Dave Hemmerly’s Story

“Who am I that the highest King, would welcome me, I was lost but He brought me in, Oh His love for me…”

The above lyrics are from the song, Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong. I have been listening to it during my travels, and these first few words hit home.

I was raised as a Methodist by my mom and dad, and as I grew older I migrated away from attending services.  As I got older I would justify not attending church with all of the same adages you have heard many times.   We moved to Rockford, June 30, 2013, and as I look back this was the beginning of my journey, even though I didn’t know it.

In the summer of 2014, I started to attend Mass with Lorraine weekly.  Lorraine likes to sit in the front.  As time progressed, I began to understand why.  I watched the Mass, the altar servers, their commitment to getting it right.  I remember when Dcn. Andrew Ayers was our intern and the way he helped them.  Giving thumbs up, I could read his lips telling them, “good job”. I was impressed how much these kids knew about the Mass.   I began to enjoy the reverence of the Mass, listening to the homily, the music and the choir (another blessing of Mass and how fortunate we are to have them), listening to the readings, how Deacon Jim in his homilies uses everyday issues and how to apply God’s teachings to them.  But still I didn’t get it.

Over time, I have had the privilege to meet four priests at OLC, Fr. Tony Russo, Fr. Darrel Kempf, Fr. Peter Damien, and Fr. Stephen Durkee.  They would tell me about their belief in God, how they would be willing to give their life for Him.  They would answer my questions and, at different times and ways, ask if I had ever thought about becoming a Catholic.  My answer was always the same – not now.  What I didn’t realize was the seed they planted.  The homilies started to have more meaning and attending Mass felt right I attended three ALPHA sessions …never said I was a quick study!   Each time the conversation and videos had more meaning; the fact that the Bible has been proven to be authentic.   I started to understand that being a good Christian didn’t mean telling people you believed in God and going to church once in awhile.  During the third class, Julie Foley gave me 10 CDs from Father Larry Richards.  Thank you Julie!  Listening to these CDs and others explain their stories and what helps them become stronger in their faith helped me realize how far off target I have been.

While working at the Veteran’s Home, I met two military veterans that I feel God used to talk to me.  One was the equivalent of a Deacon at his church.  He asked me if I read the Bible. I told him I did not because I could not understand the passages.  He came back in a few minutes with a Bible written in contemporary English.  He said if I had any questions to stop by his room and he would help explain it to me.  I didn’t think God could hit me a curve ball; guess I should have known better.  The second was a World War II veteran in his 90’s.   When I sat with him during his last days on earth, I noticed a plaque on the wall in his room.  It was his Catholic First Communion Certificate from 1936.  Of all his worldly possessions this was the one that meant the most to him and he carried it with him until he left for a better life.  God – 2, Dave – 0.

I have learned about three different holy issues.  The first being the Holy Spirit; I still struggle with this one.  I’ve had a few times where I feel I’m beginning to understand.  This is why I will continue to attend RCIA and learn more.  The second is Holy Moments.   Mathew Kelly explained how the little things can provide the largest returns and how, at times, we Catholics can make our religion too complicated.  Mowing a neighbor’s lawn, buying a veteran lunch, are ways to show people the compassion of our faith; To always be a good example and not be afraid to share our faith with others.   Although I have never been, I have been told the third and final Holy is Father Tony’s favorite: The Holy Smoke.

RCIA has been a rewarding experience!  The staff at Our Lady of Consolation is wonderful!   Their knowledge of Catholicism is impressive.  This includes all of the folks that lead our dismissal and sessions after Mass.  Amy Oatley has been the back bone of this journey.  I hope to someday have the knowledge and commitment to my faith that she has.  I also want to thank the parishioners of Our Lady that provided encouraging comments over the last nine months.   I have not always been sure this was the right thing for me to do.  Your words helped me focus.  You folks sure read a lot!   God – 3 Dave – 0!

I asked to receive my First Communion in May.  I did this because I wanted my son and granddaughters to be part of this day.  This is how important I now realize this day is.  I want them to see that having God in your life will make it better, more fulfilled, and more loving.  God blessed me with a wonderful son, and two loving granddaughters. For that I am grateful.  I have been married to Lorraine for 43 years.  She has been at my side during the good and bad.  She continues to honor the wedding vows we made in 1976. She is a fighter and has overcome many obstacles.  I have watched her grow in her faith. This has helped me during the last nine months.  You need to know that when we moved to Rockford she placed a green scapular under my mattress.  With her help, I know I can become more dedicated to my faith.  If I’m lucky God will allow us to grow older together!

Final score God 4, Dave Learning.  From my heart thank you Our Lady of Consolation Parish!

Dave Hemmerly

Welcomed to Christ’s Table on May 19, 2019