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by Laura Yurs

I grew up in a huge Catholic family in a very small Midwestern town.  Generations of my family have attended All Saints Catholic Church and School.  We remember who made us cry (Sister Staneila) who put the fear of God into us (Sister Veronica…I shudder as I type), who made us laugh (Sister Mary Faith and Father Bob).  We’ve shared stories that are guilt ridden and funny and tragic and appalling.  I sat through classes in the same building where my four brothers, my mother (all of her brothers & sisters), and my grandmother attended.  We huddled in the same church pew, sweating, awaiting our turn for confession.  (I made things up because I wasn’t sure my sins were good enough.  I shit you not.  See?  Even then I was a pleaser).  We celebrated our First Communion at the same altar.  And it was assumed that we would marry in that very same church.  My great grandmother, my grandmother, my parents, and all four of my brothers exchanged their vows and kissed their ‘I Do’s’  in that space.  Not me.

I always assumed I would walk down the aisle in this church…if I ever decided to marry.  It’s tradition!!  And if it’s good enough for generations of my family, then why not me?  It’s also a beautiful church filled with stained glass, gold leaf, detailed statues, and incredible vaulted ceilings.  There’s a photograph of my parents running down the front steps on a cold and blustery January day…grinning from ear to ear…having just married.  They have albums of my brother’s weddings…in one I’m a flower girl and in another I’m a Maid of Honor.

Generations of my family grew up here.  I didn’t question much.  Then I moved away, built a life, met a boy, and fell in love.  He proposed and I said yes.  And then we started planning the wedding…..

I didn’t want him to leave his religion for mine (previous generation’s spouses had).  He was happy in his own church.  I wasn’t sure if I was happy in mine.  I didn’t feel at home in the church where I grew up and I knew on a deeper level that much had changed in me in the nine years that I’d been gone.  It was a pivotal moment in my life…the beginning of many changes to come.  My husband and I wound up marrying in a very liberal Catholic church in the city where we lived.  The priest there was overjoyed at the thought of Kevin’s pastor participating in the ceremony.  It felt good, you know?  It felt so right.  And it was the total opposite of where I grew up.  Architecturally speaking, this church was ultra modern.  No statues, no stained glass, no crucifix.  On Sundays, there was passionate discussion about human rights and women’s issues.  EVERYONE was welcomed.    And so this is where I said my vows and kissed my ‘I Do’s’.  The majority of our photos were taken outside at the university where we met.  We started off on our own path and never looked back.  A year later, I left the Catholic Church.  I left peacefully.  It simply became clear to me that my spiritual needs were better met elsewhere.

How about you?  Did you deviate from the generations in your family?  Start your own traditions?

I’d love to hear all about it!

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  1. May 7, 2012

    I was the first one in my family not to get married in the Catholic Church. Then, we chose not to baptize our kids. Scandalous! But it felt right for us. Following a tradition that wasn’t meaningful for us would have felt hypocritical. So we did it our way and never looked back.

    You and Kevin were so damn adorable! Still are, of course. I just love seeing photos of couples “back in the day”. xo

  2. Kayla Slusser #
    May 7, 2012

    laura…i’m sooo glad you found happiness on your own and did things how you wanted to. it makes me feel better to know i’m not such a black sheep of the family.

  3. erin #
    May 7, 2012

    I also come from a multi-generational Catholic family. I got married in the church where I attended Catholic school but soon without fanfare I drifted away from the church and it felt good. I had my first three children baptized to keep the peace but the fourth will not be. The charade is over and I no longer feel the need to fake it. My mom, the multigenerational Catholic shudders at the thought that I don’t attend mass. I think she called it a disgrace.
    For me growing up Catholic was so much more than a religion it is our cultuture, who we are. In ways, I wish I fouls still believe

    • erin #
      May 7, 2012

      *could still believe.

    • lifeineden #
      May 7, 2012

      I know what you mean about the culture thing — I’m not just Irish, I’m Irish Catholic — it has a whole other meaning to me.

  4. lifeineden #
    May 7, 2012

    I’m the big deviant. Grew up like you — Catholic in the same town for a couple generations. My parents and many of my siblings all married in the same grand old magnificent church. I was a flower girl and bridesmaid there (I’m the youngest, you?).

