BUCKEYE — Growing up in Chihuahua, Mexico, Adela Gaxiola longed to go to church, but her father wouldn’t allow it.
“When anyone in the family spoke of God, he would get angry,” Gaxiola said. “He would say, ‘God doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in God.’”
There were times when she went hungry. Her sister would urge her to go to Mass.
“Let’s go to Communion so we can get the little piece of bread the priest is giving out,” Gaxiola’s sister said at the time.
“I would say, ‘We can’t because we’re not prepared.’ And my sister said, ‘Fine, silly. You stay but I’m going, because when I eat that, I don’t get hungry all day.”
Parish: St. Henry, Buckeye
The glue that holds her faith together: I love my faith so much because of the Eucharist, the great privilege that it is and because the Lord allows me to teach other people that we have a living God, a God of love who forgives us.
What she loves about being a Catholic: The most precious to me is to be able to receive the Eucharist. You find the spiritual strength to move forward with life because problems don’t end when you decide to follow God. The problems are there, but having the Eucharist gives a person the strength to know how and to be able to move forward.
Gaxiola’s hunger went even deeper, an emptiness in her soul that would not be satisfied for years.
At age 15, her older brother brought her to the United States, hoping to set her on the right path. Gaxiola was 18 years old and working as a cashier at a restaurant when she met Alan.
In some ways, he was like her father. “If I ever mentioned God, he would get mad,” Gaxiola said. Still, they moved in together and began a family.
By that time, she had an ice cream truck and noticed a dip in sales on Sundays. She decided to try to catch the after-Mass crowd at St. Henry Parish. Her daughter was 7 years old at the time and hadn’t been baptized.
“Mi’ja, they are about to give the blessing at Mass, and that’s the most important thing, so get over there and get the blessing,” she told her. Her daughter returned a short time later and posed an insightful question: If it’s so important, then why aren’t you going yourself?
“And I thought, she’s right,” Gaxiola said. She went over to the church, just in time to hear the announcement that there were upcoming classes for sacraments. She signed up and began attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It was there that she began to see God in a new light.
As a child, she’d been told that God was watching, waiting to punish sinners. Once, she’d gone outside to play without asking permission and scraped her knee. Her mother told her, “See? That’s your punishment from God.”
“In RCIA I found a God of love, a merciful God. That it didn’t matter what we had done, that He was always waiting for us,” Gaxiola said.
She also discovered that until she and Alan were married in the Church, she wouldn’t be allowed to receive her First Communion. She broached the subject at home with Alan and a crisis erupted. He was unwilling to marry, even though they had three children.
Gaxiola prayed for divine intervention. She loved Alan, but she longed to receive the Eucharist. She prayed that one way or another, Alan would leave her, even if it meant she would become a widow. “Whatever You want, Lord, just so he’s not with me,” Gaxiola prayed.
A turning point came when he demanded to know if she wanted to marry him just so she could go to Communion. Her answer, he said, would determine if they would separate. The pressure was on.
“I told him I wanted to marry him so I could save him,” Gaxiola said. They were living in mortal sin, she told him. He stormed out of the house but later returned with a change of heart. “I don’t know what they’re giving you in that church,” he said, “but I want it.”
The two were married on Christmas Day, 2004. They studied at Kino Institute, became catechists, and today are the Spanish RCIA coordinators at St. Henry Parish.
“We wanted to give others what God had given us,” Gaxiola said.