Two years ago Roger and Bernadette Peters were trying to plan for the future. They had no idea what God had prepared for them.
Rewind the clock six years. The Peters were living in Sugar Land, Texas, as they had for more than a quarter-century. They were deeply involved in their home parish, St. Laurence. The kids were moving out of the home, and Roger was looking at retirement.
Bernadette had this nagging feeling: “God has something next for us, but what? Will we travel? Should we sell the house? Should we retire to Florida?” They entered into prayer, planned some travel, and waited for direction, but, Bernadette shared, “God was not telling us anything.”
Then the pandemic hit and they were literally grounded. They decided to get the house ready to sell. Suddenly, they found a house in Houston and everything fell into place. After six years of praying and wondering where God was leading, they went through three closings in thirty days. Without really intending it they now lived near two of their adult children and had a home that was only a few hundred yards away from their very first place after getting married.
“Leaving St. Laurence was the hardest part of moving. Our family grew up there. Now we were in Houston and had this blank slate,” they shared. The Peters started attending different parishes looking for a new home. “We visited a lot of suburban parishes that looked and felt like St. Laurence. We had this sense that God was pulling us somewhere new.”
A friend recommended they try St. Joseph, a 100+-year-old parish in the Sixth Ward of downtown Houston. “We were shocked and surprised to find all of these young adults and young married couples there. It was so different from what we had grown accustomed to. We just fell in love with it.”
They heard about a ministry called Joseph’s Table that served hot breakfast for the many homeless in the community and was run by the young adult group at the parish. They decided to attend. Bernadette met the coordinator and discovered that they primarily did social events but had a hunger for more. She offered, “I’m familiar with some programs, if you gather them together, I can teach.”
The next day they met with Father Victor over lunch to get to know him. Together they planned a Lenten program to offer the young adults. “And they came,” Bernadette said with wonder still evident in her voice. Roger added, “The classes kept getting bigger and bigger. We started with maybe 20 people, and now we get 30-35 on a regular basis. They are telling their friends. Mass attendance is growing.”
Today the two of them are really embedded in the young adult group at St. Joseph. The couple often stays long after Mass to visit. “We unexpectedly found that our marriage has a profound impact on them,” they explained. They have been asked to be godparents and to go out to lunch or coffee for spiritual and personal advice. Bernadette has even been asked to give spiritual direction.
“We look at each other in amazement and are very grateful to serve at St. Joseph’s. Everything has happened very fast and we realized that when God is ready we better be ready too.”
A pair of young adults the Peters met at that very first Joseph’s Table morning were Charles and Tori. They were honored later when the young couple asked them to be their marriage prep sponsors.
“We just had a lot of fun with them. As we went through it they were very honest and opened their hearts to us. We did the same in return. We grew closer together. Together they came to this place where they understood that they wanted to have a deep and strong Catholic marriage and family.”
As a part of the preparation, they were asked, “Why did you choose this couple as your sponsor?” Bernadette was surprised by their answer: “We want to have a marriage like yours.”
“It was humbling, Bernadette shared. “We were honored. At one point you start off by thinking, ‘Our marriage is ours. The two of us.’ Then the kids come and it is you and them, the family. Fr. Peter Towsley told us in our Missionaries to the Family formation that people are watching us closer than we realize. This just validated that for us.”
Reflecting on this, a bit of wonder returned to Bernadette’s voice: “You can’t fake a great marriage.” Roger added, “You never know the kind of impact you are having on people.”
“It is a great marriage. I am very blessed.”