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The Pohlman family of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston gathers in their home Dec. 26; from left, Clara, Katie, Brent, Zachary, Michele, Matthew and Amanda. MIKE MAY/STAFF

For Pohlman family, receiving much entails giving much

Giving back to the church is nothing new for Brent and Michele Pohlman. But now they stand poised to give their greatest gift of all.

Members of St. Gerald Parish in Ralston, they are thankful for the many gifts their faith, their parish and Catholic schools have given them and their five children. 

And one of their children, Matthew, 21, is now preparing for a lifetime of service to God’s people as he studies for the priesthood at St. John Vianney Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Michele said of having a child discerning a vocation.

His interest in the priesthood began when he was 6 years old, she said, sparked by television coverage of St. Pope John Paul II’s final days in 2005.

As he grew, thoughts of the priesthood continued. He played Mass in the basement with his siblings, and even heard a sister’s confession.

“Luckily he says he doesn’t remember her sins, which he thinks is a good sign.” Michele said, laughing.

“The idea of the priesthood always seemed really normal,” Matthew said, due to the influence of now-retired Father Gary Ostrander, a close family friend and former pastor.

Former St. Gerald pastor Father Owen Korte, now pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Hartington, also was big influence, Matthew said.

“He started a first Friday devotion at the parish and taught me how to serve for the Benediction. That made a big impact.”

And the strong campus ministry program and Catholic identity of his high school – V.J. and Angela Skutt Catholic High School – helped support his exploring the priesthood, he said.

STRONG TRADITIONS

In many ways, the Pohlmans are a throwback to a time when deeply faithful Catholic families never missed attending Mass together, prayed before meals and bedtimes, easily brought God and faith into day-to-day conversations, and sometimes produced one or more religious vocations.

That kind of commitment to the faith has deep roots. Michele grew up in one of those families.

“I had a great Catholic family,” she said. “When I look back at growing up, being Catholic was part of everything we did. I couldn’t separate my faith from my everyday living.”

A graduate of St. Gerald School, Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue and College of Saint Mary in Omaha, Michele became a theology and psychology teacher and campus minister at Gross High. There she met Brent, who taught business classes.

On their first date, Michele asked him his parish – and to her surprise he replied, “I’m Lutheran.”

But that didn’t prove an impediment to their eventual engagement and marriage in 1994.

Their marriage preparation included an Engaged Encounter weekend retreat and the FOCCUS pre-marriage inventory program developed by the archdiocese.

“But she told me when we got married that she would never change her faith,” Brent said, “so I knew that going in.”

Always respecting each other’s faith traditions, their young family attended both Catholic Mass and Lutheran services every Sunday, and Brent gradually came to see the fullness of the faith in the Catholic Church – especially through the sacraments.

So, when their oldest son, Zachary, now 23, was preparing for first Communion, Brent felt it was time. He began attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes at St. Gerald and entered the church in a private ceremony in 2003.

“I feel like I was meant to be Catholic from day one,” he said. “I was on that journey and God was leading me.”

COMMITMENT TO SERVE

Over the years, Michele and Brent have lived their faith and served the church in numerous ways, including as parish council members and baptism preparation teachers. Michele also is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion and served on the school advisory board and as Sunday school teacher, while Brent is active with the Knights of Columbus, parish men’s club and That Man is You faith formation program.

They also are members of Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders and spouses, and the Archbishop’s Committee for Development.

In addition to their sons, the Pohlmans’ three daughters – Katie, 22, Amanda, 19, and Clara, 17 – all are active in the faith.

Each participated in Totus Tuus, a summer catechism program for youth, with Matthew and Amanda eventually serving as leaders. All family members also have attended the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Zachary served as an intern with the archdiocese’s Center for Family Life Formation working with FOCCUS. Clara is learning to evangelize, having recently attended a Casting Nets Ministry conference at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.

To pay back for the many ways the church helped shape their family’s faith, Michele and Brent said they were happy to serve as urban general chairs for the 2018-19 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal, sharing their story at parishes in the Omaha area.

The appeal accounts for 27 percent of the archdiocese’s annual operating budget, providing support for Catholic schools, adult faith formation, youth ministry programs, training for extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist and lectors, marriage preparation and other programs that enrich family life – many of the same programs that benefited the Pohlmans.

“It’s part of being accountable,” Brent said. “When we were asked to do this, we just said, ‘How could we not say yes?’” 

“It’s a joy to see our children embrace their own stewardship through serving the poor, participating in prayer groups and Eucharistic adoration, and leading worship services with their musical talents,” Michele said.

“We want to never take for granted what we have been blessed with and to always be grateful for all we have.”

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