From Micronesia to Appleton, parish welcomes new member

By Jean Peerenboom | For The Compass | April 1, 2015

Guided by his brother, Jerome Engichy to be confirmed at Easter Vigil

APPLETON — Faith and family led the Engichy brothers to the RCIA program at St. Therese Parish.

Kennedy Engichy is the sponsor for his younger brother, Jerome, who is looking forward to confirmation on Holy Saturday.

Jerome Engichy, seated, will receive the sacrament of confirmation at the Easter Vigil this Saturday at St. Therese Church in Appleton. His brother, Kennedy, standing, is serving as his sponsor. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)
Jerome Engichy, seated, will receive the sacrament of confirmation at the Easter Vigil this Saturday at St. Therese Church in Appleton. His brother, Kennedy, standing, is serving as his sponsor. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Both men grew up as Catholics in their home on the island of Chuuk, one of four islands of the Federated States of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. The islands have been home to Catholics since the 1700s, when Jesuits and Capuchins came as missionaries. The Spanish, then the Germans, settled in the islands. “The Germans sold us to the Japanese,” Kennedy said as he talked about the history of his homeland. “After World War II, the Americans took over.”

Both men left their homeland to find better employment and educational opportunities.

Kennedy left Chuuk first. When his wife learned she was pregnant, Kennedy moved his new family to Guam so “I could find a job and she could go to the best hospital,” he said. They were in Guam for four years, moving to Oregon in 1995, again to find better employment.

“My sister called me and asked me to come to Wisconsin,” he continued. That was in 2000. His brother, Jerome, came to Wisconsin to settle down about five years ago, getting a position as a baker with Simple Simon Bakery. He also had gone through Guam, Oregon and Hawaii before making his home here to be near his family. The Engichy sisters – Irene, Iomy and Josephine — today are also part of St. Therese Parish.

The family grew up in a home with devout Catholic parents. Both credit their mother with keeping faith alive for the family. “Everything I know about faith is from my mother,” Kennedy said. “If she forgot to pray the rosary, she’d get up at 2 or 3 in the morning to say her prayers. That was profound for me. As a father now, I tell my (five) children that those prayers are important.”

Jerome recalls the effort they went through to get to Mass on the island. “We walked from village to village to get to Mass. It was 45 minutes to an hour walking through muddy trails. When my dad bought a canoe, it became easier to maneuver.”

“It’s important to stay in the faith,” Kennedy said. “My three sisters help us stay. They are the backbone. They encourage us to pray together and raise the kids in a faithful way.”

All 10 members of the family are taking part in this year’s RCIA classes, which started in September. They have been there to strengthen their own faith and to support each other as they take another step in the journey. (While the sacraments are received at the Easter Vigil, the RCIA continues during the Easter season as a time called “mystagogia,” meaning to grow deeper into the mysteries of faith.)

St. Therese’s RCIA has 16 participants this year. Eight are catechumens and will be baptized, confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time. The other eight are candidates, like Jerome, and will be confirmed. Most are Hispanic. The parish is home to a large Hispanic ministry in the Fox Valley and a smaller group of about 70 Micronesians, who have settled in the Valley.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is for people coming into the Catholic Church, whether those seeking to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, or those who have received one or two of these “sacraments of initiation” and now wish to become full members of the Catholic Church.

“This (RCIA) is important,” said Kennedy, “because I think people don’t always understand their faith.” Walking this journey with his brother has strengthened and refreshed his own faith. “I believe in the Lord. He is the true God. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t pray,” he said. “I believe in all the things in the faith that I grew up with, but sometimes there are slippery sidewalks we walk on. Sometimes we slip.”

The family also feels strongly about being involved in the parish. In addition to helping with RCIA and other church activities, the Engichy children serve at Mass, sing in the choir “and help Fr. Bill (Hoffman, pastor) in whatever way he needs.”

“It is good learning for them to see we need to help each other out,” said their father.

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