Vineyard serves as a parable for RCIA candidates

LaPORTE – Although her beaming smile was covered by her COVID-19 mask, the tears that formed in her eyes were a tell-tale sign of Lisa Schreiber’s joy. Once back in the pew, she whispered, “I’m home” as she embraced her sponsor.
    Schreiber, along with her future stepson, Edward Keiley, were part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults group received into the church during the Pentecost Vigil Mass at Sacred Heart in LaPorte on May 30.
    “I’m thrilled. It was so hard to wait, and I understand why we had to wait. But to hear Father Ian (Williams) say, ‘Welcome Home’ at the Mass made me feel so good. It was overwhelming,” said Schreiber.
    The group had to wait as churches throughout the Diocese of Gary remained closed to the public on the Easter Vigil due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
    “It’s going to be something I will always remember. Pentecost is going to be my anniversary date. The Holy Spirit really touched us that day,” said Schreiber.
    For Schreiber, the actual wait was closer to 10 years after she left another religious denomination. “I was looking for a church with something different, something more,” she said.
     She began volunteering with Sacred Heart parishioners whom she knew and she enjoyed it. She said that she felt so comfortable she started attending Masses and her faith “grew from there.”
    Schreiber described how close her RCIA group was and that sharing the journey with Edward made her journey extra special. 
    “It helped open up that Catholic conversation by talking about your faith. It’s difficult for most people, especially teenagers, but it opened up that pathway to talk about it regularly,” Schreiber said. “I learned so much in RCIA. I highly recommend going through it, even if you’ve been a Catholic all your life. It’s an opportunity to learn more about your faith.”
    For Edward, it gave him a strong faith foundation as he starts college this fall.
    Schreiber added that since Edward’s sponsor was his grandmother, Judy Wentworth, the threesome were able to study together and engage in “interesting conversations. It was a neat bonding time for us.”
    At the Keiley homestead, located in the far eastern part of LaPorte County, the family has transformed a hobby into a family business that gives them plenty of bonding time.
    Schreiber’s fiancé, Ed Keiley, planted 25 grapevines for his boys, Edward, 19, and Joseph, 17, nearly 10 years ago in an attempt to get them interested in gardening. Year after year more vines were planted until currently they have a total of 2,500 varieties of red and white grapevines in the six-acre vineyard. 
    The laborers may be few in their vineyard but as Ed sees it, “It’s a business, but it’s also a passion. It’s labor, but there is a tangible reward as you see the fruits of your labor.”
    The planting, pruning, fertilizing, spraying and harvesting is all done by hand. Once harvested, the grapes are taken to a building on the farm where they are pressed, fermented and the wine is bottled on-site. 
    The vineyard became an official business in 2018. Its main market now is in the Chicago area, but they are trying to break into the local market.
    It’s “a process that takes you your whole life. You’re always learning,” said Ed, adding that Purdue University and Michigan State University are just a couple of resources which supplied guidance, support and assistance to help the family navigate through the learning process. “It’s like a path in life. You have to go through doors and see what works and work through mistakes and problems to eventually get the results that end up with a good bottle of wine,” said Ed.
    Both Keiley and Schreiber compared the vineyard process to a faith life – a continuous process. 
    Schreiber recalled that throughout the RCIA, the class was reminded that faith formation doesn’t end when they receive their sacraments, but is a lifelong, continuous process.
    “It’s amazing. It’s a transformation. You start with a grape and transform it into wine. Then at Mass, the priest transforms the wine into Precious Blood,” said Ed. “I’m making something used in the sacraments. That’s a pretty powerful statement.”
    Although they’re not making altar wine, they are looking into it. Ed feels the quantity for production would be a concern right now. 
    Throughout the Bible there are several references to vines, vineyard and wine, including in the Gospel of John, where Jesus refers to himself as “The True Vine.” Ed compared the nurturing they provide the grapevines to how Christ nurtures us – the pruning, feeding and providing what we need, like the grapevines, to be fruitful.
    Now that she’s “home” in the Catholic Church and a worker in Christ’s vineyard, Schreiber acknowledges that she is, “a servant of Christ. I’m looking forward to serving with the parish, getting to know everyone and serving others.”