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Parents convert after Catholic school enrollment

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

POCAHONTAS – Having a child enrolled in a Catholic school helped one Pocahontas family make the choice to join the Catholic Church.

While not Catholic at the time, Valerie and Robert Stuhrenberg opted to start their daughter, Ally, as a kindergartner at Pocahontas Catholic because they had heard great reports about the school from Valerie’s older sister who had sent her children there.

“It was not only the quality of education, but the values they teach,” Valerie said. “There is so much extra they get.”

She explained they opted to join the church for several reasons. First of all, their religious beliefs were in line with Catholic traditions and teachings.

“Some of it was what Ally brought home and I had gone to some of the school Masses,” said Valerie, who added that her sister had converted to Catholicism after her children had started at the Catholic school.

Robert pointed out that he also had ties to the Catholic Church. His father’s family was Catholic, but he didn’t practice or follow it. However, many of his dad’s siblings still practice the faith, and to the Stuhrenbergs’ surprise, four of them showed up at the church when they joined.

“I like the traditions of the Catholic Church,” said Robert, who is a graduate of Gilmore City. “They don’t waver. I respect that.”

He definitely sees the tie between the family joining the church and the children enrolled in school. Robert said Ally was coming home and talking about what she was learning.

“We wanted to tie it all together and be part of it,” Robert said. “We didn’t just want the children to be part of the Catholic school. We wanted them to do everything – the religion side of it and the academic side.”

They converted to Catholicism from being members in the Methodist Church when Ally was in the first grade. That way they could learn about the Catholic Church together.

The Stuhrenbergs now have two children at Pocahontas Catholic School. Ally is a fourth grader and Trevor is a first grader.

Robert said they receive an excellent education – both academic and faith-based.

“There is such a fundamental level of faith that they see every day at the Catholic school,” Valerie said.

Last year while driving past the public school, she recalled how Trevor, who was just a kindergartner at the time, had commented how sad it was they didn’t let the children pray. That comment really touched Valerie.

“How awesome it is that our kids can pray in school? They should have that – they need that core value system. To me, that has always been so important,” Valerie said.

They are pleased the children have the chance to attend school Masses and be involved in ministry. The Stuhrenbergs credited the school for instilling confidence in Ally, which has enabled her to cantor at weekend Masses.

“She can get up in front of a church and sing. To me that’s a skill she has learned,” Valerie said. “To be able to get up in front of people and not be super nervous is a skill she has learned from the time she was in kindergarten – being involved in the school Masses at that age. From the time they are in kindergarten they are involved at Mass, so making the transition from being up in front of a school to being up in front of a congregation is seamless.”

The Stuhrenbergs, who are greeters at the church and volunteer at the school, have found Pocahontas Catholic and Resurrection Parish to be very welcoming.

“Being in a small town, it’s a pretty close-knit group,” Robert said.

The Stuhrenbergs praised the staff and administration at the school.

“They are awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier.”

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