Faith journey unites father, daughter at Bloomington parish

BLOOMINGTON — If timing is everything, then this is obviously Bill Wielander’s year to finish what was started for him at a baptismal font in suburban Chicago four decades ago.

Part of the RCIA process at St. Mary’s Church here, he will be confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time at the Easter Vigil on April 3. Standing by him will be his 15-year-old daughter, Alina, who asked to be his sponsor when he decided it was time to move forward in his journey of faith.

“It’s been pretty neat,” Bill told The Catholic Post during a break in the RCIA session at St. Mary’s on a recent Monday night. “Alina and I have had some discussions I don’t think we would have had otherwise.”

“I’m excited for my dad to be part of the faith,” Alina said. “I’m glad to be his sponsor.”

They will join hundreds of other men, women and children from around the Diocese of Peoria at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria this Sunday for the Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion. The ritual will give Bill and others who are seeking the Easter sacraments or full communion with the Catholic Church an opportunity to declare their intentions, be assured of the community’s prayer, and be greeted by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“I’m used to being a bystander and watching things happen,” Bill said. “Soon I won’t be on the sidelines anymore. I’ll be in the middle of it.”

Cursillo played a role
Growing up in Hillside, Bill said his mother was widowed when he was a child. While the Catholic way of doing things was stressed, he didn’t receive any formation beyond baptism.

He learned about other religions from his friends but always felt a connection to the Catholic Church and continued to say the prayers he had been taught. Bill said when he married his wife, Lisa, almost 17 years ago at St. Mary’s Church he started going to Mass with her and has watched as Alina and her younger brother, Alex, and sister, Anna, have gotten involved in parish activities.

“People told me that they just took if for granted that I was” fully initiated as a Catholic, he said, and many times he was invited to participate in Cursillo weekends. Bill said he turned them down — until last September.
“When I heard there was still an opening in the men’s Cursillo weekend it was like three or four hands reached out as if to say, ‘Bill, now’s the time.’ Maybe I just listened,” he told The Post. “If not now, when?”

His Cursillo weekend helped Bill to understand that God loved him unconditionally and would not hold out something he didn’t want Bill to have.

“You don’t have to earn a seat to sit down,” Bill explained. “But once you accept it, you have to continue to work toward it.”

The Lord wasn’t done speaking to Bill Wielander, however.

Dad and daughter share
After Cursillo, Deacon Darrel Petri said, “RCIA is about to start. Can I count on seeing you there?”

“If the Lord is calling me I’ll be there,” Bill told him, but the first session came and went without him.

Deacon Petri tried again: “Bill, this is your year.”

It wasn’t long before Alina, who had been confirmed three years ago and was now preparing second-graders in CCD to celebrate the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist, joined her father at one session and then another and then another. Father Ric Schneider, pastor, gave his blessing.

“Everyone expected me to be there,” she said. “It was cool because of the way they welcomed Dad. It was cool to think I could possibly do it.”

Alina said she has enjoyed learning more about her faith and having the opportunity to share it on a deeper level with her father. They leave with the other candidates and catechumens to “break open” the Sunday readings at the 9 a.m. Mass and then go out to get something to eat and talk some more.

They’re back at church in time for Alina to sing in the folk choir with her mother and siblings at the 11 a.m. Mass.

“It feels real natural — like something I should be doing,” Bill said. “I want to be able to be more a part of things.”

No time is a bad time to do this, he said, but it has to feel right for you.

“I’m happy to have the opportunity to continue my spiritual journey with my family, with my daughter,” Bill told The Post. “If it brings the family closer together, all the better.”

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