“A Little Child Will Lead Them”: A Story from the USA

Melissa & cody hedquist and their Children at St. Patrick's Parish

"Having kids helped bring us back [to Church]"

Jacqueline Marie | April 17, 2024

Melissa and Cody Hedquist love their parish. They almost gush as they repeatedly explain “the way they do it at St. Patrick’s is…” relating their amazement at the difference they have found there.

St. Patrick’s Parish in Yorkville, Illinois, has been committed to parish renewal since its Pastor, Father Matt, attended the DR16 Conference in Halifax. He got into coaching with Divine Renovation, formed a Senior Leadership Team, started Alpha and the trajectory of the parish changed towards becoming missional. 

Fr. Matt Lamoureux MIC, Pastor
Samantha Santay, Director of Student Ministry

Another big shift happened three years ago when, as part of their focus on the primacy of evangelization, St. Patrick’s hired a Director of Children’s Ministry. The new hire, Samantha, brought in a focus on family formation to children’s faith education and the fruit has been multiplying ever since.

For the Hedquist family, this change was tangible and deeply personal.

“No one told me… God is going to love you no matter what...either I wasn’t listening, or things were conveyed differently.”

Melissa and Cody are both cradle Catholics but when they met in college and started dating, their faith, Melissa recalls, “just wasn’t at the forefront of our lives.” But after they got married and started having children, they wanted their children to be connected to the faith: “having kids helped bring us back [to Church]– we appreciated those values.”

When they decided to start attending their local parish, there was some trepidation. Melissa thought there would just be a lot of older parishioners upset at them for bringing four young and boisterous children into Mass. She worried she would have to deal with a lot of cold looks and finger wagging in her direction.

She couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, they were welcomed with open arms and found not only a place for their children’s faith formation, but also for their own. St. Patrick’s has created a family formation program where parents and children learn and are discipled at the same monthly events. Melissa found herself leaving the sessions thinking: “Why didn’t anyone tell us this before?” She had been catechized as a child but found she really didn’t know the heart of her faith. “No one told me… God is going to love you no matter what.” She recalls, “Either I wasn’t listening, or things were conveyed differently.” In the breakout sessions for parents, Melissa found herself learning things about her faith for the first time. She relates, “I didn’t even know what Adoration was…I had never done that before.”

During one family formation night centred on Eucharistic Adoration, Melissa found herself unexplainably weeping during prayer. She remembers feeling, “there is something grasping at my heart so hard right now, like there is [sic] so many things I want to do right now to bring myself closer to Him.” She explains it was like, “the Holy Spirit reached down and went ‘yonk’” on her heart. It was a turning point for her in her own faith journey.

Melissa and Cody now love hearing their children ask questions about the faith as they all learn and grow together in their personal relationship with Jesus. It has transformed them both individually and as a family. Melissa says instead of finding the judgemental tone and rule-based religion they feared, they have encountered a parish family at St. Patrick’s that welcomes them into their community and disciples them as they grow in their faith.