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The Pat and Donna Story

Over the past 5 months, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know two of our neighbors just to the west of us, behind our alley. Pat and Donna first made an appearance in the Romero House community in early 2023 while befriending a few of our residents at the time. I would often see them at Food at First or just walking around the neighborhood with their grandson, Joshua. You can’t miss these two hooligans because they are always cheery, obnoxious and full of joy. As of late, Donna enjoys stopping by the house to greet us with a dozen Betty Crocker muffins she baked with a hefty chunk of butter to dress and flavor it for us. Pat, as handy as he is, often finds a place among our volunteers working on the house, cars, or packaging envelopes to send to supporters. These two are gems to our community. I’d like to tell you more about the ways in which they have affected my life, and how the Romero House community has affected theirs. I pray their radical witness shows through my only partial story of them.


Early one June morning, Jacob, the seminarian staying with us over the summer, responded to a knock at the door where a distressed woman was visibly upset and agitated. It was unclear what caused the agitation, but she was not happy with Jacob. Jacob comes upstairs to wake me from my mid-Sunday nap to tell me of the situation. I stepped in to deescalate and heard that she recently had her bike stolen and her boyfriend’s bike stolen the week before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much but encourage her to go to the police while offering a listening ear. This was the first time I met Donna, our next door neighbor! One of our residents previously told me of her and her boyfriend Pat who live behind us and their crazy exploits in the community. It was also pretty common knowledge that Pat and Donna were active users of meth and struggled to find a strong community to support them. Over the following weeks, I paid more attention to Pat and Donna walking by and made an effort at talking with them to see that they were eclectic people that instantly brought me laughter. We’d sometimes have short talks about the faith and how to pray, but they never really amounted to lengthy, revelatory discussions. I was pretty convinced that these two would be the last to ever come to church. If you asked me then, I would consider Pat and Donna were not open to the faith, hence the fallow ground analogy.



Life at the house remained busy amidst the transition from residents to daytime hospitality. We were particularly invested in rehousing those who lived with us at that time and it was a tedious endeavor. At Sunday mass one weekend, after finding our spots in the church, I noticed an awfully snuggly couple across from us and I point out to Jacob, “Look who’s here!” Jacob looked over and then back at me, both of us dumbfounded that Pat and Donna were not just at church, but in the front row! We had been praying for them both in our evening prayer intentions, but neither of us expected to see such a quick change of heart. After mass, we approached them and they revealed how much they have desired to be part of a community and back in relationship with God. Both of them struggling with addiction, they were extremely drawn to a love that loves them right where they are. Their reverence and piety was evidence of this. They knew God was present in the Eucharist already.


Meanwhile,  we continued to go to daily Mass during our busy time of rehousing our residents. Upon seeing our frequent trips to Mass around the noon hour, Pat and Donna began asking questions about where we go for an hour each day. We told them “we go to Church!” Together we laughed about how we are Church nerds, then they asked to come with next time. Astounded at their desire, I said, absolutely! The next day, bright and early, Pat and Donna came to the door. Before even ringing the doorbell you would know they arrived simply by the loud laughter they exchange back and forth. Hopping into the van,  Jacob, Gabriel and I looked at each other with a doubtful look that said, “Well…let’s see how this goes!” It was Totus Tuus week at St. Thomas Aquinas which meant the church was packed with youngsters and Father’s homilies were more basic and involved props to keep the kids enthralled. Pat and Donna loved this too. Father began asking some basic questions like “who is your superhero” or “what is your favorite toy to play with” to keep the kids entertained during the homily. Upon hearing these questions, the first to raise their hands in response were not the kids in the front rows, but Pat and Donna! Their childlike manner was definitely entertaining to us, but brought about something even more venerable- innocence and purity. Their passion and desire to be good was astounding and opened my eyes to being more foolish in knowing my belovedness from God.  They were bringing about a fire in me.


They kept coming back to mass with us nearly every day, and nearly every day was a new adventure of comedy and drama (the good kind). On the way home, we’d talk about the homily, RCIA, the presence of God in the Eucharist, and of course the loudness and vigor of Pat’s response of “Lord hear our prayer” in the middle of mass. Their obnoxiousness was not left at the door. I’d even have people tell me that the man sitting next to us reminds them to be bold in the spiritual life and in imploring God’s love. Who knew such purity of intention and desire to be loved by God could bring about a deeper devotion in others lives? I swear, I’ve heard that somewhere.


Today, Pat and Donna continue to go to mass with us when they aren’t working or busy with their grandson, Joshua, who is his own little bundle of silliness. I mentioned to them that a sharing of some of their story could be very impactful for others to read, and though they were hesitant at first, they knew that their experiences were meant to lead others to recovery and to relationship with God. They’ve shared how their recovery from meth has found new depth and their pursuits for wholeness have found new opportunities upon following after Jesus. Those who previously spoke of their escapades with drugs are now astounded at the conversion and restoration that has happened in Pat and Donna's life. These were the seeds sown on fallow ground, and even these seeds bore much fruit!

Their devotion and passion inspires me every day to be bold and foolish in the eyes of God, because I must know with certainty that I am loved. I pray their story might also inspire you to be bold, foolish, and radically in love with God.

Matt Mitchell

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