    Then I went off to the big city. Met a boy from Canada. Oh, and by the way … he’s also Jewish. We had a harder time planning the wedding. Most of the rabbis in Philly were not open to a co-officiant wedding and we had no connections in the Philly Jewish community. My parents wanted a priest there, but it felt hypocritical to me, as in my heart I had left the church long ago. Turns out, the key note speaker for my husband’s graduation was a rabbi — a woman rabbi in the reconstructionist movement. It seemed perfect, except she was booked on our date. But she did refer us to another lovely woman rabbi who was open to including some things from my family’s traditions — we had 2 “readings” and lit a unity candle.

    It gets complicated at the holidays some times, but my parents have come to love my husband very much and accept our choices. It isn’t always easy for his family either, as all the boys married out side the faith (one DIL did eventually convert). But again, with time comes acceptance.

    So interesting to know we share this common background! xo

  5. May 7, 2012

    I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist family, and I doubt anyone saw it coming when I decided to cross the street at the age of 16 and check out the Episcopalian service. There was professed disappointment when I later delved into a study of the Eastern faiths and philosophies. But now, as a 20-year member of the Seventh-day Adventist church, I’ve found my church home. Our faith is a journey of the heart. Follow your heart and know that ultimately, it’s about love and loving one another.

  6. May 7, 2012

    I love reading these comments, and I love your post. Brave girl! And so awesomely beautiful in your wedding picture!

    Dakota is approaching the age where she’d be getting baptized. All my kids were, and I was….but not her. I know my mom and dad are heartbroken over it. But our paths are not their paths….and that’s OK. Thanks for writing this ❤

  7. kathy #
    May 7, 2012

    I was always a touch jealous of you Catholic folk. I like the tradition. Getting babies baptized, and all that goodness. My hubby is a sometimes Catholic, but not enough for me to actually go through the rituals of getting my kids baptized, or enrolled in CCD classes. My childhood church scarred me enough, I’m not about to do that to my kids. I’ve tried to go to church…went with my sister a few times…but I get overwhelmed with anger. I get anxious, my eyes fill with tears and look for a way out. I can’t do it. I wish I could find peace in church…but I can’t. Thanks for your post, I know religion can be a tricky subject to speak about. Its hard to get over the guilt sometimes, like I betrayed so many people when I left my church. But when I really think about it, my church left me. Yes, I had some FABULOUS

  8. Jill #
    May 7, 2012

    We were married in the Catholic church by Dave’s uncle, who also baptized the Girls. And for a while, we would go on Sundays, but when we moved the Pennsylvania, the church here was more about the money, and I wasn’t going to raise the Girls in a religion in which they were considered to be second best. You wanna be a priest but you lack a penis? Tough shit. Do what a man tells you and sit down. So I left when the Girls were four and joined the Episcopal church. I was “received” – confirmation for those who are confirmed – and we attended services for the better half of 13 years. And then? Then we stopped . . . no clue why. And now idea how I can change back. So, now I sleep in, next to my atheist husband, and I’m OK with that.

  9. May 7, 2012

    We got married outside and barefoot… that wasn’t a huge problem for anyone (although our moms both thought it was stupid), the problem was that we chose not to do the legal part. We were both fairly outspoken in our support of marriage equality so when we started planning our own wedding it made us really uncomfortable to think we were taking advantages of rights that weren’t extended to everyone.

    So we had a ceremony, I wore an inappropriately puffy dress, we have rings, I changed my name, but we skipped the paperwork. We’re married in the eyes of God, the church (the pastors we wanted were really supportive of our choice), and our friends and family… just not the state. It really bothers some people… mostly my family… mostly my mom… but we don’t feel like we’re any less married than anybody else because we lack a piece of paper.

  10. Goda Ona #
    May 8, 2012

    I love the comfort of tradition, but authenticity and being true to your heart seems to always trump it in the end. I’m still in search for the best spiritual fit for me, but the church you guys got married at sounds really appealing.. ‘Liberal’, ‘ultra modern’, ‘passionate discussions’ sounds much less intimidating.

