Faithful guides: a look at some exceptional godparents offering prayerful support and practical help
FORT WORTH — In August 2017, Rebecca Kaiser suffered from the middle school blues. A new student, she knew no one in her entire school. And to end each already trying day, the meandering bus route meant the sixth-grader rode 90 minutes to cover the 7.3-mile distance from school to her house.
After Sunday Mass at St. Bartholomew Parish, her godfather, Mark Metroka, asked Rebecca about her first week at the new school. Hearing about the lengthy bus ride, he volunteered to drive her home four days each week because his office was nearby.
The role of a godparent or confirmation sponsor in the life of their godchild can be a little nebulous. Besides witnessing the sacrament, godparents “must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized — child or adult — on the road of Christian life,” to quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A look at a few local godparents and sponsors who clearly excel at this somewhat vague requirement reveals some common threads.
STOP THE BUS
Mark Metroka and Rebecca Kaiser
The 20-minute car ride Metroka shared with Rebecca became something each of them looked forward to.
Rebecca said the conversations “grounded” her at the end of the day. They talked about “all sorts of things:” school, work, siblings, his children, books, art, music, and her pet rats.
She continued, “He gave advice to help me understand the kids’ perspective” when the social minefield of adolescence was challenging to navigate.
From Metroka’s perspective, “Listening to Rebecca vent about the woes of sixth grade was a lot of fun. I could offer support, practical advice, and moral encouragement.”
His best advice: “Don’t worry about the people who don’t understand you” and remain true to who you are. He encouraged
Rebecca to become an altar server like his daughter, five years older than Rebecca.
Although the Metrokas and Kaisers always shared birthdays and social gatherings together, the drive time was “way different than other time I spent with him. It strengthened the bond with my godfather,” Rebecca said.
When August 2018 rolled around, Metroka was ready to resume shuttling his special passenger again. He admitted feeling a little deflated when he learned she found a carpool buddy in the neighborhood. But each Sunday after Mass he still asks about her pet rats, favorite authors, and boys who show affection by being annoying.
Patsy Pelton chose Mary Martin to be the godmother of her son Kenny, but she didn’t know Martin would be a spiritual support to them both.
Twenty-six years ago, when Pelton selected her friend from the St. Andrew Parish choir, “I prayed that Kenny’s godmother would be a good role model. I knew if anything happened to me, I could trust Mary to make certain that Kenny was raised in the faith,” Pelton said.
When Kenny was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 5, when he was bullied in middle school, when he was angry with God, and when he questioned his faith, Martin’s friendship and prayers supported both her godson and his mother.Martin joined the family for holidays and celebrations, including a special dessert each year on the anniversary of Kenny’s Baptism. Her godson visited her home often, playing the piano with her and sharing a mutual talent for music.
Martin, now a guitarist at Holy Family Parish, said, “Young people test and question their faith, but they will make their way back to where they are supposed to be.”
Kenny did. He was confirmed his senior year of college. Now, he “loves the Latin Mass” and sings in his parish choir in San Antonio.
Pelton values Martin’s constant prayers and friendship throughout Kenny’s life. “There’s not a stronger person in faith than Mary. She’s been a constant guide to my son,” described Pelton.
For his part, Kenny said he’s “eternally grateful” for Martin and her steady spiritual presence. “Mary’s faith is unwavering, unshakeable. She’s been an important model of faith, always generous with her affection, attention, and support.”
A SPIRIT OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Getting back to a faithful Catholic life can be difficult.
Miguel Benitez and his wife, Andrea, had been legally married for several years, but with broken marriages in their past, the Church did not recognize their union. Also, neither was confirmed.
But with two children, they wanted their family to live the sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
Benitez admired his coworker David Rodriguez as an “outstanding, caring” person, especially for adopting a special needs grandson. Rodriguez and his wife, Elda, had also experienced the annulment of a previous marriage and subsequently had their marriage convalidated by the Church.
Benitez admitted, “We wanted to marry in the Church, but it was difficult and sometimes frustrating. David would encourage me and say, ‘When it’s all done, it will be worth it. You’ll think differently when it’s done.’ And I knew David and Elda had done the same thing.”
Rodriguez explained why he and Elda had their marriage convalidated after 20 years. “It’s not easy to get married and live a long time. But it’s what God wants, to commit in good times and in bad times. That’s why the sacrament of Matrimony is important.”
Miguel and Andrea asked David and Elda to serve as their Confirmation sponsors. Benitez attributed the encouragement of their sponsors for motivating him and his wife through the process and its obstacles. The couple was confirmed — with the hand of a Rodriguez on a shoulder — at the adult Confirmation Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral on Oct. 13, 2018. Their marriage was convalidated shortly afterwards.
Rodriguez said his untiring encouragement as a sponsor is “just doing what God wants us to do. To be humble and to love one another. To pass the [faith] on to the next generation.”
When Bobby Williams converted to the Catholic faith in 1993, his friend and former neighbor Calvin Kimbrough hammered him with questions. For 25 years.
Williams said their “lively discussions” often centered on what made Catholicism unique from other religions. During that time, Kimbrough described himself as agnostic, remembering “I admired those with strong faith, but I have an analytical mindset, and it was hard to grasp the mystery of faith.”
The experience of his wife’s death three years ago made Kimbrough open to Christianity, so he began to visit different churches with various friends. He found Mass at Holy Family Parish “inspirational.”
When Kimbrough asked Williams to be his RCIA sponsor, Williams was “first shocked, then honored. Calvin was exploring and finding his way to the Church. He had a strong calling,” he said.
Kimbrough appreciated that Williams went to RCIA classes with him and made plenty of time to answer his questions.
Williams said, “Since I was also a convert, I remember asking the same questions of myself. ‘Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing it for the right reasons?’ It’s a soul searching.”
Kimbrough was confirmed at the Easter Vigil service in 2017 at Holy Family Parish, but that was just the beginning.
Williams explained, “RCIA is fundamental. You need to understand enough of the sacraments to be able to say ‘yes’ with enough information. But you must continue the journey.”
At Williams’ invitation, Kimbrough joined a Bible study at Williams’ parish, Holy Redeemer in Aledo. Both men are Knights of Columbus at their respective parishes.
Williams said, “I see changes in Calvin. He’s simplified his life. He volunteers with the homeless. He was always generous, but now his faith is coming into action, which strengthens my faith.”
In the examples of these individuals and others who have served as faithful guides on the Catholic journey, we can recognize some commonalities on being or choosing a helpful godparent or sponsor:
- First, select a godparent or sponsor who sustains a faithful Catholic life. You may want to honor your best friend from high school, but if she only attends Mass on Easter and Christmas, just invite her to attend the sacrament.
- Reinforce the special role. Metroka greets Rebecca, “Hello, Goddaughter” because “my wife and I are the only ones who can call her that.” Celebrate the anniversary of their Baptism or Confirmation.
- Think outside the family. Pelton intentionally chose someone who wasn’t a relative. “Aunts and cousins already have a role in the child’s life. I wanted to bring a new person into a special relationship with my son,” she explained.
- Maintain the relationship. Benitez said he and his sponsor are “constantly growing in friendship,” recently attending a hockey game together.
- Feed the faith. Williams invited Kimbrough to join him at Bible study and passes along books that he thinks will be of benefit.