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 | By Jeff Kurowski

Drawn to the Eucharist

Abby Fradette passed by Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Church in Pulaski for most of her life on the way to and from her family’s home. Last year, she walked through the church doors to make it her new faith home.


Abby Fradette, 17, the daughter of Chad and Jaclyn Fradette, was baptized in the Catholic Church. The family “kind of moved around a little bit,” she said about their worship lives. They belonged to a nondenominational church for a period, which provided community, but that sense of connection later faded for her, she said.   

“I didn’t feel it anymore. The history of the Church, the way that the Eucharist is understood, is important to me. In the nondenominational church, it’s just a symbol. I believe it to be Jesus,” she said.

Fradette, a senior at Pulaski High School, added that “all the feelings really came back” when she attended Mass at Assumption BVM one day. 

She began asking her mother, Jaclyn, who had grown up Catholic, questions about the faith. On Jan. 16, 2023, daughter and mother together met with Deanne Wilinski, director of faith formation at Assumption BVM Parish.

“‘I really want to get to know Jesus better. I read the Bible every day, but I need something more than that.’ Those were her first words when I met (Abby),” said Wilinski. “I thought, ‘There’s something to this young lady here.’ She had this burning in her heart, wanting to know what it means to be Catholic. We talked about different ways (to be initiated in the Church). She had a very regular prayer life. Mass was part of her regular routine. Those were well-established.”

Fradette started in a program for teens at the parish modeled after the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). When Wilinski checked in with her to see if it was a good fit, Fradette replied, “I need much more than this. I need to go deeper than this.”

Independent study for a couple months, utilizing Matthew Kelly’s book “Decision Point,” was next for Fradette. She then joined the 11th grade faith formation class in preparation for confirmation. Fradette made the confirmation retreat and also prepared for her first reconciliation. She made her first confession in the spring of 2023.

“I asked her, ‘What was (confession) like for you? What was your experience?’” said Wilinski. “(Fradette) said, ‘When can I go again?’”

On Nov. 12, 2023, Fradette was not only confirmed by Norbertine Abbot Dane Radecki at Assumption BVM Church, but also made her first holy Communion on the same day. She admits that it was a bit nerve-wracking to be called in front of the congregation to receive the Eucharist, but appreciates the significance of the moment.

“I’m happy I had this experience,” she said. “I would have missed a lot of the understanding of what Communion means if I had done it at a younger age.”

Fradette said she is thankful for the support she has received on her faith journey. She points to her close friend and classmate, Grace James, with whom she attended Mass, and her aunt, Jill Seaman, her confirmation sponsor, who serves as a faith model.

“My parents were also really supportive,” she said. “It was my personal decision (to join the Church), but we were all feeling disconnected.”

The family’s return to the Catholic Church led to the baptism of youngest brother Alden, 9. Now, his big sister is also his godmother.

“He asked me (to be his godmother),” said Fradette. “I want to be a good influence on him.”

Continuing to grow in her spiritual life is a priority, said Fradette. She balances a busy schedule that includes academics, competing on the Pulaski High School dance team and working a part-time job.

“I started dance at a young age, 4. I didn’t get serious about it until I was in fourth grade. I love the team, and I like being a leader,” said Fradette, who is a team captain this year. “What I’m going to miss more than dancing is just the team. I’ve gotten to know everybody so well. It’s like a family.”

Fradette gives back by working with young children at the dance studio in Pulaski, which is owned by her dance coach, Hanna Hedsand. “I do really enjoy that. Instilling that passion for dance is important for them,” she said.

At age 13, Fradette traveled on a church service trip to Mexico, which she said has fueled her desire to help others ever since. 

“We were in Mexico City and Puebla. We stayed at an orphanage and did service projects. We helped them in building their well,” she said. “That trip was the reason I wanted to focus more on learning how to speak Spanish.”

Last summer, Fradette traveled to Costa Rica as part of a study abroad program. She was able to practice her Spanish during her 11-day experience. She also made a faith connection. Her host mother, a Catholic, gave her holy water from the Basilica of Virgen de Los Ángeles (Virgin of the Angels), the country’s patron saint.

“My Spanish has become a lot better. I would say that I’m pretty fluent now,” said Fradette. “I started working at a Mexican restaurant. That’s been a good experience for me to practice my Spanish. I get to speak it every time I’m there. I’ve been able to learn the culture of the people I work with.”

Fradette said she plans to major in a science-related program in college with a second major or a minor in Spanish. St. Norbert College in De Pere, she said, is currently her top choice as she considers her options for higher education. Medical school will follow, she said.

“I’m focused on ICU (intensive care unit), emergency situations. I want to do something hands-on with patients,” she said of her future plans as a physician.

Fradette also said she sees medical missions in her future.

“I want to travel and meet all kinds of people around the world and figure out how I can help them,” she said about living out her faith through service.

Wherever Fradette’s path leads her, she will have her faith as a foundation, which pleases her mother, Jaclyn.

“She has definitely figured it out for herself, what is important to her. I think that’s going to help carry her through, keep it real and stay connected,” said Jaclyn. “She is continuing to grow, find new things and challenge herself in her prayer life and religion. She is entering adulthood and leaving our house. I’m glad that she has that relationship.”

“The Holy Spirit, through confirmation, is continuing to do good things in (Abby’s) life,” said Wilinski.

“Her heart was open, and she was a seeker. She wanted to know more about what it means to be Catholic.

You don’t see young people regularly walk in like she did. Her mom set up the appointment, but (Abby) led the entire conversation because it was her journey.” 


Reprinted with permission of On Mission, the Magazine of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin.