| Emerick Garcia preparing for his Easter homecoming
Lifelong faith journey culminates in Catholicism
By Karen Mahoney
RACINE — After years of yearning and searching, Emerick Garcia believes he is coming home.
“I finally found the seed of life he planted inside me and he surrounded me with an amazing group of people to help till the soil, and water the seed, while Jesus shined the light,” said Garcia, 27, of Racine.
A self-described tough case, Garcia is coming home to the Catholic faith during the Easter Vigil. After beginning the RCIA process six years ago, he admitted that due to ancestral history of anti-Catholic sentiments, he couldn’t make the commitment until now, when he allowed God’s heart to crack open his own.
“I wasn’t ready six years ago; I wasn’t ready four years go and I wasn’t ready two years ago because I fought with myself,” he admitted. “I fought because I knew I had to commit to restructuring my belief system.”
Married at St. Paul the Apostle Parish six years ago to Emily, a devout Catholic, he wasn’t against the faith, but because he grew up apart from organized religion, he didn’t find Catholicism necessary at the time.
“We were raised with the Bible and with prayer,” Garcia said. “But with my faith and my wife’s, I knew I had a decision to make.”
Between building his custom cabinetry business, Apex Kitchen Cabinets, and helping raise the couple’s five children, EJ, age 6, Eva, 5, Elivia, 4, Ezra, 2 and Ezekiel, 1, there was little time for him to reflect on God’s plan for his life. Finally, John 3:4 consumed his attention and, after much prayer, he found himself standing in Nicodemus’ shoes and asking Jesus, “How can a person once grown old be born again?”
“I began to realize that a different spiritual growth process had to begin inside me and I can no longer deny the depth and spirituality of the Catholics around me that I had relationships with, so I prayed for the ability to have an open heart and mind,” he said. “I told God that everything in this world is his and everything that I have he has given to me; and my journey in life is no longer my will, but his – and the journey began.”
Choosing his maternal grandparents, Larry and Donna Pias, as his RCIA sponsors was an easy choice as both have encouraged him and set an example of Christian behavior throughout his life.
“My grandma always reminded me about the good inside of me, and I’ve always been really inspired by the way they live out their Catholic faith,” he said. “For as long as I can remember, I have been able to sit down and talk with them about God and life, good or bad.”
As director of the RCIA program, Anna Marie Clausen grew close with Garcia and his family, praying that he would one day complete the program and join the faith.
“They are a lovely couple, with a spiritual bond, and a beautiful marriage,” she said. “This is the fifth time Emerick tried to get through the RCIA process.”
Garcia defines his years of intermittent participation in the RCIA program, as an emotional roller coaster. It was tough wrestling with the knowledge that some members of his family could not understand why he wanted to become Catholic and with others who expressed anti-Catholic sentiments, and disagreed with his choice.
“God really had to work with me and will continue to do so for quite some time; complimented by an outstanding group of individuals running the program, it was deep, amazing and fulfilling,” he said. “It really helped that I do have family members who support what I am doing, especially my maternal grandparents, my in-laws, my mom, my wife and kids.”
While humbled by the knowledge that he will receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Garcia anticipates sharing in the oneness with Christ and becoming a member of the faith community.
“I am very nervous and I feel like I will find myself in the same unworthy state that Mary Magdalene found herself in, but like her, at the same time, I can’t live life any longer without devoting myself to a spiritual relationship with him and the church he left behind,” said Garcia.
Like the Prodigal Son, he is coming home; unlike him, Garcia is aware that his Father waits with open arms.
“The journey home is a long one and I was once dead, but now I have come to life again,” he said.