Sunday Assembly

Farmer’s journey to become Catholic inspires family, community

Entered the church earlier this year

By Jill Kruse-Domeyer
Witness Editorial Assistant

ELDORA — When Jared Cook’s three young children found out their dad was joining the Catholic faith — the same faith that they and their mom already shared — Cook said they were “ecstatic.”

“They were very excited I would get to partake in everything that they did, that we’d all be on the same page,” reflected Cook, who joined the Catholic Church late this past winter.

“But,” Cook added, with a laugh, “my oldest daughter still likes to remind me that she’s been Catholic longer than I have.”

Cook now joins his wife, Angie, and their children, Adeline, 9; Laney, 7; and Corde, 5, as a member of St. Mary Parish in Eldora.

The family lives on a farm located between the rural Hardin County communities of New Providence and Union. Cook, 38, raises corn and hogs on the same farm that his father grew up on.

The spiritual journey that led this young farmer into the Catholic Church is one that first began in his childhood as a member of the Quaker religion. When he was around 12 years old, Cook said, he and his family left the Quaker faith and started attending the local Methodist church. He was baptized a Methodist and continued to practice the faith into adulthood.

After marrying Angie, a lifelong Catholic, and raising their children in the Catholic faith, Cook said he became increasingly familiar with the religion and its teachings. Of the Catholic faith, he said, “I grew to understand it, and it made sense to me. I came to really like it.” He was drawn to the Eucharist, he said, and found many of the rituals and practices of the faith appealing.

Cook would often attend Mass with his family. He said he liked the way the Catholic liturgy was celebrated. He also liked the priest serving his family’s parish at the time — Father Tony Kruse — and said he was a factor in his decision to join the church. “It helped that there was someone up front who was easy to listen to,” said Cook, who enjoyed the priest’s homilies and found him welcoming.

While Cook had talked about the possibility of joining the Catholic Church for a while, he said it was last year, when watching his oldest daughter receive her first Communion, that he made up his mind that he wanted to be Catholic and wanted the whole family to share the same faith. “That was a turning point for me,” Cook said.

In November of last year, Cook joined the RCIA program at St. Mary’s. He met weekly with the coordinator of the parish’s program, Sister Connie Howe, RSM, and others from the parish who would join the sessions to share their experiences and their perspectives of different aspects of the faith. Despite his familiarity with Catholicism before entering RCIA, Cook said he gained greater knowledge and a deeper understanding of the faith through the program. “It was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “I learned a lot too. It was really neat.”

Sister Connie said that as she accompanied Cook along his spiritual journey, she “was in awe every step of the way!” She also said the parish community as a whole was excited to watch Cook as he made his way toward entry into the church. “When it was time for Jared to make it ‘official’ that he was ready to take that next step, he stood with his sponsor at a Sunday Mass for the rite of welcome for the baptized,” Sister Connie remembered. “The applause following Jared’s declaration of intent to become Catholic still reverberates within me. It was clearly evident that the parish — and visitors too — were showing their support for Jared.”

Cook’s sponsor was a family friend, Mark Sparrow. Cook said he asked Sparrow to be his sponsor and journey with him because he is “a guy very tuned in to spirituality, a good guy, who I respect.” Cook said that watching Sparrow’s wife go through RCIA a couple of years ago and become Catholic herself had helped motivate him to consider entering the church.

Sparrow joined Cook at St. Mary Parish on the evening of Saturday, Feb. 23, when Cook was officially received into the Catholic faith. Cook’s wife and children were there to support him, as was his wife’s family and also his sister.

Sister Connie said the date for Cook to be received into the church was purposefully chosen to be before spring fieldwork, keeping in mind his vocation as a farmer.

That evening at Mass, Cook received the sacraments of confirmation and the Eucharist. Prior to Mass, he also celebrated his first reconciliation. “It was a very special day,” said Cook. “It’s one I will always remember.”

Though he’s only been Catholic for about two months, Cook said there are several things he is already enjoying about his new faith. “Probably the largest thing is the taking of Communion every week — I really like that,” he said. “There’s been a lot of meaning in that for me.” In addition to the Eucharist, he said he also has appreciated the strong sense of community and the feeling of belonging he has found. “It’s been nice to feel like you’re an actual part of the church, that you fit in,” he said.

Since entering the church, Cook said he has been approached by several non-Catholics who have had questions for him and wanted to know more about what the process of joining the church looked like and what it involved.

Sister Connie said she knows Cook’s witness has been an inspiration to many in the parish and the community already. She said she is grateful to Cook and his sponsor and their families for responding to God’s call to “come and see” and explore the faith. By doing so, she said, they are “inspiring others to hear the call to come and see.”

Jared Cook (right) is pictured with his sponsor, Mark Sparrow (left), and Father Kevin Earleywine. (Contributed photo)