A fresh start for Marshall Harris, who joins church at Easter

By Suzanne Weiss | For The Compass | April 12, 2022

‘I’m finally worshipping God the way I know I should be,’ says Harris

Fr. Dave Beaudry prays for Marshall Harris, center, during the Third Scrutiny, a period of purification and exorcism, on April 3 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Newton. Harris will fully join the Catholic Church on Saturday, April 16. With him are, from left, Harris’ girlfriend and sponsor, Macy Grybush, and Eileen Piper, Harris’ godmother. (Suzanne Weiss | For The Compass)

NEWTON — God had plans for him all along. Marshall Harris just didn’t know it. Until now.

Harris is one of more than 80 people in the Diocese of Green Bay who will fully join the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday, April 16.

Harris, 30, of Cleveland, Wis., attends St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Newton, located south of Manitowoc. Originally from Illinois, he was exposed to gang activities and drugs while growing up. His family raised him in a religion that does not believe in the Triune God, but he left it behind in his 20s. Harris admitted he lived to have fun and he lived dangerously.

The spiritual turning point came when his girlfriend and sponsor, Macy Grybush, invited him to attend SEEK21, held Feb. 4-7, 2021, in New Holstein. SEEK is a conference designed so people can encounter Jesus and his church.

“I know the impact it made on my life,” Grybush said. “I had an idea of what it would do for him. In the end, I want him and I to both be in heaven. My intention for him was solely for God to enter his life.”

Harris had a different take. “I did not want to go whatsoever. I said, ‘I already have plans,’ even though I didn’t have plans.” He tried arranging several out-of-town trips, but they fell through. He tried to make plans with friends. They fell through.

“I then tried my little ‘ace in the hole,’ a really close friend, but he had plans already,” Harris said. “It was more than just not wanting to go. It was every idea of what I thought Catholicism was beforehand.”

He had expected a stiff formal atmosphere with men in suits and ties, and women wearing hats.

Harris finally agreed to attend SEEK21 at Holy Rosary Church in New Holstein, where he said he had his “expectations blown out of the water.”

“I saw people on their knees asking for things that weren’t for themselves,” he said. “Their prayers are being sent for the world and for everyone but themselves. You could see that God was touching people in ways that they needed and that was beautiful. It was hard to wrap my brain around — the people who were there and how they worshipped. It truly required a humble heart and people who had a strong faith.”

SEEK conferences are usually held in one location, but SEEK21 was held in hundreds of parishes and homes across the country due to COVID-19 precautions, said Eileen Piper, vice president of Lifelong Mission at the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), which sponsors SEEK.

Piper had become friends with Grybush and spoke with Harris at the conference.

“I told her how emotionally and spiritually taxing the weekend was,” Harris said. “I was walking in a direction that I thought was the opposite of where I should be going. But my mind was open to receiving something new. Because God allows us to have free will, he allowed me to live my life. Then he redirected me. I could have easily gone back to my old faith. The Holy Spirit guided me somewhere else.”

 “When you find the Lord, it’s like the day you get your very first glasses. You begin to see things as a God-made coincidence. You were supposed to be here,” added Deacon Rich Bahnaman, who serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish.

As part of his preparation for joining the church, Harris was the focus of the “Third Scrutiny” April 3, a period of purification and exorcism.

“It gives the members-elect the opportunity to look deeply into themselves. It’s a time of preparation for the sacraments. It’s a time to look back on your life,” Deacon Bahnaman said. “The congregation prayed, not only for him, but also for themselves. It’s not only about bringing Marshall into the church, but renewing everybody’s faith.”

Harris is grateful not only to Macy and her parents, but also to Deacon Bahnaman and his wife, Bette; Fr. Dave Beaudry, pastor; and Piper and her husband, Matt, and their sons, Liam and Xavier, for accompanying him on his spiritual journey. The Pipers have become good friends with Harris and his family, which includes his and Grybush’s 8-month-old son, Jude Harris. Harris and Grybush have plans to marry.

Harris, who works as an anesthesia technician at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center, is also grateful for his job as well as patients and others who recognize him and reach out to him.

People often recognize Harris, who was featured in a recent issue of the church bulletin, as well as a video created by FOCUS (see vimeo.com/658704405/07d960ee3e).

His newfound faith has changed him, Harris said. “I’m finally worshipping God the way I know I should be. Everything I do, when it comes to having a conversation with someone, when it comes to how I smile, how I dress myself, everything has the intention of being a disciple of God,” he said.

“Everything that I do is not with the idea of pleasing myself anymore. It’s what is pleasing in the eyes of our Creator. I get to see the intentions of Christ and the Holy Spirit through everything I do,” Harris added. “God never leaves our side whenever we feel alone, whenever we feel lost, whenever we feel like all is lost and there is no more hope. God always reveals himself. He knows us better than we know ourselves.”

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