Finding My Way
03.31.19 • Lynette Townsend • Volunteer Storyteller
Growing up in Riverside, California with a Catholic mother and non-Catholic father, Kelli Meisner’s church experience was a bit limited. As an infant, Kelli’s parents baptized her in the non-denominational church where they got married. Once her sister was born three years later, both girls were baptized in the Catholic Church.
Kelli didn’t mind church as a child, but during the summer, church became fun.
The girls occasionally attended Mass with their mom, but when Kelli and her sister were enrolled in Catechism classes, they began attending Mass on a more regular basis. Kelli didn’t mind church as a child, but during the summer, church became fun. After school was out each year, she and her sister were flown to Oregon to stay with their maternal grandparents. Every Saturday night during the summer, their grandparents drove them to a little church in Medford located by a fruit stand.
The tiny church was welcoming and filled with older parishioners. Her Grandpa, a Knights of Columbus member, was very involved in the church. With that came special privileges during Mass for Kelli and her sister like helping Grandpa bring up the gifts. After church, a fun out-to-dinner adventure always followed.
However, sometimes Kelli didn’t want to go to Oregon for the summer. It was difficult for her to leave her friends, but looking back, she’s thankful she got to go. Not only was it a special time to spend with her grandparents but she and her sister got to enjoy camping, seeing plays, and shopping with Grandma for new school clothes.
As Kelli grew up, she would occasionally go to Mass on special occasions. She went to church with her Catholic friends and also attended teen Masses with a Catholic boy she was dating at the time. She’d been baptized and had made her First Communion, but she wasn’t driven to be confirmed.
When Kelli was 15, her parents divorced. Kelli remembers it being a stressful time…
When Kelli was 15, her parents divorced. Kelli remembers it being a stressful time, but her mother tried her best to make it better. “The one thing I praise my mom for was that she was always very open and honest about things.” Kelli was able to continue attending her same school which made this difficult time a bit easier.
In 2006, her sister was about to be married. Kelli was also engaged. Her sister needed to be confirmed in order to get married in the Catholic Church. She asked Kelli if she would join her in the Confirmation Program, and both girls, in their early 20’s were confirmed.
Kelli’s sister married in 2006 and Kelli married her husband, Kris in 2007. Kris was and is a non-Catholic. Kelli’s church going continued to be sporadic. They welcomed their first baby boy in 2010. In September of 2013, she got pregnant with her second child, and during that time Kelli became extremely ill. Their second baby boy was born May of the following year, eight weeks premature. They both spent a month in the hospital. Kelli was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and she had surgery in August, 2014. Thankfully she’s been in remission since then and their little boy is healthy.
In 2016, Kelli and Kris welcomed a baby girl. They were now a busy family of five. When her eldest was in first grade, Kelli signed him up for the Cub Scout Pack at Corpus Christi Church in Aliso Viejo. By the end of their first summer in the program, a position open up for the Committee Chair, but in order to volunteer for the position you needed to be an active member of the church. Kelli joined the parish.
I’m taking Grandma to the emergency room because we think she might have had a stroke…
She called her grandma to tell her about the position she signed up for, and about Corpus Christi. The next evening she got a call from her mom. “I’m just calling to let you know I’m taking Grandma to the emergency room because we think she might have had a stroke.”
When Kelli’s husband heard the news he said, “You need to go. I’ll deal with the kids.” Kelli met her mom and her brother-in-law at the hospital. While at the hospital, her grandma had another stroke. Medication was administered with no success, so surgery was the only hope. The doctors operated on Kelli’s 90-year-old grandmother. Kelli stayed up all night through the surgery, went home and then went back the following day.
Father Tim said in the homily, “God is always with you whether you know it or not….”
She remembers attending Mass after her grandma’s surgery. Her cell phone buzzed during that Mass. It was her mom. The priest was coming to give her grandma Last Rites. Kelli was able to see her grandma one last time before she passed away. During Mass that day, Father Tim said in the homily, “God is always with you whether you know it or not. And you may not understand the path that you’re on right now, but God is with you.” It was exactly what Kelli needed to hear.
Kelli’s grandma was a very touchy, sensory-like person; she would twiddle her thumbs when she sat. On the Sunday after her grandma passed, Kelli sat in church, her mind wandering. She looked down at her hands and she was twiddling her thumbs just like her grandma used to do! Grandma’s presence was felt that day.
(Kelli’s) advice for anyone who is struggling with their faith: “Get involved with a ministry.”
Today Kelli has a full life. She’s a wife, a busy mom of three and works full-time as a paralegal. She volunteers in her children’s school. Her spiritual life at Corpus Christi has grown. She’s still active as a Cub Scout Committee Chair and is a member of the Pastoral Council. Kelli says, “I feel it’s important to show the kids to step up. It’s important to do the best you can do every day.”
As for her faith she shares, “I think it’s evolving. I’m trying to learn to be a better Catholic and to put that first when sometimes it’s a struggle.” And her advice for anyone who is struggling with their faith: “Get involved with a ministry. You may go and it may not fit but try again. I feel like there’s something for everybody.”
Other Stories of Faith
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