Grandparents encourage grandchildren, 12, 10 and 7, in sacramental preparation as parish wholeheartedly embraces family

Editor's note: This story is the second in a series on new Catholics who entered the Catholic Church at Easter. New articles in the series will run every Friday throughout the Easter season.

NOVI — The Church of the Holy Family in Novi seems an apt place to usher into the faith three youngsters from one family. During the 2019 Easter Vigil, siblings Kylie, 12, Matthew, 10, and Trevor, 7, received all three sacraments of initiation into the Catholic Church, including baptism, first Eucharist and confirmation.

The parish mobilized an impressive array of resources when they were contacted at the beginning of the 2018 school year by the children’s grandparents, Barbara and Matthew Dixon.

Even before the couple received custody of their grandchildren 18 months ago, the Dixons have loved their parish. 

“When we bought our house here four years ago, we thought, ‘This church is so close,’” Barbara Dixon told Detroit Catholic. “You know how you can walk into a church, and somehow you fit? That is what it was like. When we walked in, we felt like we were part of a family.”

Having both been raised Catholic, Barbara said she and her husband wanted the same for their grandchildren. 

“Once the children came to live with us, it was just natural that was how we wanted them to be raised,” she said.

Fr. Jim Houbeck stands in the baptismal font as Matthew and Trevor Dixon laugh at the Church of the Holy Family in Novi.

Lidia Rojas, director of religious education at Holy Family, had to make special arrangements to prepare the Dixon children for their sacraments.

“All classrooms were full,” Rojas said, adding the parish had 260 children registered in its catechism program in September 2018. “We wanted to keep them together since they are preparing for the same sacraments. So we added another class day on Thursdays.”

The Thursday class corresponded with the Alpha sessions taking place at the parish. 

“We set up the class on Thursdays so Grandpa and Grandma could attend Alpha and have dinner with our community to make them feel welcome,” Rojas said. “After dinner, the children went to their class, and their grandparents stayed for the rest of the session.”

Rojas contacted some of her catechists to ask whether they would be willing to help teach the children. Three teachers — Claudia Alvarado, Graciela Hernandez and Jacqui Schaefer — agreed.

“Originally I proposed the three catechists come every other week,” Rojas said. “But as soon as they met the kids, they all started coming every week. They fell in love with the children, and they couldn't miss a class.”

“We are a team, doing what each one of them needs,” Hernandez said. “With (the Dixons) everything is easy.”

“My goodness, they are so adorable,” Alvarado said. “They radiate God.”

Fr. Bob LaCroix, pastor of the Church of the Holy Family in Novi, baptizes Kylie Dixon during the Easter Vigil.

Hernandez has noticed how much the children really understand their faith. “They actually told me they understand God’s love for them, and how great God is.”

Kylie, the eldest of the three kids, said getting to know her teachers has been the best part of her preparation process. “The teachers are amazing,” Kylie said. “They are so nice, and they love us.”

Her grandmother added the three women have inspired Kylie to become a teacher herself. “That is a testament to those ladies,” she said.

Matthew and Trevor have enjoyed creating the binders of all the work they have done during their classes. In fact, all three children have enjoyed the classes so much, they talk about their experience constantly, Kylie said.

“I never had to say, ‘OK you guys, hurry and get dressed,’” said their grandmother. “They were ready. They love coming here.”

During the course of the school year, the Dixons have developed a habit of reading the Bible together.

“They were given a children’s Bible by (pastor) Fr. Bob (LaCroix),” Barbara Dixon said. “We read it every night. We started with (the Gospel of) Mark. Each one of the kids takes a turn.”

“Even Trevor reads (the Bible),” Matthew said. “He does it very slowly, but he does it.”

His grandmother remembers how Matthew especially liked the passage where Jesus heals the paralyzed man. 

“We were reading that the other night, and he kept saying, ‘He just got up and walked!’” Barbara said.

It is apparent today that Jesus continues to perform miracles, great and small, in parishes like Holy Family and in families like the Dixons.