My faith story started back in the early 1960’s when I was born in the city of Escanaba in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. I was so very fortunate to be born to Catholic parents and to grow up in a large Catholic family. The Escanaba area was a community strong in the Catholic faith, so growing up there with my family made a perfect combination for future spiritual growth.
I have been very fortunate and blessed to have known God my whole life. There hasn’t been a time where I didn’t know Him. He has always been with me, and I’m so grateful. I thank him every chance I get and pray He gives me strength to live out each day. The cup of faith which has been given to me has been the tranquility in my life. However, there have been times that the cup has been low and needed a refill of faith.
As a teenager, one of my older brothers was studying to be a priest. I really looked up to him and respected that he was answering God’s call. He connected our family in faith. As I was enjoying life as a teenager and not paying attention to my cup, the Lord made his presence known as we celebrated a Mass in our home with my brother and a priest friend of his. This was a special moment for me, receiving the Eucharist in my home and connecting with Jesus. My cup was now full.
As I entered into my late 20s, my father became very ill with brain cancer at age 66. This hit the family like a ton of bricks; talk about a challenge to your faith. The cancer ate him up quickly. I kept asking, “Why Lord? Why make him suffer so much?” My cup was running empty. I was starting to waver. At the time of his passing, when we were all gathered around him, something happened. As he took his last breath the angels came and brought his soul to Heaven. The presence of God was overwhelming. I had so many emotions going through me at the time, but His presence was unmistakable. As some time passed, I kept dreaming about my father. He looked young and vibrant as ever. I realized later he was saying to me, “I’m fine now, John, it’s okay.” No more grieving. My cup was now full again.
A few years later, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful Catholic girl at work who would later become my wife Mary. We have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and 3 children. My cup was being maintained. Getting married and raising a family can surely keep you busy. We were attending Mass every Sunday, but we kind of felt like we were going through the motions somewhat and getting caught up with everyday life. The cup was depleting. Then came February 4th, 2010. Our middle child, Michael, was in 5th grade at St. John Elementary School. It just so happened that I was coaching his basketball team and we had practice that afternoon. The gym is across the hall from the school chapel. In there, a miracle was taking place during adoration. There was a big commotion. Jesus’ image was appearing in the Holy Eucharist. What a sight to behold! We walk by faith, knowing that Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is in the Eucharist, but I was able to actually see it with my own eyes. My cup was overflowing. This led me to start going to Adoration regularly in order to keep my cup filled.
After working 33 years at Consumers, it was time for me to retire. I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something with the Church after I retired. I didn’t think it would come to me as it did, though. After hearing of the passing of Andy Bihl, the Lord told me that my help would be needed here at St. John. Just like that, not knowing exactly what that meant, I started volunteering in the parish office. Eventually, the Director of Parish Operations job became available. I was offered the position and I accepted. Being able to do the Lord’s work here on earth has been another blessing sustaining my cup.
Each day we are given the opportunity to experience God in our lives and to have our cup of faith renewed. Let us rejoice and be glad!
— John Richards