Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) – Among the tens of thousands of people who were received into the Church at Easter Vigil Masses all around the world are three brothers-in-law at Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln.
The three Stone sisters – Sarah and twins Katie and Carrie – grew up in Cathedral Parish with their brother Ben. They all attended Cathedral School and Pius X High School, and they all married at the Cathedral with Msgr. Robert Tucker officiating.
Katie was the first to wed. She met Will Aldag at work.
“Some mutual work friends started a biking group that we both participated in and the rest is history,” she said. “We have been married almost 14 years.”
During Katie’s bachelorette festivities, Carrie met Ryan Hoy. She ran into an old friend while the bridal party was out on the town, and he introduced the couple.
“We have talked every day since,” Carrie said. “We are coming up on our 11th anniversary.”
Sarah was at a friend’s house when she first met John Wunderlich. Some time later, their paths crossed again, and this time, the sparks began to fly.
“We married in May 2009, so almost seven years,” Sarah said.
None of the three husbands were Catholic. Will was baptized Lutheran but not raised in any particular church. Ryan was raised Methodist, and John grew up attending the Bennet Community Church. Because each man was respectful of the Catholic faith, however, the Stone sisters were not worried about entering into “mixed” marriages.
“Growing up, our father was not a Catholic,” Sarah explained. “John not being Catholic was normal to me. He still attended some Masses with me and asked many questions.”
“Will was very understanding and open to the Catholic faith from the very beginning,” Katie said.
The Hoys approached the differences in their faith with mutual respect and love, forging a strong foundation for their marriage on what they shared.
“My love for God and Carrie made it easy,” Ryan said.
“We have been filled with great role models,” Carrie added, citing her parents, two sets of aunts and uncles on Ryan’s side, and the Kearneys, with whom they were paired with during their marriage preparation at Cathedral. “Also, the Engaged Encounter helped prepare us.”
Sarah’s husband, John, also credited marriage preparation with getting them on solid ground right from the beginning.
“We were actually given more opportunities and resources to search deeper into our relationship than had we been married [elsewhere],” he said. “I feel the time with Msgr. Tucker, our host family, our Engaged Encounter, and everything in between gave us what we needed to start our marriage.”
Sarah said that all three sisters were careful to show respect for their husbands’ faith, as the men did for theirs.
“We never believed in forcing a person into faith,” Sarah said. “We never once asked for them to convert.”
As each couple started their families, the children were all graced with the Sacrament of Baptism, most often by Msgr. Tucker.
“My husband (John) calls him, ‘our personal priest,’” Sarah reported with a laugh.
The Wunderlichs have three young children: Octavia, Sophia, and Thomas. The Aldags have four: Mackenzie, William Jr., Grace and Alexa Raye. The Hoys have three: Tyler, Colton, and Addison.
Watching their kids receive sacraments and grow in their faith had a profound effect on all three dads.
Will said that “seeing my kids grow up in the Catholic Church and learning more about the faith” was the catalyst for him to want to become part of the Church.
For Ryan, it was watching his son receive his first Penance and First Holy Communion that made him realize how much he wanted to join his children in the Church.
“I’ve always had it in my mind that I was going to become Catholic someday,” he admitted.
John felt the same way. Then, in March 2015, his beloved grandfather died.
“He was influential before and during the process of my becoming of faith,” John said.
He talked to Sarah about his desire to enroll in Rite of Initiation of Christian Adults classes (RCIA). Despite their busy schedule with three young kids under five and work restraints, she was completely supportive.
“I told him for the next six months we would make it work for him to get to classes,” Sarah said. “This would come first.”
When Sarah told Katie that John was enrolling in RCIA, she answered that Will and Ryan had mentioned taking instruction as well. So, John decided to invite his brothers-in-law to go with him. The other couples – equally busy with work and family obligations – were also committed to giving the men a great RCIA experience.
“I’ve been able to see the religion in a much more deep sense than I knew,” added John.
Will agreed. “RCIA strengthened my love of Christ, helped renew my relationship with Him, and deepened my desire to learn more about the Catholic faith.”
“It has been a very rewarding experience,” said Ryan, who got a little extra coaching along the way: his 9-year-old son, Tyler, was especially enthusiastic. “I would like to thank God, my wife and children for their continued support.”
At Easter Vigil, when the fire was started at Cathedral of the Risen Christ, the three men began the final leg of their journey into the Church. John was sponsored by Mary and Paul Keating. Will had Mike Sullivan at his side, and Ryan’s sponsors were Dan and Vicki Reinke.
John and Will eagerly awaited receiving the Holy Eucharist for the first time. Ryan added that just “becoming fully accepted into the Church for the first time,” was what he looked forward to most.
As for the three Stone sisters, they are joyful and contented that their husbands are now Catholic.
Sarah said John’s decision to enter the Church “has made his entire family very happy.”
Katie was equally happy for Will, while her kids took it in stride. “It was like they expected it,” she said.
“The kids were excited for Ryan,” Carrie reported. “My mom was ecstatic.”
All three families planned to gather with Fred and Joan Stone to celebrate a very special Easter this year.
“Lots of kids running around screaming, parents running after them,” Sarah anticipated. “Honestly, the boys didn’t want to have a huge celebration, but I’m sure they will be showered with many gifts of faith.”