Niagara Falls resident joins Church for late husband
When her husband died, Janelle Zasucha was in the midst of the process of joining the Catholic faith. She did it for her two young sons, but also did it for her late husband, Rob.
Raised in a non-denominational family that stopped attending services when she was a teenager, Janelle had been thinking about joining the Catholic faith after the birth of her sons Leo, 9, and Jack, 5. After Rob passed away from colon cancer in July 2022, she decided to follow through on her plan.
“I think it was different when my husband was here and (the boys) had someone who was raised in the faith and knew if they had questions about what they were doing, I could just be like, ‘OK, let’s ask Dad. He knows what’s happening,’” Janelle explained. “When he got sick, I felt like I was more interested. I don’t think it was just because he was sick.”
Wanting her children to continue to grow up in the faith, Janelle joined the RCIA program at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Niagara Falls, where the family attended Mass.
“It wasn’t the greatest fit for me,” she admitted, noting the other students were much younger than her and the lessons tended to focus more on the historical aspect of the Church. “With Rob being sick and then him passing away, I think I wanted to know more about the Scripture of the religion and not just like when it came to be and dates. I get dates are important, but it wasn’t really what I was looking for. I wanted the more spiritual version of it.”
Her sister, who joined the faith seven years ago, suggested her parish, St. Peter’s in Lewiston.
“I felt a much better connection with the way that they presented RCIA. So, I continued with him there. It’s definitely been a very great experience. I feel like I’ve become closer with the Lord because of this and with my husband at the same time.”
Beginning last November, Janelle experienced a few weeks of one-on-ones with St. Peter’s pastor Father Cole Webster and then met with the two other catechumens.
“I think that’s probably why I felt a little more connected,” Janelle said. “We’re closer in age and life experience. We all have families, you know. I felt (St. Vincent’s) was more just like a class, where this one was more like conversations. And I think that’s what I needed; to be able to express what I was feeling and how I was dealing with my grief. I think that definitely helped a lot; being able to somehow connect the Scriptures that we were reading and how it was helping me heal a little bit. It’s a good thing.”
The four months of classes helped Janelle get through her grief by showing her that God has a plan.
“We may just never know what His plan is, but He’s just so willing to always love us and keep going and keep supporting us no matter what happens or what we do,” she said. “I think that’s been my major thing, there’s just unconditional love from God. And that no matter what happens, as long as we are willing to confess and try and change what we’ve done, what we did, or that He’s always there to love us and He’ll never give up on you.
“I think the biggest part is it helps me relate, it helps me have my children relate more. We use Mass a lot. Every week I’m like, ‘You know, when we get to the holy holy holy part, remember, this is when dad’s here. Because you know, all the saints and all the angels, everyone’s here and we’re all praising God together.’ So, I think that that helps them because they want to see their dad so badly, and I can’t do that for them, but at least I can say, ‘Well, every week at church, he’s here with us and we’re doing this together.’ It helps. He’s not suffering anymore. He’s in a better place. His worldly body is not sick. And that helps me get the kids through their emotional days, when I can be like, ‘Yes, Daddy’s body’s not here, but you know, he’s always with us and he’s in heaven with God and he can see you and he knows what’s going on and you can talk to him and if you need to, you can tell Jesus and Jesus will tell Daddy if you think it’s easier that way.’ I think that helps them a lot. What helps me is that I know he’s in heaven, and I know one day I’ll see him again. That’s what helps me.”
Janelle entered into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 8.