Here is our engagement story told from both Derek and my perspective!
Derek and I were both involved with City on a Hill (and still are 😊), the Catholic Young Adult community in Kansas City. He was in a Band of Brothers (BoB) men’s small group and I was in a Sisterhood women’s small group. I had a friend in his BoB group and one of the girls in my group was married to another guy in his group. I thought it would be fun for us to all hang out, so I threw an Advent party in December of 2016.
Rolling up to the party I was pretty nervous. I don’t like people, so meeting a bunch of girls for dinner was kind of out of my comfort zone. Dinner was only slightly awkward, as one can imagine a group of millennials sitting down without their phones would be. But the part that sticks out in my memory the most is when Kels asked if we could pray a rosary. After the night concluded, I didn’t ever revisit that night until much later.
Meanwhile, in my Sisterhood group, I was telling all the girls how much I wanted a seminarian (sem) friend. A lot of my friends had friends discerning the vocation of priesthood who they would talk all things Catholic with and pray for each other. It was all the rage and it seemed like I was missing out, so the girls were on the hunt for me to have a sem friend. God was definitely listening in on our conversation because a little bit later, I found out that Derek was entering seminary. Our groups decided to throw him a going to seminary party. Finally, my chance to have a sem friend! I made my move and asked him to be my sem friend. Confused, he asked “what’s a sem friend?” I answered with something along the lines of you can answer all my Catholic questions since you’ll be in theology classes and we can pray for each other. Then he said, “so I’ll be your walking Catechism?” Yeah, basically. And that was when I became a cool kid with a sem friend (also, if you haven’t notice, I don’t have a sem friend anymore and I’m on the lookout for another). At the end of the night, he asked me for my business card (nerd alert). Of course, I had my business card on me (double nerd alert), so I gave it to him.
While packing all my stuff to head off to sem I decided to fulfill the duties that I had promised this young, impressionable girl. Being a priest in training, I couldn’t just ignore her. But being sarcastic, I also couldn’t be boring about it either. So I drafted up a mock contract in a text and sent it to her. I listed out services that I would provide as a “sem friend.” She loved it.
Over the course of my studies, we grew deeper and deeper in our friendship. Never before had I experienced a friendship such as this. It was so deeply rooted in our love of Christ and our pursuit of sainthood. Our conversations got longer and more frequent as we grew in a pure friendship; one that wasn’t geared towards a hopeful outlook of dating, as I was fully committed to my vocation path. However, this eventually presented a particular challenge for me as I was actively discerning God’s call for me to become a priest, since I enjoyed talking to Kelly so much.
Remember that mock contract he texted me? Well he took it a step further and typed a legit Seminarian Friend contract; he even made me sign and date it. All in all, it was very refreshing getting to know Der as a brother in Christ with no ulterior motives. As our friendship progressed, I kept sensing the lack of peace he had with his vocation. I decided to do a St. Joseph novena for him to help him with his discernment. As always, St. Joseph came in clutch.
As Providence would have it, I discerned that God was not calling me to be a priest, with the guidance of my formators and spiritual directors of course!
Since Der was no longer in sem, a termination to our contract was in order and a new contract for normal friends was drafted. Signed and dated.
Pursuing Kels took little added discernment. Once she learned that I had discerned out we talked about our mutual feelings for each other and how we each desired a more intimate relationship. Our exclusive relationship started on some rocky soil as I spent the summer as a missionary teaching Totus Tuus, a summer faith camp for elementary kids. While this presented many obstacles to our relationship, it also strengthened our resolve to strive towards marriage. Our relationship continued to progress as one would expect. I secured a new job and moved back to KC (shout out to Mark Sappington for the accommodations). We began to spend ever increasing time together; whether it was building the habit of going to daily Mass before work, going to explore the new art exhibits at the Nelson Atkins, or eating at Chick-Fil-A for the third time that week, we always desired to spend time with each other. I was primarily happy to find someone who would engage me in my more philosophical debates!
I knew marrying Kels had always been on the table, but I felt particularly called to more actively pray about it. St. Joseph has been the patron saint of our relationship, and since Kels had prayed a Novena to him for me to discern whether or not God was calling me to the priesthood, I figured his intercession would be just as impactful in helping me discern whether or not I should propose to her. On the first day of the Novena I became particularly convicted after some time in prayer and a random encounter with a stranger. It then became a frantic race to figure out a way to propose to her without her finding out.
We had a trip to Charleston, SC planned and as the trip drew near, the idea of Der proposing slipped into my head. On our way there, I got a call from my dad. When I answered, he asked me if everything was okay because Derek called him and he wanted to make sure I was okay. Being the Sherlock Holmes that I am, I knew that the idea of him proposing on the trip was right. Der was in the bathroom when this all went down, so I tried to play it cool like no big deal, my dad called, but he knows me so well and he knew I knew. All he said was “dang it.” The whole trip I was just waiting from him to get down on one knee, so of course he waited until the last day of our trip. As we strolled the Magnolia Gardens, I was thinking to myself literally any second now. When it was time to go, he asked me to talk a picture with him. Okay this is for sure it, right? My head rested on his chest for the pictures and I could hear his heart rate increasing. And then he said “I have a surprise for you.” He pulls out some papers that said Fiancé Contract. I started to cry and skimmed through the contract. He got down on one knee, almost going down on the wrong knee (#CatholicBoyProbs) and asked me to marry him. After I said yes, he asked me if I was sure because I can’t go back. I actually read the contract later on, but still haven’t signed it yet (so our engagement might not be legit).
We’re excited to turn our contract into a covenant! God has been first and foremost in our relationship and we pray that it will be no different in our marriage. St. Joseph, pray for us!