July 24, 2018 // Diocese
Three sisters, three daughters, three baptisms
Most people can identify an estrangement or tension in their families. It’s a rarity to discover a family that epitomizes thriving, healthy and holy relationships with each other. For Rebecca Thomas, Ruthanne Keesler and Rose Thiel it’s not so unusual, though — it’s sisterhood.
The three girls, along with a fourth sister, Rachel Fox, who now lives in Ohio, grew up attending St. Michael the Archangel Church in Waterloo. The women agree that the rural environment shaped their worldview and values. But it was their parents who set an example of the importance of faith and family when they were young. They prayed as a family, sometimes rode their bikes to Mass, and while they passed what Thomas calls “God’s country,” they grew in greater appreciation and love for His creation.
“Our mom made it a point that sisters are in each other’s lives forever, while friends come and go,” Thomas said. “We spent so much time making memories and doing little things together.” God was always woven into the fabric of their relationship — not compartmentalized, but instead always present.
Both Thomas and Thiel agree that without their faith in God, they wouldn’t have been able to survive some of the heartaches and struggles they’ve experienced.
“The four of us had four girls around the same time, but before they were born, three of us had (experienced) miscarriages,” explained Thiel. “We looked back and realized that if we hadn’t miscarried, these daughters never would have been born.”
The sisters felt God’s mysterious plan as they shared their grief in losing the babies. Because they had such a solid foundation of friendship to begin with, they were already accustomed to leaning on each other, crying and sharing their fears and sorrows, as well as celebrating the joyous occasion of welcoming their babies into the world.
The experience of comparing bellies, feeling the kicks and going through the emotions of pregnancy together was a joy for the sisters to share. Keesler had Violet first, and the next day, Fox gave birth to Grace. A month later Thiel welcomed Nora, and two days later Thomas had Penelope.
The three local sisters decided that, since their shared experiences of pregnancy overlapped, they wanted to also have their newborn daughters share a baptism date. Because Father Ben Muhlenkamp had been friends with Thomas’ husband, he was overjoyed to be the celebrant — although the baptisms took place at St. Michael and not at his assigned parish of St. Louis, Besancon, New Haven.
Thomas, Thiel and Keesler are witnessing the beautiful fruits of their sisterhood as they watch their children grow up together and remain closer than cousins. They’re more like siblings. At the baptism, the women were all godparents to each other’s new babies. It was a unique day, to be sure, but a day in which their daughters were welcomed into the Catholic family as new creations in Christ. To Thiel, the baptism brought their foundation of family and faith full circle.
Thomas and Thiel have incorporated daily prayer into their children’s lives, and said their relationship with the Blessed Mother dramatically changed once they became mothers — specifically to daughters. Thiel said the most surprising thing about parenthood is that her relationship with God and Mary has changed significantly.
“I understand more about the struggles Mary went through as a mom,” she elaborated. “I think about how much of a role model she was in everything. If she can get through something, I can, too.” Thomas agreed, noting that once she became a mom, she called upon the Blessed Mother in desperate times, asking, “How did you do this?” In turn, she found herself meditating about her sacrifice and started praying the rosary more often.
Thomas described a specific example that illustrated the sisters’ openness about their love for Mary. At one get-together, she heard Thiel say aloud, “Please, Mary, give me the strength I need and be with me now.” One of Thiel’s older daughters also overheard and asked, “Mom, are we giving you a hard time again?” It was an occasion in which the sisters present realized they’re all calling upon Mary more for grace and strength, to draw upon her goodness in their own journeys of motherhood.
Mary’s influence and intercession has also encouraged Thomas to pray for her sisters’ children as they grow up. She hopes that prayer and faith come naturally to them as they watch each other converse openly about God and pray as a family. She believes it’s easy, in this culture, to take such gifts for granted. Yet, as the younger cousins look up to their older ones as they play, Thomas sees them draw strength and courage from each other’s faith – much like she, Keesler and Thiel have done.
“I pray they stay close and help each other through life as my sisters and I have done for each other all these years,” she concluded.
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