Share this story

 | By Nancy Rosebush Schertzing

‘It’s Amazing How Your Life Can Change’

How Ramon and Rosa’s family found their way home to the Church

But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.”– Luke 15:22-24

Their stories were different. Yet when Ramon Rosas heard this Gospel reading in Mass at Cristo Rey Church in Lansing, he felt his father’s rejoicing just like in the prodigal son. “You know how men aren’t supposed to cry?” he asks. “Well, I can tell you I shed some tears in church that day!

“I’m curious, very curious. If I’m not convinced I have found the right answer, I keep looking. My parents raised me Catholic, but when I came to the U.S., I had lots of questions that led me to explore different faiths.

“If there is a God, I wondered, why do all these bad things happen? Why did my father get hit by a bus? Why did my mother die of leukemia even after I used all my savings for her treatments? Why do I struggle for money to feed my children?”

Sitting next to her husband on their couch, Rosa Espinosa nods. “I passed many things in my life since I was a child. My parents died when I was 12, leaving me to care for my younger brother and sister in the home of my grandmother and aunt.

“They gave us housing and food, but no love and no faith. I got a side hug once in a while. Every Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day, people would ask, “Where is your mom?’ or ‘Where is your dad?’ I felt so angry when I got that question!

“In my home state of Guerrero, Mexico, the violence is horrible – killings, extortion. It was a good place to put behind me. I came to the States as a young woman and began to make a life of my own.

“One evening on my birthday, I decided to celebrate with my sister and friends at Cristo Rey’s Fiesta. Ramon danced with my sister and asked her, ‘Who is that girl you’re with?’ When he asked me out, I told him I was busy learning English,” Rosa laughs.

“It was not love at first sight. But we built a beautiful life together. We were married in a civil ceremony at the County Clerk’s Office.

“We’ve had some difficult times, and I had questions for God, too. ‘Why did you leave me alone? Will you protect my family?’ I say, ‘God, please don’t forget me. Teach me and let me look where you are.’

“I have a friend who told me ... ‘You need to go back to your [original] religion church. ... You need to go to the Church. Go to Wednesday Mass at Cristo Rey and get the sacrament of anointing of the sick.’

“So I went. My legs felt so heavy – like I was walking in mud. But when Father Fred [Thelen] made the sign of the cross with oil on my forehead, I prayed, ‘God, please forgive me. I have been so far away from you.’

”Ramon smiles and jumps in: “I had also been asking God, please give me a signal for how to find these answers. When we went to Cristo Rey and Father Fred read the Gospel reading on the prodigal son, it suddenly all made sense. You know that feeling that tells you, everything is going to be alright? That was what brought tears to my eyes!

“Since we went back to the Church, things have changed. We have started our own business – R&R Roofing. (R&R is for Rosa and Ramon.) We take pride in showing our kids we work hard to pay for things they need. We are making it ourselves, even though we didn’t always know how we would. There’s days when my wallet is empty and Rosa is struggling to get food for our kids. Then I get this call – ‘Would you be willing to do this job?”

Rosa agrees. “Now when I see Jesus’ face, I feel full. We don’t have food always, but we have peace. Now that I know God’s word, I recognize I made a lot of mistakes. But each day I pray, ‘God please forgive me.’ And I teach my children about him – that is the most important thing.

“Miracles do happen! After two miscarriages, God answered my longing for a baby. My pregnancy was difficult with gestational diabetes and complications from the insulin my doctor prescribed. Despite panic attacks and so many worries, Joanna Carolina Rosas came into our family healthy and beautiful.

“JoJo was baptized with her sister, Andrea Isabell, at Easter Vigil Mass last year. Our whole family went through RCIA together! At that same Mass, our older children, Jessica Monserrat and Ramon Ignacio, also made their first Communion and confirmation.

“Now my brother and my sister are preparing to return to the Church. They will celebrate the sacraments at Cristo Rey’s Easter Vigil. But that’s not the end!”

Ramon beams next to Rosa and says, “You are welcome to come to our wedding May 2 at Cristo Rey. Mass at 2:00, and then a big celebration!

“There are miracles. Everybody gets answers if you ask. So much is different from when we were living in our questions, trying other religions. Now everything makes sense. Somehow, every single time I wonder, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I going to do now?’ things work out.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I interviewed Ramon and Rosa for this story, COVID-19 was unknown. By May, however, it was ravaging lives and threatening anyone in large gatherings. The May 2 wedding plans had to be changed. But just as Ramon said, things worked out. He asked me to close their story with the following message:

“After all the odds, we were able to receive God’s blessing on May 30. It was the most beautiful wedding ceremony, and with only a few friends and family members. It is amazing how your life can change if you put your faith in our heavenly Father and let him guide you to him.”