A little less than 15 years ago, I married my husband, adopted my three oldest kiddos, moved to Dayton and switched churches from St Mary's Our Lady of Guadalupe in Kittanning to St Mary's Mother of God in Yatesboro. Of all of those huge life-altering changes, switching parishes was the hardest decision to make. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it is the truth. I knew on our first date that I was going to marry Brian, not a hard decision. Love at first sight and all of that! Adopting the kids?? Ummmm, no brainer there either. That was also love at first sight. But the decision to move from Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish to Mother of God Parish, that one took a lot of time and thought and prayer. I had been Baptized, made my first Reconciliation, received my First Holy Communion, was Confirmed and finally was married there. It was, in the truest sense of the word, my home parish. But after Brian and I were married and we attended Mother of God a few times, I started to consider it. The church is small and the chairs fan out from the altar in a way that makes you feel as if you are all sitting together around the table. And honestly, that is what the altar truly is, right? The music ministry is amazing and really touched my music loving heart in a special way. But the biggest thing, probably the thing that finalized the decision to switch parishes, was the amazing group of people that attended (and still do) the Mass. We immediately felt welcomed into this very familial feeling parish. As much as I loved and still love, my old church in Kittanning, it just felt right for my newly formed family to have the little church in Yatesboro as our parish home.
I had no idea when I made this decision, what a HUGE impact it would have on my life. The friendships that I formed there are ones that will last a lifetime. I know this because we came together through our love of Christ and His church. We are truly Friends In Faith. We have seen one another through so many, many things. Babies being born, surgeries, cancer, losing parents, divorce, depression, issues with husbands and kids, just to name a few. One of my favorite "traditions" was the annual "Back to School Tea." Each year on the first day of school, or as close to it as we could manage, we would all get together for tea, or coffee, (possibly wine?!?) to kick off the new school year. We started it waaaaaaay back, to be a sort of comfort to one another as the little ones would head off to kindergarten or high school. As the number of kids that went to school increased, the little ones at tea decreased, but the need for comfort and friendship never changed. Ok, let's be honest, towards the end, it was less of being a comfort and more of a celebration.
Moving away from these girls has been a very difficult part of this move. Not seeing their familiar faces each week at Mass leaves a little hole in my heart. I miss seeing their kids grow, little by little. I miss sitting beside them at various basketball, baseball and soccer games. It was very strange to hear them talk about VBS and not be a part of it. There is a new priest at the church now who came after we left. To him, we would merely be strangers visiting friends or family from out of town. He has no way of knowing that for almost 15 years, the second row on the left middle section of seats was our row, the Hough row. Over that 15 years, we had added and added to our little family until we had almost outgrown our row. He has no idea that over the years, 6 of our 9 kids had been altar servers. He wouldn't know that or any of the other things that we were a part of, because we aren't there anymore. It is almost like we never were there. I will be honest, ( because, when am I not honest...) that hurts my heart a little bit. And as difficult as it is to be on the outside and essentially out of the loop, the one thing that remains are the connections that our family had made with the people of that church. The friendships remain and I believe will continue to because, while we now belong to a new parish in another state, we still belong to the same Church.
Next week my kids start a new school year in a new school. And as I have for the past 15 years, I will be having a cup of something (tea, coffee, wine...don't judge!). But this year, instead of sitting around my table with my girls, talking and laughing and never actually finishing a conversation, I will more than likely be sitting on my porch by myself. I may or may not be feeling sorry for myself. Ok, I probably will, but then I will remember that for whatever reason, God saw fit to move us to Steubenville. Just as the decision to switch parishes changed my life in so many wonderful ways and brought so many amazing people into my life, I am sure that this move will too. There will never be replacements for my girls, because their spots aren't vacant. They are just a little bit farther away. So next Wednesday, remember me FIFs because, I will be thinking of you!