[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]STURGEON BAY — Despite listing the verse from Corinthians as her favorite quote, Heather Weckler could easily have substituted another: What do you want me to do next, Lord?
In talking about her life, her conversion, the car accident nine years ago that permanently blinded her, and her love for helping others, that’s what became evident: her willingness to ask God what he wants of her, and then to do it.
Raised a Methodist, Weckler said that God was always a big part of her life, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have faith challenges in a life that was filled with trials.
“There was a time when I turned my back on God because of all the trials I was going through,” she said.
It was a door-to-door evangelist who got her back on the right track when he handed her a booklet with an article about God’s presence even in the midst of troubles. She read it quickly standing there in the driveway, and found in it everything she’d been dealing with.
“I dropped down on my knees, right in the gravel, and started praying and crying and told God I was sorry I’d turned my back on him.” That turning back to God eventually put her on the road to the Catholic faith of her husband, Todd.
They began by alternating Sunday church attendance, first at her Methodist church, then at his Catholic church. When her husband’s pastor disagreed with that system, Weckler took their two boys to her church every Sunday.
“But it separated our family and we didn’t want that,” she said.
Then seven years ago, when she lost her eyesight, going to church alone became too difficult, and she agreed to attend Mass every Sunday with the whole family.
“But I was adamant that I wasn’t going to become Catholic,” she said.
However, at Holy Name of Mary, she found parishioners who made her feel wanted and good rapport with then-pastor Fr. Wilbert Buhl. When he had to leave because of illness, Weckler worried about who would replace him, so her husband told the new pastor, Franciscan Fr. Bob Konkol, about her fears.
Fr. Konkol sat and talked with her one day after Mass, and she was impressed with his care and concern.
“I’d never had a priest sit down and want to know about me,” she said.
She still resisted conversion to the Catholic faith, but she told God if that’s what he wanted her to do, he would have to open some doors. They began opening very quickly, including the granting of an annulment to her first marriage which had been delayed when paperwork was lost. On Jan. 16, 2011, she was baptized Catholic, and later that year, she and her husband were remarried in the Catholic Church.
With her conversion came an almost insatiable desire to learn and grow. She has made and worked on many retreats and faith programs in the three years since, including Koinonia, Life in the Spirit and Cursillo. She has served on several different parish council committees, and helped organize the Widows Dinner, a gathering that has expanded to include women with other kinds of issues.
Since her conversion, the woman who once thought she’d never be convinced “to pray on beads,” now makes rosaries — 5,000 of them since she was first taught two years ago by Lucille Renier, a former parish member. Making the knots gave her a little trouble because “I had to learn to do them by feel,” but she figured it out and prays on each bead that she strings.
“I pray for whoever will use the rosary, that they always know they’re never alone and that God walks with them each day,” she said.
Always, even before her conversion, Weckler and her husband have reached out to others.
“God always seems to put people into our lives,” she said. “No matter how little we have — and we live at the poverty level — our door is always open. We’ve given (temporary) shelter to countless homeless people and helped people who needed food or referrals to other sources of help.”
Weckler’s blindness is part of her life now, but there was a time when she was bitter and resentful — especially when she learned it probably could have been prevented if the doctors had done one or two more tests to trace the reason for her daily headaches. She had to gradually work through that to acceptance, with her husband’s and God’s help.
There have been blessings from her blindness. Weckler, always the caregiver, had to learn to depend on others. And now, she tries to help others take note of the beauties around them, beauties she is more aware of because she can’t see them.
“Tell me what beautiful things you see,” she’ll tell a friend who is driving her somewhere, and even in the midst of a bleak winter landscape, they become aware of lovely things to describe to Weckler.
Her Catholic faith, however, is one of her biggest blessings.
“I’ve learned more than I expected,” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate what Catholics have gone through, including the misconceptions other religions have about us — like thinking we pray to statues, or being afraid to pray to saints. I didn’t understand, and nobody ever sat down and explained it to me. But it’s been such a wonderful journey, and it’s far from being done.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Heather Weckler
Parish: Holy Name of Mary, Maplewood
Favorite biblical characters: Ruth and Job
Words to live by: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all …” (2 Cor 3:2-4)