In the summers of 2017 and 2018 I had the opportunity to go on mission to the remote villages of Alakanuk and Mountain Village, Alaska. Katrine is one girl that I met and developed a friendship with. This past summer, my fellow missionaries and I ran into her in Mountain Village and it came as a shock to all of us. There were a few missionaries, like myself, who had been to Alakanuk in 2017 where we had met first her. Katrine and her younger brother were living in Mountain Village with a foster family and were excited and eager to learn about Jesus and the Church with us, as they remembered how much they enjoyed our mission in Alakanuk.
I developed a relationship with Katrine and we had some long conversations over the two weeks we were there. She sat close to me during Mass, the Rosary, and the Divine Mercy Chaplet nearly every day. One day, I witnessed and an incredible conversion within her. We were sitting in the church for Mass and she whispered to me “What’s that white circle thing called again?" “The Eucharist. That’s Jesus.” I told her. We had explained the Eucharist the best way that we could so that they could understand. She also remembered some from the previous summer. She then asked if she could receive her first Eucharist. I was amazed at how this 9-year-old had such a strong desire for the Sacrament. It was incredible to see someone with such a desire and belief; a desire I didn’t have at that age. After talking it over with her, we suggested she talked to her foster parents about receiving First Communion. She expressed to me that she was scared to talk to them because her foster parents weren’t Catholic. Another missionary and I offered to go with her, and she agreed.
We went later that day to their house. Katrine was very quiet on our walk over, and we asked her if she wanted us to talk first or if she wanted to. We said we were willing to help her talk to them, but that she had to be the one that told them that receiving First Communion was something she really wanted to do. Initially, she wanted us to speak first, but once we arrived she proclaimed that she would talk to them first.
We were amazed and inspired by Katrine’s strength. We had given her the opportunity to speak for herself about receiving First Communion and she was almost joyfully doing so! She really owned her decision. We waited impatiently while she went inside to talk with her foster parent. Not too long after, she returned, beaming with joy and excitement. Her foster mother was more than happy for Katrine to have the opportunity to receive First Communion.
Her mother explained that she had fostered many kids, and although she was of another Christian denomination, did what she could for Catholic kids to continue in the faith of their parents. She said she was as supportive as she could be, but many kids did not show interest in going further with their sacraments or she never knew who to talk to about it. She was glad that Katrine had been able to build a relationship with someone who would encourage her to grow in the faith.
It was incredibly moving to me and many of the other missionaries to see Katrine follow through on her desire by talking to her foster parents, and it was an honor for me to be a part of her taking that step toward First Communion. God does so much on mission for the people of the villages, but often times we simply have to trust that there are fruits of our work that we just haven’t seen. Katrine is one example of seeing first hand that bringing Jesus to these adults, teens, and children really changes and impacts lives in the most beautiful ways.