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Teen joins church after experiencing Christ through people at school

Beckman student reflects on faith journey

By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant

DYERSVILLE — When 17-year-old Peyton Simon became a member of the Catholic Church, it only made sense that she officially be welcomed into the faith at Beckman Catholic High School, since the school itself played such a pivotal role in her conversion.

Simon, who is currently wrapping up her junior year at Beckman, entered the church at an all-school Mass at her Dyers­ville high school on the morning of Thursday, May 2.

“I am fully convinced that if I never came to Beckman, that there is a good chance I would have never become Catholic,” Simon said.

“I met so many people that showed me Christ through their actions,” she said of her experience as a student at Beckman. “Everyone is so selfless and caring, and being at Beckman is like a second family. They showed me what Christ is like, and they showed me what Catholics are supposed to be. It made me want to be Catholic.”

Simon, who lives in Epworth, said that before joining the church, “I really had no religious background, not a firm one at least.”

“In my household, we did believe in God,” she said, “but we never expressed our faith. God was not part of our everyday lives; in fact, I really never thought about him unless I was scared. He really didn’t have any effect on my life.”

Simon said that what she learned in her classes at Beckman led her to believe that Catholicism was the “right way to go” with her faith journey. She also had a number of family members who were already Catholic, which, she said, played a role in her decision to join the church as well.

She began working with Father Dennis Conway, Beckman’s chaplain, to go through formal instruction in order to enter the faith. She chose fellow Beckman student Sophia Schuster to be her sponsor.

Simon said she felt very supported in her decision to become Catholic, both by the Beckman community and also by her family. On the morning she was welcomed into the church at Mass, she said, “every family member that could come, came.”

She said joining the church was an extremely special experience for her. “The night before, I was just so happy, excited and nervous,” she said. “I honestly felt like I was getting married in a sense … .”

During the all-school Mass, Simon received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and also Communion. “My face hurt after Mass because I was smiling so much,” Simon recalled. “I was close to crying tears of joy a few times.”

Simon was not the only one who was moved during Mass that morning. Marcel Kielkucki, Beckman Catholic High School’s principal, said he “truly felt God present in the auditorium that day.”

“Faith is an important part of our day at Beckman Catholic,” the principal said.  “We strive each day to be better followers of Christ, and it is very encouraging to see how it impacts our students.”

Simon is the second Beckman student to join the church over the past two years. Darlena Peterson, who graduated from Beckman this May, entered the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Mass in 2018.

Father Conway said he has been inspired by the faith he has encountered in the Beckman community. “We have wonderful teachers in all departments who show students how important faith is to them in the classroom, by giving witnesses on Kairos and TEC retreats, and through their parish involvement. The students as well truly have a deep faith that I often see when they randomly stop me with a question, or ask for confession or just to talk. They have amazingly deep questions when I visit their classrooms,” reflected the priest. “I think this kind of atmosphere has really allowed young people hungry for the truth to find God and make him a part of their life.”

He added, “I believe that our youth today truly are hungry for the truth, and when you treat them, their struggles, their question and their ideas with respect and engage them, they are very open to the truth of the Catholic faith.”

Simon, one of those young people who was open to the truth of the faith and now one of the church’s newest members, said, “I’m really just happy to finally be part of the Catholic Church and to have that greater unity with God. … I look forward to growing in Christ, and him in me, through all the big things and small things, and learning new things and just in general, being with God.”


Peyton Simon is baptized by Father Dennis Conway during a Mass at Beckman Catholic High School in Dyersville May 2. (Contributed photo)