Seeds of faith blossom

March 13, 2023

Tony and Celestino meet Bishop William Joensen at Rite

A seed planted just before the pandemic and nurtured during quarantine grew into one boy’s love for God and a desire to join the Catholic Church.

This Easter Vigil, Tony Ramirez, who says he’s “12 and three quarters” and his father, Celestino, will come into full communion in the Church at Holy Trinity Parish in Des Moines. Looking on will be a happy stepmom, Ann “Charlie” Ramirez, and proud grandparents Pete Ramirez, and Mary and Steve Stimmel.

Tony’s interest began several years ago when he would go to church with Grandma Mary and Grandpa Steve. Tony meets Bishop William Joensen

“I originally thought ‘Man, every Sunday, I could be home doing something else.’ But after I got an image of the Church and the Father, I was really happy being invited to the church,” he said. “I love singing and reading the Scriptures... There’s always something about every reading that will speak to me.” 

During the pandemic, when he had to distance himself from Celestino and Ann for health reasons, Grandma and Grandpa would teach him nighttime prayers, tell him stories from the Bible, talk about the saints, and their own experiences relating to the Church.

“I pulled out of my hat any Bible story that popped into my head at the moment,” Mary said. She and Steve bought Tony a youth version of the catechism so he could read about the faith at a level he could understand.

One day, he asked the pastor, Father Mark Neal, a question.

“I ask him how you become a saint. That was the first time I ever talked to him. Ever since then, I really liked him,” Tony said. “I see Father as a celebrity because it’s so cool to me to talk to him after Mass, to learn more about the Church and stuff.”

Ann asked Tony if he’d like to become Catholic.

“His little face lit up and he said, ‘Yeah, I want to be baptized,’” said Celestino. “At that point, I was mulling things over. I was baptized and got First Communion. I’ve not been confirmed myself.”

He thought, “This is the perfect time to get my confirmation classes as well. So we’re both in class right now. We’re both learning a lot about the Catholic faith.”

The grandfathers will play an important role at Easter Vigil. Celestino’s dad, Pete, will be his grandson’s sponsor. And Steve will be his son-in-law’s sponsor.

“We’re both going to be confirmed together,” Tony said. “That’s going to be something I remember for my whole life!”

Tony already feels like an evangelizer. After Mass on the day of the Rite of Election, when Bishop William Joensen formally elected Tony and other catechumens (those who’ve never been baptized) to enter the Catholic Church, a man at the donuts and coffee line asked him how the RCIA classes were going. The man had not been confirmed.

“I told him this is really fun. I think you’d really enjoy doing it,” Tony said. The man responded that he’s probably going to go to the RCIA program in the fall.

“That really spoke to me because I invited someone to get confirmed,” Tony said. 

This faith journey the Ramirez family has traveled is remarkable, Celestino said.

“There’s been so many instances along the way when we felt the finger of God touch our path and our lives. It’s absolutely inspired us.”

Perhaps the best part of the experience is that Tony has a relationship with God, said Celestino.

“We find him taking comfort in the Lord during hard times now,” he said. “I absolutely hear him saying, ‘You know, I think I need to pray about this.’ It just warms our heart.”