THE WAY HOME: Advent becomes season of change

Updated: 5 hours ago

Sheri Boicourt’s conversion also prompts her husband to delve deeper into his Catholic faith.

From left, Tristan, Sheri, Rusty, Paul and Isabelle Boicourt. (Photo courtesy of the Boicourt family)


Editor’s note: From time to time, the Idaho Catholic Register profiles converts and reverts as part of our “Way Home” series. Today, we feature convert Sheri Boicourt and her husband, Rusty, of Boise. They attend St. John the Evangelist Cathedral and, on occasion, St. Paul’s Bronco Catholic on the BSU campus, where their daughter, Isabelle, is a student. This story originally appeared in the Dec. 18 Idaho Catholic Register.


SHERI BOICOURT


Tell us about your faith background?


I was born into a Protestant family. We attended First Baptist Church in Caldwell for Sunday ser-vices and Wednesday night Awana classes. (Awana, which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, is an organization for children in Protestant churches.)


I went to summer church camp and attended Christian schools from the third through ninth grades. I loved the Lord and had a personal relationship with Him, but had not been baptized.


I remember sitting in the pew of my church and feeling uneasy when the pastor would make the "altar call." I almost came forward many times as I had the desire to be baptized but something always held me back.


What events or people led you to consider the Catholic Church?


My husband and I met in high school. He was a cradle Catholic. When I told him that I had never been baptized, he was horrified!


Rusty and I began dating the last day of high school, and we had many long discussions about faith.


In my late teens and early 20s, I did not have a desire to learn more about his Catholic faith. However, when he asked me to marry him in his home parish of St. Paul’s in Nampa, I did not hesitate because I could see it meant a lot to him. At that time, I had no idea what a sacramental marriage was.


For the first three years of our marriage, we attended Mass off and on. I was extremely uncomfortable with all the responses, standing, sitting and kneeling. I felt like a stranger in a foreign land.


We just happened to attend Mass on the first Sunday of Advent in 1994 when Father Al Puccinelli, the Marist priest at St. Paul’s, challenged everyone to attend Mass all four Sundays of Advent and “see what the Holy Spirit might do in your life.” I told my husband that I would like to go every Sunday.


On the fourth Sunday of Advent, something changed inside me. I had a genuine desire to learn more about the Catholic faith. It was the same desire I felt as a kid in the pew of the Baptist church; I felt like I was being called.


Rusty was shocked when I enrolled in the RCIA program.


What were the major factors in your decision to join the Church?


During my study, I came to understand that the Catholic Church teaches, governs and sanctifies with the authority of Christ Himself.


I also came to believe that Christ intentionally created His Church to be the vehicle of his continuing mission in the world. He promised to remain present in his Church for all time, and He lovingly guides it through the presence of the Holy Spirit.


While I still had so much to learn about the faith, I knew that the Catholic Church was the Church founded by Jesus. I longed to be a member.


After 15 months of instruction, I said “yes” to God and entered the Church at the Easter Vigil in 1996. That night, while kneeling and hearing the cantor sing the Litany of the Saints, I could feel our Holy Mary, Mother of God, and all the saints surrounding me and praying for me. I had never heard the Litany of Saints, and I had never felt anything so powerful.


As I received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, I knew why I had not responded to those altar calls in my Baptist church. It was because I was meant to be part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. I was finally home.


How has your faith been tested and grown since your conversion?


Life here on earth is full of suffering and challenges. Rusty and I have definitely had a few. We battled infertility, miscarriage, major illnesses and family crises. We made our share of mistakes.


However, we remained faithful Catholics attending weekly Mass, raising our children in the faith, providing them a Catholic school education and serving on parish and parochial school committees.


However, we were losing sight of the important things - our relationships with the Lord, with each other and with our family. We were leaving little room for prayer, Adoration, and time as a married couple.


We spent a lot of time talking about what we were doing at church meetings and how to manage the kids’ schedules, but not enough time talking about what we were doing to deepen our relationship with the Lord and each other. We knew that growing in faith and spiritual maturity is a lifetime process. Being a Christian is more than just a one-time conversion experience, but, instead, a lifetime of ongoing conversion, being always open to God and bearing good fruit as we learn to cooperate with His Spirit. The opposite of conversion is stagnation or idleness. We were stagnant. We knew something needed to change.


So, three years ago we decided to leave the city we grew up in and all the comforts to which we were accustomed and start fresh. We made a conscious decision to completely surrender our lives to God – our marriage, our children and our business.


I told Rusty that as long as we could attend Mass, receive the sacraments and as long as we had each other and our family, I would be OK with wherever we ended up. He agreed.


