“COVID Catholics” rely on the Eucharist for their strength – Arkansas Catholic
The former Southern Baptist minister and his family have found a home in the Catholic Church
The Plummer family held candles during the Easter Vigil on April 3, 2021, the night they entered the Church of St. Jude Thaddeus in Waldron. Pictured are children Edie (left), Evilee and Josiah, and parents Evanie and Trey Plummer.
When the Plummer family first entered St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Waldron in early 2020, it was a moment that lasted about 10 years. From Trey Plummer’s time as a Southern Baptist minister to his wife Evanie’s strong faith upbringing in non-denominational churches and later the Assembly of God, they were on a straight path, but were not not sure of the destination. For high school sweethearts and their three children, they found it in the Eucharist.
“I felt like I had found the pearl of good price. This is it,” Trey Plummer said.
The family joined the Church at Easter 2021, finding the beauty of Catholicism despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
HAIRCUTS AND HOLINESS
“I felt like I had found the pearl of good price. That’s it.”
Born and raised in Waldron, a farming community of approximately 3,500 in Scott County, Trey and Evanie grew up together.
“She worked for my father. My father was the local pharmacist,” he said. “…I was my son’s age, 14. She’s the only girlfriend I’ve ever had.”
The Plummers are celebrating 16 years of marriage this year with children Josiah, 14, Evilee, 12 and Edie, 8, with another daughter, Emily, due this summer. Evanie, 36, is a stay-at-home mom who homeschools her children. The Christian faith has always been their foundation.
“I remember that from a very young age, my mother was the main source of my spiritual education. My dad was a bit of an alcoholic,” Evanie said, adding that her mother would ask her and her siblings questions after a church service to help them grow in understanding.
Primarily attending the Assembly of God church, she said they were never told that Catholics “weren’t Christians,” but that Catholicism wasn’t really mentioned, as there was only only one catholic church in town.
“All my actions were guided by: ‘What does God want for my life?’ God has a plan for us. I want this – anything. Through prayer and a lot of searching, I know I found it,” she said.
Trey, 34, was trained in the Southern Baptist tradition and began preaching while still in high school. He preached in a variety of denominations beyond Baptist, including Methodists, Assembly of God, and Pentecostals. At 21, he was pastor of the Evening Shade Southern Baptist Church.
To coincide with his schedule as a pastor and seminary class, Trey trained to be a barber, owning Trey’s Main Street barber shop in Waldron for the past 14 years. More than just a haircut, he gets to know his clients and makes house calls.
“I’ve really had a role on the Andy Griffith series in the community. I’ve been a T-ball coach, I’m a Waldron town council member… I’ve been a pallbearer at funerals” for his clients barbers,” he said. “…You kind of get into a role in someone’s life where you can be one of the only constant points of interaction, especially when people get older, they kind of get locked in.”
In the haircut and the preaching, it was just about “being part of people’s history. Just walk with people on their journey of faith,” he said.
Although the Plummers never attended a Catholic church until 2020, the seeds of faith had been planted for years. Cousins Mike and Laurie Richardson, godparents to their children, had converted to Catholicism years before. Trey said conversations with them and a Catholic friend from high school answered many questions.
“I kind of got to this point where it was on the back burner; “At least some Catholics know what they believe, but they’re a little crazy about some things,” Trey said. For him, Catholics were “shrouded in mystery”.
In seminary classes, he learned about early Christianity, the church fathers, and early teachings on the Eucharist, as well as the writings of GK Chesterton and CS Lewis. This exposure to Catholicism was a “great a-ha moment,” Trey said.
“You heard these sermons when I was a child, there were the apostles, then the church was underground until the Protestant Reformation with Martin Luther. What about all these saints here? he said. “I think I kind of had to look at some of this stuff the more I studied. At one point I accepted the authority of the Catholic Church because they put the New Testament together.
For about three years, Evanie said she tried several churches in the area.
“I wanted to be back in church, and it killed my soul that my kids weren’t attending every week,” she said.
The couple sat down one morning and decided they needed to find a church home. Evanie suggested the Catholic Church.
“When I think of Catholicism, I think of quiet reverence. I knew they wouldn’t take my children away from me,” she said, explaining that in Protestant religions, children usually go to class or a youth service while adults attend the main service.
Trey said he attended the first mass of 2020.
“It made sense,” Evanie said. “I like that the focus is on Jesus; not on the music, not on the preaching.
But that was just the start of an unexpected journey. They obtained a copy of the Baltimore Catechism, read it, and had discussions for several hours.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world – including the masses – in March 2020.
“I say we are COVID Catholics because we haven’t been able to do anything normally,” Trey said.
But that did not prevent them from immersing themselves in the teaching of the Church as a family.
“Father Mike Schmitz, he got us through COVID,” Evanie said of the popular Minnesota-based speaker, author and podcaster. “We wanted to continue learning when the Church closed… The kids really enjoyed listening to him because he’s younger. He really helped answer some of those questions like “How to make a good confession” and about Catholic teachings on Mary.
When public masses resumed, Trey first told former St. Jude pastor, Fr. Rajasekhar Chittem, that they did not want to take places from devout Catholics.
“He said, ‘No, you’re coming,'” Trey said. “…Those were really sweet and special times. The church was quiet, there was no music. It was almost like a low mass. We loved it. It was such a quiet time and spiritual.
The family joined the Church during the 2021 Easter Vigil in St. Jude. Catherine Phillips, diocesan respect for life director and parishioner of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Booneville, sponsored Trey and became “a personal mentor to me,” he said.
Phillips said watching the family “seek the fullness of faith” and experience it over the past year has been wonderful.
“Just their zeal, their dedication, the dynamism they bring to the parish community because you can just see their joy and how much love they have for the truths of our faith and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. .. is a beautiful testimony for the whole community,” said Phillips.
The focal point of the family is the Eucharist. Josiah, their eldest, said, “You really feel like you really need Jesus to get you through the week. If something bad happened, you know at the end of the week you can come and take Jesus. … It’s a really amazing thing.
Trey said Catholicism opened his eyes to the reality of the need for salvation every day and the “freedom within the enclosure” of the sacraments that order a person’s life.
“Real Presence is the reason I am a convert. If you don’t believe in the Real Presence, then you might as well not be Catholic. It is the foundation of all our sacramental understanding,” he said. “In Protestant traditions it’s almost like the preaching of the Word, the teaching of Scripture becomes almost sacramental in a way. But as Catholics, we can feed on the Word. The word is embodied. … Now he invites us to take him physically within us; what a mystery.”
Evanie said the Church’s liturgical calendar was the structure they needed for their spirituality, and that “Jesus said come to me and here he is every week.”
For the Plummers, this Holy Week will be one of excitement, living the week as full members of the Church, walking into the light of Easter.
“Something that really touches my heart is when we cover the footage on Friday. I walk into this, and it hits me and it’s very solemn, it’s very sad,” Evanie said. “Then you enter (Easter) Sunday and everything is back. We are here with Jesus and mass is back to normal. It’s this dramatic change. It’s almost like you feel what the disciples must have felt, what Mary must have felt – Jesus said what was going to happen and it happened, and it’s beautiful.
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