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‘He is there with you even in the bad times’

May 19, 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

PLATTSBURGH – From growing up in Protestant services on military bases around the country to being solid in her Catholic faith and the mother of a seminarian now as an adult, Beth Carlin said she has relied on her faith throughout her whole life.

“I’ve always relied on my faith, God, my higher power,” said Carlin, who lives in Plattsburgh.

Carlin said she was raised Presbyterian, but she noted military bases often use the same church building for different services, so she grew up going to Protestant services in North Carolina and elsewhere. Still, this experience helped her develop a solid faith that sustained her when her parents divorced when she and her brother were teenagers.

“We didn’t have an easy life. It’s not that my parents weren’t wonderful or whatever, but they just had their own issues,” she said. “So, I’ve always turned to God, and I was always involved in the youth groups of the churches we were at.”

Because her mother was always searching in religion – “even though she was Presbyterian, she was always searching for something,” Carlin said.

Carlin jokes she was baptized at least four times since she was baptized anew every time her mother tried out a different faith.

But it was when Carlin got married to her Catholic husband and they started going to Mass together that Carlin became Catholic.

Carlin’s husband, James, had been married before, so they needed to have that marriage annulled in order to have their marriage blessed in their church. At that point, Carlin wanted to convert since they were raising their son, Leagon, in the Catholic Church, and she wanted to be a part of her husband and son’s faith.

“I found such a comfort in the Catholic Mass when I started going,” she said. “It’s always the same and you knew exactly at which point what you were doing, and you were going to hear Scripture. … We always have Scripture. We always have the Eucharist. … That’s when the journey started, my Catholic journey.”

Now, Leagon – a seminarian who will be ordained a transitional deacon later this year – has influenced his mother’s faith more than she has influenced his, she said. Carlin added her husband is in the diaconate program and will soon be ordained a permanent deacon.

“He’s (Leagon) helped me more along in my faith rather than the other way around because he grew up with it,” she said. “As he started maturing and deciding what he was going to do, it’s made me stronger and wanting to make sure I’m going to Mass and doing a holy hour if it’s available and adoration. It’s helped my faith rather than the other way around.”

When it comes to sharing her faith with others, Carlin said she likes to do that more by how she lives than by what she says. She uses a quote attributed to St. Francis to encourage her in this regard: “Preach the Gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.”

Working in local government and public service for the City of Plattsburgh, Carlin noted much of the discussion in her office revolves around politics rather than religion – “it’s all government, and it’s professional,” she said. Still, she tries to influence others through her actions, and she certainly doesn’t hide the fact that she is Catholic; in fact, she added, she has the church calendar on her desk where people can see it.

That influence became apparent when a coworker – a peripheral coworker, she noted, instead of the person at the next desk or cubicle – brought back a rosary from the Vatican to give to her.

“That’s what I try to do. I’ve never been one that can talk eloquently or all that kind of stuff, but definitely if somebody asks me and everybody knows,” Carlin said, adding people will come into the office and talk about their children in college so she will talk about her son in seminary. “I get things like that all the time.”

Still feeling like she is new in her Catholic faith, although she has been practicing for more than 20 years, Carlin said she enjoys going to Mass every week and experiencing the Eucharist, among other spiritual practices.

“It’s very real to me every single time when I go to Mass and say, ‘Please let me have this hour of quiet,’” she said. “I try every day to say a prayer in the morning or in the evening sometimes just to connect, even if it’s not always wanting something, just there with God. I do try to do the rosary sometimes.”

Another favorite spiritual practice is joining her husband and his fellow diaconate candidates for virtual evening prayer.

“I always join in that when I’m home at the same time they’re doing it,” Carlin said. “That has been such a wonderful blessing to have that with everybody. It keeps you connected but also to have the prayer and the community with everyone.”

A time when Carlin really relied on her faith was when her parents were going through their struggles and divorce; Carlin, 14 at the time, lived with their mother while her brother, then 17, lived with their father because the siblings felt each of them should stay with one of the parents.

“I know I turned to God a lot just to help me get through that,” Carlin said. “My mom had some mental illness, so I had to turn to Him a lot, basically turn to my faith.”

Carlin said her mother struggled with severe mental illness, and she took care of her mother from the time she was 13 until her mother forced her to leave at 19. Carlin described her mother as “very religious” and always changing churches and religions whenever she perceived someone was being mean or hypocritical toward her.

“I feel proud and fortunate that I didn’t turn away from religion because I equated it with mental illness,” Carlin said. “I relied heavily on my faith and daily prayer with Jesus and know that is the only way I survived, became a productive member of society, found love, marriage and children.”

Later in life, Carlin said, her faith helped her to be a good parent, not only to her own son but to the two children from her husband’s first marriage.

“You always are concerned for your children. Your focus changes,” she said. “That’s (faith) gotten me through a lot of struggles and worry and those kinds of things and normal everyday life.”

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Carlin said her faith has been something she cherishes. She particularly relished watching Mass when churches were not open, spending time with her husband – and son, when he was home – and sitting down together to experience God and stay connected to Him.

“I don’t know how you can get through everything we’re going through (without faith),” she said. “You have to keep that faith. That’s what I have to keep thinking of, that He is there with you even in the bad times.”

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