Monday, April 16, 2012

In the midst of spiritual warfare after tragedy Colorado woman finds her way to the Catholic Church

 Colorado Catholic Herald

Few people can image going through the trials that Liz Tufte has endured in the past couple of years, but Tufte — who entered the Catholic Church on March 11 at Ave Maria Parish — not only endured but discovered the truths of the Catholic faith.

Tufte began the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA) program at Ave Maria last August — a little over a year after she and her two young daughters lost her husband Mike to suicide in April 2010.

“After witnessing one of the more horrific things in my life, I needed to figure out what was important,” Tufte told Bishop Michael Sheridan during an interview for his radio show, Bishop Sheridan Presents, which airs on KFEL 970 AM.

Tufte, a Michigan native, was baptized and raised in the Lutheran church, but when she and her parents moved to Colorado in 1994 as she was starting high school, the family didn’t have an easy time finding a spiritual home.

“My high school years were kind of up in the air,” Tufte said. The family eventually began attending a Lutheran church in Highlands Ranch and became friends with the pastor.

Her husband Mike, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, was raised Catholic. When the couple met in 2000 and later got engaged, he started attending Tufte’s church.

“I feel guilty and sad now that I was the one who took him away from the Catholic Church, even though it wasn’t intentional,” she said.

The couple eventually began attending a large nondenominational church, but when Tufte became pregnant with their second child in 2009, they began to question the fact that the church did not perform infant baptisms and realized that they wanted something more rooted in tradition.

“We started to question what they believed and from where did they derive their authority. We said, ‘This is great and fun, but what does this represent?’ We started going back to our traditional roots. We wanted the sacraments,” Tufte said.

But before they could explore their faith further, circumstances intervened. Shortly after Tufte gave birth to her second daughter in April 2010, her husband Mike — who had left the Air Force and was working as an engineer — began to exhibit symptoms of extreme anxiety. Tufte said that the change in her husband’s behavior at that time was sudden and completely out of character.

“He was the most level-headed, responsible man you could ever meet,” Tufte said.

As doctors rapidly switched him from one drug to another in an attempt to relieve his symptoms, he only felt worse.

“That roller-coaster of (medications) can be a death sentence,” said Tufte, who is a nurse. “He was not himself. All of this darkness consumed him.”

One morning, she returned home to find that Mike had taken his life, and all of a sudden she was a single parent who had to take care of two daughters on her own.  In the midst of tragedy, however, Tufte said that she felt supported by a flood of grace.

“When Mike’s light went out, the Holy Spirit just came upon me and my faith has never been stronger,” she said. “I was literally lifted and floated for those first six months.”

One of the people that helped guide Tufte to the Catholic Church was her older brother, a physician living in Indiana who had converted to Catholicism several years prior. He was also the one that suggested that she have her house blessed after her husband’s death, leading to her first meeting with Ave Maria pastor Father Gus Stewart.

“I could sense the spiritual warfare that took place. It really did make that heaviness go away,” when Father Stewart sprinkled holy water throughout the home, Tufte said.

But it was being in the presence of the Eucharist that really drew Tufte into full communion with the church, she said.

“It’s that sense of desire,” she said, adding that she makes a point to spend time in Eucharistic adoration regularly.
“I hate leaving. It is extremely powerful,” Tufte said.