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 | By Nancy Rosebush Schertzing

After a Called and Gifted workshop, Katrina uses her gifts ‘to bring Christ more fully into the world’

Katrina Iamarino’s story begins with an ending.

“I earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown and a law degree from Notre Dame. After graduation, I went to work protecting vulnerable children in ‘D.C. and Lansing. When my husband, Christopher, and I were blessed with Matthew just 11 months after our wedding, I could not imagine anything more important than protecting and raising him.

“I asked my father what he would think if I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. He told me, ‘Katrina, no time spent on a child is time wasted.’ Though I experienced some backlash from others, my husband and I decided I would dedicate my time to raising our son. Two years later, Jesse was born, and I settled into the phase of life I like to call ‘my quiet years in Nazareth.’

“When our boys were 3 and 1, my father passed away. He and my mom had raised me in the Catholic faith, but I had fallen away. I honestly don’t think I attended Mass more than a handful of times in my college years. I remember mourning my father, standing in my living room. And I said out loud: ‘God I believe in you. I know you created me for some purpose, and I think it has something to do with being a wife and a mother. Show me what you want.’

“Boy! Be careful about asking something like that from God, because you get an answer in no uncertain terms! A short time later, I was reading an essay, I believe by Catholic writer Amy Welborn, who was imagining a conversation with God. ‘I see you are a reader,’ God said to her. ‘Have you ever read my book?’

“That ignited a fire in me! I’ve always loved immersing myself in books, so I visited a Catholic bookstore in a nearby town and started reading about my faith. I read and read, filling my mind and heart with sacred Scripture and the wisdom of great Catholic thinkers and saints. I even audited classes through Catholic Distance University. I was just so … I just bubble over!

“Before I asked God my question, I would have described myself as a spiritual, not a religious, person. My husband was the good Catholic in our marriage. But as I read, my faith and knowledge of Catholicism grew by leaps and bounds. I became a different person in a short period of time.

“That St. Paul-like conversion was not without some hiccups. Due to some missteps on my part, my family found my intense experience challenging at times. We worked through this together, though, and now they encourage and appreciate my knowledge and passion for Catholicism. They are my biggest cheerleaders.

“Three years after my father’s death, I started a Bible study group at our parish. Later, when we moved back to our hometown, I moved it to our home parish, St. Thomas Aquinas in East Lansing. Teaching people about God and the saints fills me with joy!

“Shortly after we moved to St. Thomas, I was invited to attend a Called and Gifted weekend. Designed by the Catherine of Siena Institute, the program takes us through a process to recognize and understand our charisms – our gifts the Holy Spirit provides then calls us to give away.

“The weekend begins with attendees taking an inventory of our gifts, then walking through a discernment process to decide which are true charisms. The Catherine of Siena Institute suggests that a charism bears fruit when you share it with others. Charisms earn feedback – people thank you for sharing your gifts and often will seek you out for it. Finally, charisms generate joy, or a sense that God created you to share that gift with others.

“Prayer is an essential part of the Called and Gifted process. In order to truly understand and use our charisms, we need to communicate with Christ on a regular basis. It’s fuel for the fire the Holy Spirit is using to light the world and guide us to our greatest potential.

“After attending the Called and Gifted workshop, attendees have an opportunity to meet with an interviewer, who goes through a thorough process to help each person discern which charisms they have been given. Then interviewers ask attendees to choose one charism and commit to working on it for the next two months. To support that work, attendees may choose a saint who also shares that charism and can help them through intercessory prayer. The process is between the attendees and God, knowing that God provides everything we need.

“The more we tap into our charisms, the more joy we experience. That’s what happened for me! I have discerned the charism of knowledge and enrolled in a master of arts in theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. I have almost completed my online degree with a concentration in dogmatic theology. I have loved pursuing my charism and am excited about the opportunities my new degree will open for me.

“Now that my boys are in college, I don’t know what my next step will be. I just know it’s coming, and it will be perfect. God meets us where we are, but loves us too much to leave us there. When we tap into our charisms – our gifts from the Holy Spirit – we feel joy and greater blessing every day we use them to bring Christ more fully into the world.

“God provides everything we need with perfect timing. I look back on my life after making the decision to stay at home with our boys. It wasn’t always easy. There were no paychecks or awards like my classmates were earning. You don’t get to see the fruits of parenting while you’re working at it, and when you’re done you have raised children to leave and step into lives of their own.

“Yet God did so many things for me during my quiet years in Nazareth. Not everyone has the ability to stay at home with their children. My husband and I are both very grateful that I could. I think I have had the chance to evangelize more people as a stay-at-home mom than I could have as a professional. I like to think of it as my ‘call within a call.’

“Life is so transitory. So quick. If we seek God’s will, he’ll provide everything we need to live out our charism and be effective disciples. St. Catherine of Siena said, ‘Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.’ I am so grateful I answered the invitation to Called and Gifted. Because of it, I am working to change the world.”