Persistent pastoral minister helps young mom prepare for confirmation

By Bob Zyskowski | For The Compass | May 16, 2018

Diocese’s Jubilee Year celebration recognizes confirmation candidates

SHAWANO — Christine Asenbrener was 12 years old when she stopped going to weekly catechism classes; she had to work to help the family.

“I fed calves every single night after school at what was then the biggest farm in Shawano County,” she recalled fondly. “There were about 50 calves. I loved it.”

Christine Asenbrener, left, first connected with Deb Brandt when she led baptism preparation for her infant son. Among other influences, Asenbrener credits Brandt — pastoral coordinator for the tri-parish community of St. Anthony, Tigerton; St. Mary, Marion; and Holy Family-St. William, Wittenberg — with nudging her to be confirmed, which is set for May 20 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. (Bob Zyskowski | For The Compass)

But it meant Asenbrener didn’t make her confirmation with the rest of her faith formation class.

Now it’s 22 years later, she’s 34, married and a young mom, and she’ll be confirmed at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay May 20, thanks to a caring and persistent pastoral minister, a new outreach program from the Diocese of Green Bay, and the nagging voice of a fervently Catholic grandmother.

Asenbrener first connected with Deb Brandt when she went through sacramental preparation before the baptism of her son, Drayden. Brandt was the pastoral minister who led the baptism prep program at St. Mary in Leopolis, 50 miles northwest of Green Bay.

The two formed a bond that would come into play again within the year.

“I remember telling Christine after Drayden’s baptism, ‘We’re not done yet,’” Brandt said as the two women posed for pictures in the vestibule of St. Anthony Church in Tigerton, where Brandt is the pastoral coordinator. Smiling, Asenbrener nodded in agreement: “She had her subtle nudges.”

Although diocesan reconfiguring of parishes unlinked the Leopolis and Tigerton Catholic communities, it was to Brandt that Asenbrener turned to when the personal need to do more with regard to her faith combined with a recollection from childhood.

“I felt unfinished,” she explained. “I wanted to be that much closer to God. I always wanted to be complete.”

She remembered her grandmother, Veronica Mlodik, talking about the sacraments when she was younger. “In the back of my mind I could hear my grandmother’s voice. She always wanted all of us to finish receiving the sacraments. When I called Deb about being confirmed, she said, ‘Yeah, just come on over.’”

Brandt said she turned to the diocese for recommendations about preparing adults for confirmation. Joe Tremblay, diocesan adult faith formation coordinator, suggested Alpha, the new diocesan outreach program that explores Christian faith, she said.

“It was perfect timing,” Brandt said.

Alpha doesn’t just look at the educational aspect, she said, but invites people to consider questions that tend to bring out what Brandt called “tender and endearing moments,” questions such as: What is your faith life now? Do you have faith? Do you have belief in God? How does that belief influence your life?

For Asenbrener, taking part in Alpha with the group at the Tigerton parish was more than a good fit. “I love it,” she said.

“The Catholic Church can seem intimidating, and people think they have to be a certain way, have to follow the rules,” she said. “Alpha shows people that even with all they went through, there is forgiveness and a chance to correct your wrongs. It’s not at all about being perfect. God will take you for whatever you are.”

As Asenbrener explains how Alpha is preparing her to “finish” her journey to the sacraments with confirmation, Brandt does more of her nudging.

“I’d like her to come back to teach the next Alpha group,” Brandt said. “You have to be willing to accept and listen, and then be bold enough to present (the exploring questions). Christine has what it takes.”

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Pentecost Jubilee Confirmation Celebration

Bishop David Ricken will preside at the Pentecost Jubilee Confirmation on May 20, noon, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. The event is part of a series of 12 special liturgical celebrations during the Jubilee Year.[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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