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‘I want for others what I grew up with’

May 5, 2021

Editor’s note: The following is an installment of an ongoing series featuring how Catholics of the Diocese of Ogdensburg are living out their faith. To suggest an individual to be featured in this series, please call the North Country Catholic at 315-393-2920 or email dfargo@rcdony.org.

By Jonathan Monfiletto
Contributing Writer

NORFOLK – Carol Gonthier compares her faith journey to her art background.

“People ask me, ‘how did I come up with that idea? What made me create that?’ It came to me,” she said.

“That’s the same way with my faith. When there’s a need, and of course I prayed for it, the need is answered.”

To live your faith, she said, you have to be involved with it. And, she added, always look for the best.

“I try my best to look for the positive in anything. That drives me forward,” Gonthier said. “You can always draw on the bad. There’s enough of it, but if you look for the positive, it’s there.”

Gonthier doesn’t see her faith as something she does but as something she is; she doesn’t see her faith separately from who she is as a person. Growing up in a large Irish Catholic family of seven children – she jokingly calls herself “Irish trapped in a French name” – faith is something that has always been part of Gonthier’s life.

With her parents and siblings, she attended Mass every Sunday at 10 a.m.; the family also went to Mass on holy days. All of the holidays revolved around Mass and church activities, including going to confession on Christmas Eve.

“It was part of us,” said Gonthier, who lives in Norfolk and attends Church of the Visitation. “It was integrated totally into who we were.”

Faith remained part of Gonthier’s life as she worked as a graphic artist while following her husband’s Air Force career from place to place around the country. She shared her Catholic faith with the people around her by getting involved in her parish however she could.

Gonthier said she shares her faith “first of all by living it,” but she started out as a catechist and then became involved in the Altar and Rosary Society. From there, she became a director of religious education and also got involved with family ministry and became a lay minister, a youth director, and a catechist trainer.

“If there was a need and I was able to help, I offered,” she said. “People who know me know I don’t do things kind of. I throw myself into it. It’s that Irish background.”

Gonthier said her efforts to share her faith with others relate back to the faith she experienced as a child and still experiences today.

“I want for others what I grew up with and still feel today,” she said. “Too often, it seems like our faith is becoming more and more obscure. It’s something that in its simplest form, I want to bring that light and interest especially to the youth.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has offered a challenge Gonthier has been able to meet with her passion for serving God and His people and “a really good team of catechists,” she said.

With health issues among her group, both with the children and the catechists, Gonthier said the group didn’t feel comfortable meeting in person at the parish center. So, she reached out to the diocese and to Google to receive permission to use Google Classroom to continue catechism classes virtually.

“People kept saying I couldn’t. Why can’t I? We are education. We are offering education,” she said. “We did all the proper documents, and we have Google Classroom set up for our program so we could communicate with everybody.”

Again, despite the obstacles toward hosting catechism classes virtually, Gonthier felt driven by her desire to serve God and His people.

“I didn’t give up because I knew the Lord wanted it. I knew we needed it,” she said. “This is our way of communicating with our families. In a lot of ways, it’s helped us communicate even more out of need.”

To strengthen her own faith, Gonthier jokes that she and Bishop Robert Barron, an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and author, speaker and theologian, “are close friends,” as she regularly and avidly consumes his materials regardless of the format, or time of year.

“I don’t get enough of him. There’s such a spiritual drive in him that I connect with,” she said. “He has that interest too. He wants to help people to come to understand their faith, not just think their living it.”

She also points to the work of Catholic authors such as Matthew Kelly and Scott Hahn, as well as Bishop Barron’s “Word on Fire Bible,” especially the artwork within, as sources she uses to develop her relationship with God.

Gonthier also credits “the people along the way” and the relationships she has made for not only strengthening her faith but also encouraging her desire to serve God and His people.

“Any time that I would’ve had something that could’ve been a road bump, there was either someone or some people that, it’s not that they didn’t allow me to pull away from my faith, they were living their faith, which helped me to live my faith,” she said, adding from her undergraduate years to moving from state to state to her life now people have been there to help grow closer to God. “Somebody believed I had the interest and talked me into it. The Lord has placed people in my way to help me.”

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