By Dan Russo
TAMA — By now, most people in the country recognize Mollie Tibbetts’ smiling face from missing posters or from other images used during the intense media coverage after she went missing in July. But for some, including family members living in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, the 20-year-old is much more than a two-dimensional photograph.
“Mollie was so many things wrapped into one package,” reflected Jamie Koster, a parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Tama, part of the Circle of Saints Cluster.
“She was a thinker, not only in the sense of being very intelligent, but she was always thinking of others and how she could help them. She was incredibly talented … she was an athlete that always tried to push herself to be better; she was funny and willing to make a fool of herself to make others laugh; Mollie was going to change the world and in the end, did.”
Coverage of Mollie Tibbets’ Memorial Mass from The Catholic Messenger can be seen here
Koster, who is a first cousin to Tibbetts’ mother Laura, is still feeling a roller coaster of emotions days after the Aug. 26 memorial Mass at the college student’s former high school in Brooklyn, Iowa. The liturgy, which drew over 1,500 people, was a testament to the love family and friends had for a young woman who briefly captured the attention of the nation. The prayerful occasion also put a light on Tibbetts’ Catholic faith.
“Mollie’s faith was unwavering,” said Koster. “She got that from her Grandma Judy. Mollie’s favorite verse was Matthew 17:20. She once spoke at a gathering with her youth group and told the story as to how she was to run in a cross country meet after sitting out the previous meets because of breathing problems.”
When presented with this obstacle, Tibbetts turned to prayer, according to Koster.
“She was on the fence as to whether she was ready to run,” she said. “So the night
before, she prayed to God to help her with her decision. With her prayers, she put her trust in the Lord and had faith. She ran the race and finished with a time that was better than any of her previous times. She shared with her peers that by keeping her faith, she was able to push herself and move the mountain in front of her that she wasn’t sure she could move. That was how Mollie lived her life; by keeping her faith. There are not too many young people today that are willing to wear their faith on their sleeves like Mollie did.”
Daneen Henle, another member of the Circle of Saints Cluster, was also at the recent memorial Mass. Henle’s husband is
Tibbetts’ second cousin. In hearing friends and family talk about Tibbetts’ life at the Mass, Henle reflected on her own.
“I heard so many stories this weekend of her,” said Henle.
Tibbetts’ death has made Henle ask a lot of “whys,” but ultimately, she says she is among the large number of people in the community that has resolved to follow
“I would like to live my life more like Mollie, be happier in the little things, have a better faith in God and that he has a plan, to be kind,” said Henle. “And most of all spend more time with family. It was sad that we had to be together in such bad circumstances but then again, Mollie smiled as she watched us tell stories and share our love for each other. Because of Mollie we spent time together and smiled.”
Koster recounted how she joined others in searching for Tibbetts in fields and other places around Brooklyn. Tibbetts’ remains were eventually found. A local immigrant farm worker has been charged with killing her. Despite the potential for division as a result of the crime, in reflecting on Tibbetts, Koster instead focused on the unifying effect her cousin’s life had.
“When we were informed that Mollie’s body had been found, I admit that I questioned my faith,” reflected Koster. “How could such a giving and loving God take a beautiful soul far too soon? Then I remembered the unwavering faith that Mollie lived by every day and the phrase ‘Thy will be done.’ Although I’m still trying to understand, I know that God had a greater purpose for Mollie than she could have on this earth. Look what her faith did the moment she went missing … strangers came together to help a family to bring a girl home. She didn’t come home in the sense that we wanted her to, but she is at home with our Lord. From her place in heaven, she is still making a difference in so many lives, by bringing faith to those who have little; faith that can move mountains.”