jamie and Johnathon Smith, Jonathon Jude, 3, while he is held by his father. The Smiths transferred the oldest of their five children to St. Patrick School from public school three years ago, which set the family on a journey of faith toward joining the Catholic church. Jamie Smith and her children received the sacraments during an all school Mass on Feb. 5. Photos by Rick Musacchio
When Jamie Smith was confirmed and her five children baptized together at St. Patrick Church in McEwen on Feb. 5, “seeing the desires of their heart come to pass was really special,” she said. It was a major milestone of a family’s spiritual journey more than three years in the making.
Several years ago, Jamie and her husband Jonathon Smith were ready to pull their older children out of public school, but weren’t sure where they would go. She considered homeschooling, but decided it would not work for her family. A native of the area, Smith said, “I’d always known about St. Patrick but I didn’t think we could afford it.”
After touring the school “we fell in love with it,” and after meeting with school administrators and learning that tuition was more affordable than they initially thought, the Smiths decided to enroll their children at St. Patrick. Although they live a 45 minute drive away in New Johnsonville, “it’s totally worth it,” Smith said.
Raised in an evangelical church, Smith had not been attending church in years, and she and her husband were not raising their children with any particular religious traditions. But, Smith said, “I missed having a relationship with God and with a church family.” So she began a quest to find a new church. She didn’t feel a real connection with any of the nearby Protestant churches she visited, but when she got to St. Patrick, it “always felt like home,” she said.
Father Michael Baltrus (St. Patrick’s pastor currently on leave for assignment at the Pontifical College Josephinum) “is very peaceful and so good with the kids,” she said. “He really takes time to have a personal relationship with each of them.” At St. Patrick Church and School “you feel like you’re part of a family,” Smith said.
She started attending the Friday all school Masses with her children—Trevor, 13; Allie, 12; Kenneth, 9; Asa, 6; and Johnathon Jude, 3—and began to contemplate joining the Catholic Church through their influence.
“Initially, it was the older two who told me they wanted to join,” Smith said, and that got her and the younger children on the path toward entering the Church as well. “I’m so proud of them,” she said.
Having Smith and her five children, four of whom currently attend St. Patrick School, receive the sacraments during an all school Mass “was very exciting for the whole student body,” said Principal Sister Mary Grace Watson, O.P., “to be part part of their journey of faith.”
St. Patrick, one of the oldest continuously operating schools in the Diocese of Nashville, currently has an enrollment of 90 students, in pre-K through eighth grade, about two-thirds of whom are Catholic and one-third non-Catholic. The school’s goal is not to convert children and families to the Catholic faith, “but we teach Jesus Christ and the truths of our faith … their dignity and how much God loves them,” Sister Mary Grace said. “That truth draws people to want to become Catholic.”
Since she became principal of St. Patrick two years ago, several other students have joined the Church. “It’s not unusual for our parish,” she said.
Since enrolling her children at St. Patrick, meeting other parish families and going through the RCIA program, Smith has grown to love her new faith community. Every step of the way has been “a process of God working on our hearts,” she said.
|Jamie Smith was confirmed and her five children were baptized at an all school Mass at St. Patrick Church in McEwen on Feb. 5. Jamie’s confirmation sponsor Michelle Minnis, right, hands a candle to Asa Smith, 6, during the Mass. Jonathan and Jamie Smith stand behind their five children: Jonathon Jude, 3; Asa, Kenneth, 9; Allie, 12; and Trevor, 13. Jamie is holding Minnis’ one-year-old daughter Margaret. Allie Smith, right, smiles during the Mass at which she was baptized. She and her older brother Trevor asked their parents if they could be baptized in the Catholic faith, and her mother and younger siblings joined them.