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'God calls us to share our faith'

For 20 years, Margo Eichenberg has welcomed new Catholics as an RCIA sponsor

by Paul Kopenkoskey | Photography by Chris Jensen

Margo Eichenberg received a telephone call 10 years ago that made her heart skip a beat. Her son Thomas Jr. had suffered a severe heart attack at age 42, hospital personnel in Tennessee informed her. “I was at work that day and got the message he was in the emergency room and they didn’t know if they
could keep him alive,” recalls Margo, who lives in Reed City with her husband of 53 years, Thomas.

Margo, her husband, daughter and younger son made the overnight drive to Chattanooga not knowing if
Thomas would still be alive when they arrived. Along the way, peace swept over Margo with an assurance the Lord was the centerpiece of hope and healing, she says.

“God was with us every mile of the way,” recalls Margo. “He held us all together because I had reason to believe he wasn’t ready to take our son.”

Thomas Jr. made a full recovery. Margo freely acknowledges her Catholic faith got her through this and many other valleys of life in her now 72 years of living. And it’s partly for that reason that she does her
part to let Christ’s light shine before others in a special way.

About two decades ago, Margo started to serve as a sponsor to people who are on their journey to being initiated in the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

As an RCIA sponsor for the St. Philip Neri Parish in Reed City (a sister parish to St. Anne in Paris), Margo
is assigned to either a candidate (baptized adult or child) or catechumen (unbaptized adult or child).

Along the way before they become full members of the Church, sponsors listen and pray with candidates
and catechumens, answer their questions or find the appropriate person who can. Sponsors in a real way walk with a candidate or catechumen on their journey to initiation into the Catholic Church.

Margo is quick to say the people she meets enrich her life as well. “It opens you up to gaining new in-
sight from all the people I meet,” says Margo. “God calls us to share our faith and that, for me, is the main purpose in my life. You reap more benefits than you sow. It’s not really me doing it, it’s God. It’s so important to me to share with my brothers and sisters.”

Margo capably serves as a touchstone of Jesus’ love because her faith is more than surface-deep, says Beth Dake, faith formation director at St. Phillip Neri and St. Anne.

“Margo can share her faith very well. She’s very open with her kindness and knows how to meet people
while on their journey,” says Beth. “She’s a faith-filled woman and a very delightful, positive person. She can answer questions of the Catholic Church or about discipleship.

“She introduces others in the parish and prays for them during the process,” adds Beth. “And if they don’t ask questions at the RCIA meetings, they always can call her, so there’s a lot of support. [Becoming Catholic] can be a long journey for some people, so a sponsor always comes with them.”

Margo understands the journey of converting to Catholicism. She did so a year and a half after marrying
her husband, whom she still considers one of “my best examples” of living the faith. “My folks weren’t Catholic, but they were always giving and they imparted that to me, and I feel grateful for that,” says Margo. “But I wanted more and found myself still searching.

“Living my faith hasn’t been a fast journey, but a slow and contemplating one —and, of course, it’s still ongoing,” adds Margo. “It continues all the time because it’s an active faith.”