Asher and Leslie Gelzer-Govatos have taken a winding path in their pursuit of the Catholic faith. Now, they’re passing it along to their four young children in tangible ways.
In college, Asher and Leslie were active in a Presbyterian campus ministry at the University of Tulsa; Leslie was raised Presbyterian, and Asher was raised Methodist. Asher recalled a growing feeling of dissatisfaction.
Citing the influence of a college friend and several professors who were Catholic, Leslie recalled that “it opened the door.” After they married, the couple began attending an Episcopal church. They liked the liturgy and reverence of the community, but something was still missing.
Several years ago when they moved to south St. Louis, they discovered Epiphany of Our Lord Parish and decided to give it a try. “I had never even been to a Mass before,” Leslie said. “In the course of visiting different churches I was very convinced of the Real Presence (in the Eucharist). I didn’t necessarily understand what that meant (at the time), I just knew that it seemed that had to be a very fundamental part of Christianity.”
Father Michael Rennier, then a pastoral associate at Epiphany and now pastor, invited them to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. They were received into the Church at Easter of 2016. Now they’re instilling that faith into their four children: Owen, 7, Violet, 6, Eliza, 3, and Edmund, 17 months.
Asher and Leslie take seriously their role as primary educators of the faith. Beyond their involvement at the parish and in Catholic school (the two oldest attend The Saint Austin School), the family makes faith a central part of their daily living at home.
Doing that with young children requires some creativity. Using the liturgical year as a foundation, the family will incorporate that into themed-meals, including celebrating the feast days of the saints. For the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the children made chairs out of graham crackers. The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe included Mexican hot chocolate after school, and making tissue paper roses, to symbolize the roses found in St. Juan Diego’s tilma.
Other hands-on activities have helped the children learn about other aspects of the faith, such as the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which recognizes the seven sorrows the Blessed Mother endured. Owen recalls making hearts out of modeling dough, and placing toothpicks in the hearts to symbolize the depiction of Mary’s Immaculate Heart being pierced by seven swords.
All of these little activities make a big impression upon the children — it’s obvious through their acquired knowledge of Church teachings and traditions. But Leslie says that it’s also for another reason — so that they can see the joys of their faith, too.
“When you are raising kids in a practicing household, it’s really easy to learn all of the ‘nos’ and ‘don’ts’ of your faith — no to eating meat on Fridays, or sleeping in late on Sundays, because we go to Mass,” she says. ” But we really want them to see all of the ‘yeses’ of their faith as well. As Catholics we get to have some of the best celebrations and the best parties. We might have a really somber Lent, but we have a really joyful Easter. We want them to grow up remembering those things as well.”
The Gelzer-Govatos family at a glance
Parents: Asher and Leslie. Asher is a doctorate student studying 20th century British literature at Washington University in St. Louis; Leslie is a stay-at-home mother.
Children: Owen, 7, second-grader at The St. Austin School
Violet, 6, kindergartener at The St. Austin School
Edmund, 17 months
Epiphany of Our Lord in south St. Louis