She was a chatty little thing, often distracting enough to thwart Matthew Rupiper’s attention from their professor’s lecture at Western Illinois University.
Fortunately for Megan Seibert, who already had her eye on the sandy-haired young man, he didn’t seem to mind that she talked just a tad too much.
Because both were studying the same major and minor in college, they had several classes together.
“We were just acquaintances that first year, but by the second year we began studying together most nights of the week, and that’s when we both started to show a lot more interest in each other,” Megan said. “Our first date was my cousin’s wedding in October 2004. We had a great time together and became inseparable thereafter.”
At her cousin’s wedding, Megan began to think that Matthew might be the one, and six and a half years later, she knew her instincts were correct.
Both moved to Milwaukee where Megan, an exercise specialist, accepted a job at Solful Fitness. Matt began graduate school for his doctorate in physical therapy at Concordia University as well as an internship program at Health Reach Rehabilitation Services in Brookfield. During that time, Matt asked Megan for her hand in marriage, but little did she know that God would ask for her hand as well.
Although Matt, 28, was raised Catholic, Megan, 27, was never baptized, but attended various Catholic churches while she was growing up, explained Nicole Fastabend, director of Christian formation at St. Catherine, who added that as a young adult, Megan said she felt the most comfortable there, as if it was the perfect fit and the part of the puzzle that was missing in her life.
“It seems like her relationship with Matt was the catalyst to encourage her to take that step toward becoming Catholic,” said Fastabend. “What I was often impressed by, as Megan was going through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) process, was the fact that Matt was there with her throughout the whole thing. He would come to Mass with her on Sunday mornings, and even though Megan was dismissed part way through Mass, Matt would come join in our discussions after Mass was finished.”
Working with Megan in RCIA and getting to know the couple was an enjoyable year for Fastabend, she said.
“Matt and Megan were friendly and open and willing to share and learn about their faith,” she said. “I met them in the fall of 2009 and she was received into the Catholic Church at Easter 2010. I was very impressed how they were both willing to talk with each other and with members of our group about their faith and their thoughts. It was great to watch them both grow in their faith individually and as a couple while Megan was going through RCIA.”
Initially, Matt and Megan met with parish director Debra Hintz for marriage preparation, but after a few meetings, Megan inquired about becoming Catholic. For Fr. Richard (Dick) Mirsberger, assisting priest at St. Catherine, that journey was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with the couple.
“I sat in on a number of the RCIA sessions and on a few occasions gave the RCIA presentation,” he said. “I presided at most of the rites and had the privilege of baptizing, conferring the sacrament of confirmation and sharing Megan’s first Communion with her. Megan is a very expressive person and her joy in all the RCIA events was truly evident to all who were present.”
After sitting in on several of the dismissal sessions, Hintz also noticed early on the depth of Megan’s faith.
“It was so easy for her to internalize the message of the Scripture readings week after week,” she said. “What also impressed me about Megan was the wonderful smile she had, especially when the rites were celebrated. I don’t think anyone in the assembly could have missed her excitement about the process.”
As Megan was the sole catechumen last year, the RCIA group was small, but faith-filled, according to Hintz.
“I was part of the team (including Jim Stout, director of liturgy and music) that helped prepare her for baptism, along with Nicole,” she said. “Matt always joined Megan at our sessions; her parish sponsor and the sponsor’s fiancé were there as well. So while it seemed like such a small group in the beginning, they turned out to be wonderful sessions.”
After Megan was received into the Catholic Church, she and Matt had already developed close relationships with Fr. Mirsberger, Hintz and Fastabend, so it seemed natural to include them in their plans to be married at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, Iowa.
“After making all of my sacraments with St. Catherine it only felt right that the sacrament of marriage be performed by the same individuals who performed those prior,” said Megan. “It was such an honor to have Debra, Nicole and Fr. Dick be involved in our wedding day. They all have a very special place in our hearts. Having Fr. Dick perform our marriage ceremony and Debra and Nicole do our readings made that day so personal. Many people spoke of how neat it was to attend a wedding where the priest knew the bride and groom personally.”
Fr. Mirsberger said he was touched to be asked to preside at their wedding.
“There are times one looks forward to presiding at a wedding more than others,” he said. “It often depends upon the involvement a couple has in church, the experience they have of their faith, and the importance they put into their wedding liturgy. Megan and Matt fit all these criteria. As I worked with them when they were preparing for their wedding, I felt that their faith was very important to them. Megan oftentimes seemed to be glowing with her newfound faith.”
Fastabend, too, said she is blessed to be a witness to the faith lives of others, and with Megan and Matt, a lifelong friendship developed.
“Over the year that I met weekly with Matt and Megan, we got to form a friendship, and I was honored to be a lector at their wedding,” she said. “Their wedding was beautiful. Matt and Megan’s love for each other was so visible to everyone there.”
Because the parish embraced Megan’s conversion with open arms, it was difficult for the couple when they relocated to Chillicothe, Ill., late last year, where they could be closer to family.
“I feel that my conversion helped the parish members renew their faith with the church, as they all took a real interest in my process and were very supportive throughout,” said Megan. “It was difficult to leave St. Catherine. We formed such a close bond with the parish staff and members of the church. I don’t feel like we will ever be able to make that connection with another parish as we did with St. Catherine.”
Unlike many who go through RCIA and fade away from involvement in the church for a while, Megan’s desire for more intimacy with Christ only seemed to grow.
“They were here every Sunday for Mass, and often joked about how the front row, where we sat each week during the RCIA process, felt like their assigned seat; they attended community events, and remained a witness of young, energetic faith to our community,” said Fastabend. “We were so sad to see them leave.”
Despite their difficulty in finding a parish to call home, Matt and Megan make Sunday Eucharist a regular part of their marriage, explained Hintz.
“While they lament that they can’t find a parish like St. Catherine where they are currently living, it’s my wish that they will find a place that will continue to nurture and support them in their faith,” she said.
The Eucharist and the sacraments are a regular part of their lives as husband and wife, and although they have yet to find a church home, Catholicism remains central to Megan’s life.
“It is how I try to live my life each day,” she said. “It is how we plan to raise our family in the future. It is how we live our married life together, and I am grateful to have converted to the Catholic Church. It is a part of me that was always missing. I had been longing for the conversion for a long time.”