We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Anne and Mike Ference have joyfully served as ambassadors for Christ for over thirty years. The Middleburg Heights couple have demonstrated their strong passion for their faith through the Catholic education of both children and adults. Through their enthusiasm and dedication, Anne and Mike are truly amazing witnesses for Jesus and have brought many into His fold.
Born in Cleveland, Anne Ference’s family moved to Brook Park when she was five years of age. Her parents were founding members of Saint John Bosco Church. “We first attended the Greenbrier School Church,” she recalled. “When the new church was built, I was amazed at how beautiful it was!” Anne attended grades five and six at the new SJB school, and then continued her education in public schools. A graduate of Midpark High School, she later worked in business and then became stay-at-home Mom.
Mike Ference was also born in Cleveland where his family attended St. Josaphat and St. Columbkille Catholic Churches. After his family moved to Brook Park, they joined Assumption Church and later St. Peter of the Apostles Church (which is now Mary Queen of the Apostles Church). Following graduation from Midpark High School, Mike obtained a degree in Communications from Cleveland State University. He served as Publisher of a wide-circulating industrial trade magazine at Penton Publishing and later WTWH Media.
This vibrant couple actually met as teenagers while they were both working at the Brook Park recreation center. Married at SJB over 44 years ago, they have two daughters, one son, and six grandchildren. In 1999, Mike returned to CSU and earned a degree in Mathematics, which was always a field of great interest for him. He now tutors GED students through the “Seeds of Literacy” and Varsity Tutors programs. Mike also serves as a councilman for the city of Middleburg Heights.
In 1989, the Ferences began to work in SJB’s PSR Ministry. Anne first supervised the PSR office aides and eventually became the PSR secretary. Mike taught the eighth grade PSR Confirmation classes. Learning that St. Bartholomew’s PSR program required help, Anne obtained Parish Catechetical Leader Certification through the Diocese of Cleveland. For the next 17 years, Anne managed St. Bartholomew’s PSR program while Mike taught in the classroom. “It was challenging, but we found some creative ways to keep the kids interested,” remembers Mike.
After retiring from PSR instruction in 2018, Anne and Mike approached Fr. Jurcak about other volunteer opportunities at SJB. Aware of their strengths in religious education, he asked the couple to lead a new Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program. Anne and Mike now serve on a Core Team for RCIA instruction along with members from St. Bridget of Kildare and Mary Queen of the Apostles Churches. The Core Team consists of team leaders and clergy members from each of the three Parishes. The next session of the RCIA program will commence on Monday, September 12. The classes are held each Monday evening from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at St. Bridget Church. The RCIA program culminates with administration of sacraments on Holy Saturday evening.
To become an RCIA catechumen, one must first approach his or her Pastor to discuss becoming a Catholic. Following the initial interview, the catechumen commences a seven-month program of enlightening religious instruction. According to Anne, “The first three months are dedicated to learning the history of the Church, beginning with the Old Testament and proceeding all the way through Christ’s ministry on earth.” The next four months are spent learning about the purposes and graces of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. The instructors follow “Symbolon” religious instruction materials which are available through the “Formed” publications. Besides stimulating lectures, RCIA classes feature videos, guest speakers from each parish, and tours of churches. Anne and Mike also offer a “Presentation of Prayers” in which prayers are not just taught but also explained in detail for greater appreciation. For example, Deacon Roger discusses how the Rosary and Marian Devotions bring Mary to life for each of us. Moreover, group discussions are vital to the RCIA ministry. As Mike noted, “The more questions the catechumens ask, the more we all learn.”
Upon successful completion of the RCIA instruction, catechumens who have never been baptized will receive their Baptism, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. Candidates who have been baptized through other Christian denominations need not be baptized a second time, as the Catholic Church recognizes their initiation. These candidates will encounter the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
Summing up their mission, Anne notes, “It is so important for people to learn that Catholicism traces its roots directly back to Jesus and His apostles.” Adds Mike, “Evangelization is very difficult, but we all grow in understanding as a group”. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Church exists for nothing else but to draw others into Christ.” May we as a parish remember to pray for catechumens and candidates to have the strength to always follow Christ.
Submitted by Christine and Bob Martuch