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Family in search of a Christmas tree also finds a church home

The following story, by Kassie Pitones, is one of a series of stories that appeared in the April 16 Idaho Catholic Register about converts who were received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.

The Pitones family are back row, from left, Johana, Julyen, Fernando, Kassie and Izak. From, from left, are Meiah and Gazelle. A son, also named Fernando, is serving in the Marines. (Photo courtesy of the Pitones family)

By Kassie Pitones

Thanksgiving is always a big holiday in our house. Not only do we give thanks for all we have but also, we look forward to our annual Christmas tree harvesting trip after Thanksgiving. As that weekend approached in 2019, my daughter came down with a fever so we did not want to go on our usual family drive to the forest around Idaho City to harvest a tree.

Looking at local listings, we noticed that a church was inviting families to a Christmas tree sale for trees grown on the church property by parishioners. My husband was initially concerned that the church-grown trees might be limited in size and selection, but we decided to give it a chance. We grabbed our cutting tools, loaded all the kids and followed our GPS directions to Risen Christ Catholic Community in west Boise.

Christmas trees of all sizes greeted us as we pulled in off Lake Hazel Road. Fanning out, we soon found the perfect tree, aided by the helpful volunteers. Per family tradition, each child got to take a cut to fell the tree and help load our prize onto our vehicle. While I went to the tent to pay, it began to snow. The cashier kindly let me know that we all could go inside the church social hall where warm drinks and snacks were available. The mere mention of hot chocolate was enough for us all to join the friendly group inside.

The social hall was abuzz with activity, snacks in one area and beautiful holiday wreaths in another. As I was picking out a wreath for our door, a man named Jerry introduced himself and welcomed us to Risen Christ. Everyone seemed so hospitable. My husband even commented, “This seems to be the kind of church we’ve been looking for.”

Not knowing we were in a Catholic Church, I noticed a sign on a nearby table, “Do you want to become Catholic?” I mentioned the sign to Jerry and he then introduced us to Deacon Ted Vermaas and his wife, Ludee. They explained about the “Becoming Catholic” series that Risen Christ had started and invited us to check it out. When we had finally warmed and were ready to head out, I remember Deacon Ted telling my husband, “See you at church tomorrow!”

On the drive home to Nampa, we were filled with joy. Not only had we found the perfect Christmas tree, but we also felt strongly that we just might have found the church home we have been longing for. We had been asking the Lord for guidance. My husband, a retired U.S. Marine, and current federal employee, had found a good job that brought our family of eight, with children ages 7 to 21, to Idaho in 2013.

We are very family-oriented and have raised our children in the Catholic way, even though the younger children and I had not yet been baptized. Beginning in 2019, we were searching for a church to call home. The children were asking for it and my husband was missing the church community. I, too, was ready to truly become Catholic.

Now with a parish we could call ours, we started attending Mass at Risen Christ. I enrolled myself in “Becoming Catholic” and the children in religious education classes. Through all of the challenges of the year 2020, we’ve grown in our faith and as a family.

This Easter 2021 brought us all together: cradle Catholics, the newly baptized, family members from out of state, and our loving Risen Christ community. We’ve truly come home!

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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