God called ‘Come back to me,’ and Christine Lepretre did

Christine Lepretre gets tears in her eyes when she thinks about all the times God invited her into a closer relationship and she turned away. Looking back now, she can see that he was there at every difficult point in her life.

“Each little step, each little poke was God saying, ‘Tina, come back to me.’ But I would not turn back,” she told The Catholic Post.

Adopted as a baby, she was raised in Peoria in the Lutheran faith. In fact, a member of her mother’s family designed the old Salem Lutheran Church. Over time, however, she stopped going to church.

That changed on April 8, 2009, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was like a dam breaking,” said Lepretre, 55. “God was with me every step of the way and after all this time, I chose to listen.”

When she did, the help started pouring in, starting with her Catholic bosses at UFS Downtown Outlet Center in Peoria.

She had worked at the customer service desk there for nine years and with chemotherapy, surgery and radiation looming in her future, it was necessary to tell Pierre Serafin and Tom Wiegand about her cancer. Wiegand wasted no time in taking her to St. Ann’s Church, where Father Terry Cassidy, pastor, prayed over her and Wiegand lit a vigil candle.

“That’s it,” Lepretre thought.

Impressed by the way Serafin and Wiegand lived their faith on a daily basis and the conversations she had had with them, she decided to enter the RCIA process at St. Ann’s. Wiegand and his wife became her sponsors.

“Tom opened the door and I walked through,” she said.

Lepretre tears up again as she talks about being received into the Catholic Church last Easter and how grateful she is for the mercy of God. She also appreciates the prayers of the people at St. Ann’s, who “opened their hearts to me.”

“Thank God I’m still alive,” said the mother of five and grandmother of eight. “I think this is the reason I’m still here — this is one of them — that I wanted to be Catholic and I wanted to be the best Catholic I can be.”

Lepretre loves receiving Communion, saying that if you’re sincere about bringing Christ into your life there is no better way to do it — not just spiritually but physically. She also marvels at how the Lord’s Prayer transforms people into a family, “not just a group of people, but a family.” She often listens to the Litany of the Saints on YouTube.

Not only did she recently go to Midnight Mass, she returned on Christmas morning and went again on Sunday, Dec. 26, the Feast of the Holy Family.

“Being Catholic is fantastic,” Lepretre said. “If I lived closer (to church) I would go every day. When I’m there I don’t want to leave. You enter a whole different world when you walk in.”

At first her husband of 39 years, Jules, took her to and from church because she doesn’t drive. Now he’s starting to come to Mass with her.

She said she’s happy if the people around her look at her and think, “If she’s feeling this good and things are going this well for her, maybe I should check this out, too.”

“When you experience something that great, that fantastic, you want everybody to know,” Lepretre told The Post. “I want to be an inspiration to people to take that step, to do (RCIA).”

And don’t be surprised if you see tears in her eyes at Mass.

“I don’t think there’s been a time that I was at Mass that I haven’t cried at some point. It overwhelms you,” she explained.

“It’s like a person being blind and then being able to see or someone who is choking and suddenly being able to breathe,” Lepretre said. “That’s how strong an emotion it is for me.”

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