God’s Mysterious Ways

By Tresa Van Heusen
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” A phrase we often hear, or often say ourselves. This phrase may seem truest when you are able to look back over certain events in your life and see how the Lord has guided your life to help follow his will for you. I find this phrase comes to mind frequently these days as I examine events over the past eight years of my life and how they have lead me to this day on a discernment retreat with Sister Marla Marie and the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. All of this came to be with the help of my parents, three priests in the Maronite Church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A little over eight years ago, if you had asked me what a Maronite is, I would have had no idea! In 2001 my parents moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina. As whenever they move, they were quickly looking for a Catholic Church to call their new parish. At first they worshiped at one of the many Latin Rite Catholic Churches in the city, but for different reasons my father did not feel at peace in the church. My father noticed a small sign leading off the main road near their house that read “Catholic Church” and he was intrigued. So, one Sunday my parents decided to attend this small church, Saint Michael the Archangel, nestled inside a residential neighborhood. Following the Liturgy, my parents greeted the pastor of the church, Abouna Jack Morrison, and were immediately asked to volunteer in different ways. My parent’s enjoyed the Liturgy, the closeness of the parish and pastor, and found their new home at St. Michael the Archangel.
When my mother first informed me they were attending a Maronite Catholic Church, my first response was – “you can’t go there, it’s an Eastern Orthodox Church.” My mother then began to educate me that Eastern Rite Churches are members of the Catholic Church and full in communion with the Pope.

Over the next five years I began to learn about this beautiful jewel in our universal Catholic Church – the Maronite Church. It was fascinating to learn about the richness of our Catholic Church and I enjoyed attending Divine Liturgy whenever I was visiting my parents in North Carolina. I never had any intention of seeking out a Maronite Church for myself, but I always enjoyed worshiping at St. Michael’s during my visits.

In August 2006, I was in the middle of a move and visiting with my parents in North Carolina for a few weeks before departing to my new home in Atlanta, Georgia. I was due to depart early in the week, but because of car troubles I had to stay a few extra days. The night before I finally left, the new pastor at St. Michael’s held a parish meeting. Interested in meeting the new priest, I went to the meeting with my mother. The new pastor, Abouna Sam Najjar, gave an opening talk with some information about himself. A few times in the night he mentioned his home parish in Atlanta – Saint Joseph’s Maronite Church. I was excited to hear there was a Maronite Church in Atlanta and sought out Abouna Sam at the end of the evening to ask him about this. While my first thoughts were that I would enjoy visiting the church and possibly go to Divine Liturgy every so often, I was surprised when I discovered the parish was located right where I intended to live in the city.

I arrived in Atlanta on a Thursday. My first Saturday I went in search of St. Joseph’s Maronite Church, introduced myself to the pastor, Abouna Peter Boulos, and was there understand the Maronite Liturgy, I quickly fell in love with the spirituality and beauty of the liturgy and found my new home.

Now, three years later, I find myself reflecting upon these events while I visit with Sr. Marla Marie in discernment to join the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. At the time these events took place over the years, I was not aware they were part of any bigger picture for my life. I thought it was interesting to learn more about the Catholic Church, but did not realize it was all leading me to this moment where I feel strongly the Lord is calling me to serve in life. Although these events seemed as mere coincidences, I now see more clearly that there are no coincidences in life and I recognize these events as great blessings from God. It is with great joy that I continue the application process in the hope to enter the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light in February 2010.

(The photo above shows Sister Marla Marie and Tresa aboard the Mayflower II in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Ancestors on Tresa's paternal side, the White Family, came to America on the Mayflower, 1620. Peregine White was the first white skinned baby boy born in America.)