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Meeting life’s challenges through prayer, trust

Joyce and Deacon Norman Tierney

For married couples everywhere, life presents challenges – at times, even tragedies.

For an Omaha couple, and many others across the archdiocese, their Catholic faith has been their rock, the thing that has pulled them through such times.

Throughout their 42-year marriage, Deacon Norman and Joyce Tierney, members of St. Leo the Great Parish, have brought their challenges to the Lord in prayer – from the common act of buying a home to the heart-wrenching loss of a child.

"Our faith has always been the mainstay of our marriage," Deacon Norman said. "It’s been the core value that has kept us together and bolstered us when there were challenges."

The couple began their married years with simple prayer together – for instance, when purchasing their first house in 1975. "We prayed that God would lead us to the right house," he said.

During negotiations over the price of the house they had selected, they hung up the phone and prayed about it, Joyce said. "We just turned it back over to God, asking ‘Lord, let this be the right house for us,’" she said. A price was agreed upon and they became homeowners.

Now the parents of three grown children, they also had to rely on each other and trust in God during tragic circumstances – the loss of a son who was born prematurely in 1980.

"Norm had to support me a lot to get through that grieving process," she said. "We didn’t take it out on God, but we handled it because we knew that he was going to provide for us. I left the hospital thinking, ‘I’ll be back. I’m going to have another child.’"

"We suffered a lot of grief," Deacon Norman said. "You still have the loss, but with each other and Jesus in the middle of it … that helped us."

Over the years, they each also suffered the loss of a father and a brother. "Whenever either of us lost a close family member, the other was right there saying, ‘okay we’re going to deal with this together,’" Joyce said.

"We realize that life happens," Deacon Norman said. "God puts us here, but life goes the way it goes. He’s not moving us around like chess pieces, but he does give us strength and bolsters us in our times of need.

"I don’t blame him, I thank him for his support, because I would not have gotten through these things without him," Deacon Norman said.

Another crisis occurred when, in 1994, Joyce suffered an injury during an adult indoor soccer game – a sport they enjoyed together. Joyce tripped and fell, hitting her head on the hard floor, fracturing her skull and causing bleeding on her brain, he said.

Joyce was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and Deacon Norman’s mother took care of their children and brought them to the hospital. "I actually was worried I was going lose Joyce that night," he said.

The community also stepped in with prayers, including parishioners and members of the CEC (Christians Encounter Christ) group to which the Tierneys belonged.

"They came and they prayed with me overnight, and without their support, I would have been lost," Deacon Norman said. "I believe those prayers were powerful because that was a dangerous injury."

In addition to their strong faith, the success of their marriage also is due to being sensitive to each other’s needs and giving each other the time and support to work things out, whatever the issue, Joyce said.

In 1999, when Deacon Norman received a job promotion requiring a move to Colorado, the Tierneys approached the move with trust and faith.

Although the move meant uprooting the family, leaving friends and extended family, and moving to a new community where they would be strangers, they trusted God.

"That was a difficult move for us," Joyce said, "but we dug in our heels and decided, we’re going to find a church out there and start making friends. We knew that God had a plan for us to be out there," she said, "and what a wonderful gift it turned out to be."

Reflecting on their years of marriage, Deacon Norman said their faith has matured and the rough times have brought them closer together. And through it all, they’ve turned to prayer.

"It has to be a priority because that will be the glue that helps you stick together as a couple – we pray together, because we’re of one accord then," he said.

"I know it’s hard for a man to pray with his wife openly and earnestly open himself up in prayer," he said. "But it’s important. We have to be vulnerable and strong at the same time."

"You also have to persevere," Joyce said, "and never give up on each other."

"I’m very thankful that God brought us together," Deacon Norman said. "We’ve seen marriages fall apart all around us, and for all these years to still be together, I give that all over to God."

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