  11. May 8, 2012

    i can imagine how difficult those decisions were for you and i’m proud that you went with your heart and did what was right for you! my mom’s side of the family was raised catholic, attended catholic school (as did i for a short period), but everyone seemed to end up going their own way. growing up my mom took us to a non-denominational church and as we got older we stopped going. i never felt at home in any church and don’t foresee that changing.

    you and kevin have barely aged a day, i swear. i love that picture of the two of you together!

  12. May 9, 2012

    I actually went the opposite way. I was brought up a complete atheist, and in my rebellious period explored my Jewish roots. My husband and I married and had our children as full orthodox Jews. We kept kosher, kept the sabbath, I wore a wig, we did everything. Then we came to our senses, took a few years to lose our guilt about over it (over leaving the religion and over having disappointed our families by joining it in the first place), and are back to being happy atheists again. It’s how we raise our children, although we still keep Friday nights special.

    That wedding photo is so very beautiful, and I love the black & white inside the church.

  13. Becky #
    May 10, 2012

    Ooh- will you do a whole series in catholic churches? I too grew up catholic but don’t count myself one anymore, but I swear, catholics have the best churches. I love learning more about you- and I love that picture of the two of you. So sweet!

  14. irish2171 #
    May 10, 2012

    This is a bit awkward…..being the only Catholic defender to this point, none-the-less, one of the aforementioned brothers to the author. My personal decision was not to deviate from the generations in my family, nor start my own tradition. Rather, I made an educated choice to follow the truth. Through much discernment, soul searching, and study I came to the only truthful conclusion. No one ever told me that being a Catholic or a Christian would be easy. A handful of years ago I would have been content to do as little as possible and certainly nothing more than what made me feel good and comfortable inside……because I was focused on my own happiness…..the “me first” attitude. My love for the Catholic faith stems from the Eucharist and a subsequent desire to lead others to Christ. In as much that starts in my home and with my family. Through the Catholic Church I am confident in knowing that we are also making a global impact by serving others through subsidizing the largest private health care network and the largest private educator in the world. Both which take a considerable amount of resources. The fact is that while the Catholic Church and it’s teachings are logical and make perfect sense to me, others may not have come to the same conclusion. Whether you are Catholic, Jewish, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, purple, green, or what have you; the root of all should be a focus on others, not “self”, a focus on humility, and on truly loving one another. If I made a decision on what faith to follow based on what was easy or convenient for “me only”, my pride, or out of a desire for retribution based on the misguided or misinformed, then I would be making a HUGE error in judgment. I pray that by dying to self we can all focus more clearly on the objective at hand of getting one another to heaven and consequently setting an example for future generations in each of our families. That being said…….love the photos.

    • Jill #
      May 10, 2012

      My decision to leave the Catholic church was based purely on its stance on women. There are too many documents going back centuries that place women in subjugation, and I refused to raise my daughters in a religion that would look at them as lesser than the boys sitting right next to them. After doing research out the yin-yang on just about everything Catholic, too many things pointed towards money and the need to “grow” the fund. Perhaps it is to subsidize the the largest private health care network, but that health care network doesn’t allow for the one thing that the church preaches almost every day: free choice. There is no free choice in a Catholic subsidized health care network when choice is eliminated. Having been in the position where choice was a necessity, I made the choice I was comfortable with and have never regretted it.

      In our family, the tradition of getting married in our hometown church, which I believe was the gist of this post, was broken the moment my sister said “I Do” in a county courthouse. And then again when my other sister said “I Do” in a nondenominational chapel with her friend, who got ordained on the Internet, as their officiant. But my brother, God love him, brought it back around to our hometown church for his nuptials. I’d like to think that the tradition isn’t where we said our “I Dos” or kissed that first kiss as husband and wife, but how we’ve spent our lives: faithful to our spouses and families and committed to their happiness. We all serve our community in various ways not because God or a man in a pulpit or a book or some beanie from outer space said to, but because it is what is right and proper and selfless. We do it because we are catholics not Catholics.

      And the photos . . . they are gorgeous.

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