This total abandonment to God’s will came about because of a complete “scrubbing” we had endured. We were raw. However, by abandoning ourselves to God, Jesus came in and swept us up. In Matthew 11:28-30, we read: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matt 11: 28-30) By resting in Him, we didn’t give up, but gave in to possibilities we could never imagine.


Advent is a particularly special time for me. It was during Advent 1994 that I decided to attend Mass every Sunday. During Advent 2019, I began praying the rosary every day.


Not long afterward, a dear friend and co-worker invited me to participate in a Cursillo weekend.


I had heard about Cursillo for years, but was not interested until Cheri asked me about it. Without hesitation, I accepted the invitation. I had no idea what to expect but was at complete peace with it.


That February weekend earlier this year was a game-changer! Conversion is the process of changing and what a weekend of change. Morning offering, personal prayer, the rosary, Adoration, Eucharist, and Reconciliation – all these encounters with Christ help keep me focused on God and allow His graces to flow through me so that I can be the feet and hands of Christ and live as Christ instructed us to live, with abundant love and mercy.


What do you find most rewarding about being Catholic?


The channels of grace available to us through the sacraments that God has given His Church. Frequent participation in Eucharist and Reconciliation give me peace, heal my brokenness and help me with my “yes” of total abandonment to our Lord so that I can live out my vocation as wife and mother as God has called me. Also, being able to invoke the aid of our Blessed Holy Mother by daily recitation of the rosary has changed my life!


Just as I was being called to the Church 26 years ago in the midst of Advent, I am called daily to participate in the sacraments, study the scriptures and Church history, pray the rosary, call on our beloved saints to intercede for us and prepare.


I am grateful the Church has the answers. We need only to seek them.




RUSTY BOICOURT


Tell us about your faith background?


I was born into the Catholic fortress: family, Mass, St. Paul’s School in Nampa, activities – all Catholic. My first group association was as an altar server, and then shortly thereafter came Cub Scouts, hosted at my school.


My first non-Catholic activity was in sports. Believe it or not, I did not consciously recognize that there were non-Catholic people and other-than-Catholic thought until early high school! That was when I began to debate theology with students who were members of the Nazarene and LDS faiths. None of us had any training, but the debates were always good-natured. That exercise eventually led me to learn much more about the Church, including our history and traditions.


What events or people led you to grow deeper in your faith?


My parents were both Catholic and had me baptized me as an infant.


My first memory of a noteworthy Catholic figure was Pope John Paul I. I followed the process of his election closely when I was about 9 years old and was quite surprised when he died just a month later. That was, of course, major news and I felt a little pride that I was sort of “in-the-know” among my peers.


As a cradle Catholic, I never made the decision to join, obviously, but I certainly made the decision to stay. Officially, that decision came at Confirmation, but again around college after a wee lapse, I found myself drawn back into the Church.


That was principally because of my girlfriend, who later became my wife. She was Protestant and very faithfully Christian when we met. I would not say that she was evangelical, but she had an authentic and gentle way of radiating her view that religious laziness does not cut it. My renewed devotion to the Church was fueled, in part, by my desire to live up to her ideals. Her inspiration fast-tracked my return to the Church.


In my late 20s, my leisurely study grew more vigorous. I listened to a lot of Catholic radio and read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. At that time, outlets for Catholic speakers and thinkers were multiplying. EWTN was available on cable and Catholic radio had just started broadcasting in the Treasure Valley.


Nowadays, I listen to podcasts, watch YouTube, read books and learn new things daily. The amount of information available to the laity is staggering. My faith has developed through rational thought and intellectual interests. My major influences were St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Fulton Sheen, and Bishop Robert Barron. Recently my interests are turning toward the mystics: St. Pio, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Joan of Arc and St. John Vianney. These all help the soul; the mind can take you only so far.


What do you find most rewarding about being Catholic?


The limitless depth of wisdom contained within the Church's dogma and traditions and the absolute harmony between creation and revelation, faith and reason, scripture and nature.


I recognize that most of the Western world is skeptical of the Church and incorrectly adheres to the false dichotomy of science vs. religion. I am a lifelong person of faith, but also a devoted practitioner of science as a licensed geologist. I see no tension between faith and science. Rather, I think there is great tension between what many people misinterpret about Church teaching and what they misunderstand about science. I am grateful the Church has taken these difficult questions seriously, not shying away from tackling apparent contradictions.


The Church has always integrated authentic science into Her mission to evangelize. Education, medicine, and the sacraments are the Church’s gifts to the world, serving mind, body, and spirit. I am grateful the answers are there.


What do you find most challenging about being Catholic?


The damage that has been done to the Church’s authority through the actions of an evil few.




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