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‘My faith is important to me every day’

April 1, 2020

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing writer

WEST CHAZY – Not going to church was never an option for Debbie Biasini, even when the bumps in the road of her faith journey caused her struggle to find her place in the church.

Biasini calls herself a “dyed-in-the-wool Catholic,” having been born and raised in the faith and grown through the transitions from Mass in Latin to Mass in English, of the priest facing the congregation instead of the altar and of churches doing away with the altar rail.

One thing she didn’t see change during her childhood was women being allowed to do much of anything in the church “but wash the altar linens,” she said.

“That was a struggle for me, trying to find how I fit in and where I fit,” Biasini said. “But, I never stopped going to church. That, to me, wasn’t how I was going to find an answer. Also, my family was very adamant that you went to church, period. There were no excuses unless you were dying.”

Sticking with her faith allowed Biasini to put her faith into action when her sister asked her to volunteer as the cook at Camp Guggenheim for a weekend in May 1980. Cooking for 35 people during a youth weekend turned into cooking for several years’ worth of campers.

“Once you volunteer in that position or you’re in that position, you don’t get out of that position easily,” Biasini said, adding she cooked for youth, family, and summer camps and also served as the summer camp nurse for a while.

Though Camp Guggenheim wasn’t around when Biasini could have gone as a youth, she attended family camp while she was single and after she was married. Her son, who just turned 26 years old, has been going to family camp “since I was pregnant for him,” she added.

“Guggenheim was a really good experience for me,” Biasini said. “It allowed me to share my faith with the kids, but it allowed me to see their faith in action, which helps everybody grow.”

Biasini doesn’t cook at Guggenheim anymore but still takes part in family camp with her son, calling the experience “my renewal … the big shot in the arm.”

That renewal was first needed as Biasini struggled with her place in the church, but she said she was “lucky enough” to find people who could talk to her and urge to have faith that things would change, people who could validate her feelings and tell her that her faith and prayer would get her through.

In her college years, Biasini went to Mass at the Newman Center on campus, and when she got on her own she attended the Newman Center at SUNY Plattsburgh for many years.

“It was a parish. It was a community. At the time, it wasn’t just the college. It was families,” she said. “If you went into it and you did not know it was a Newman Center, you would assume it was any other parish in the diocese. We had old families. We had young families. My son was baptized there, so that can tell you how young families were. … We had the baptisms and the weddings, and we even had funerals.”

At the Newman Center, Biasini served as the pastoral associate, taught sacraments and worked with college students on faith formation and college retreats.

“All those experiences just made my faith stronger,” she said. “It was just getting through that transition period. You always have somebody who God puts in your life to give you perspective.”

Nowadays, Biasini and her son give each other perspective, sharing their faith with each other and helping each other grow closer to God.

“I love sharing my faith with my son. He sometimes challenges me to grow in my faith when he starts questioning, but that’s OK because that’s good for me,” she said. “His faith means a lot to him. It is an anchor in his life as well. It’s nice to be able to share that with him.”

One way Biasini grows in her faith is by taking classes at St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh or Church of the Holy Name in AuSable Forks on subjects such as Mary, apologetics, and penance. Those classes help her son grow in his faith as well.

“Even by osmosis, my son gets some of it because I come home and go, ‘You want to know what I learned tonight?’” she said. “I get to talk to him about ‘what I learned tonight’ and ‘you ought to take a look at this.’ He doesn’t have to sit in the class, and yet he gets the benefit of what I do.”

Aside from her son, Biasini helps others grow in their faith by serving as a lector, minister of the Eucharist, and sacristan and teaching religion at Holy Name.

“It keeps me grounded and level,” Biasini said, noting her faith is particularly sustaining her during the global coronavirus pandemic. “My faith is important to me every day, but when these monumental things come up in life it’s my ground, my strength. It keeps me focused, and that’s really important.”

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