5 Milestones: My Journey to Becoming a Catholic Mindset Coach
August 30, 2022
By Virginia Koch
This September I will celebrate a milestone birthday, which prompted me to consider other milestones in my life. Many moments came to mind and as I made a list, yet one big theme emerged—the most significant milestones led me closer to God.
So, what were my top five milestones? Well, I was the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. In college I struggled with study habits, time management, finances, and grades, but I loved every minute being a student. I didn’t realize it at the time, but God’s grace provided me with a women’s fraternity filled with many supportive Catholic and Christian role models, fueled by high moral standards, and guided by a document that challenged us “to choose thoughtfully that course which occasion and conscience demand.” Thanks to the support of my sorority sisters, I grew as a campus leader and became a better student. With the encouragement of friends and mentors, I went on to earn a master’s degree, which provided me with a stable and satisfying career in higher education that continues to this day.
While I considered converting to Catholicism during my undergraduate years, it wasn’t until the sudden death of my father 30 years ago that I felt a stronger tug from the Holy Spirit. My dad’s death was not only a loss for our family, but the entire community of my small town. You see, my dad was a successful restaurant owner, community organizer, and family man known for his kindness, sense of humor, and love of our hometown. Dad’s Catholic values shined through his work every day in his generous nature, concern for the dignity of others, and simple lifestyle.
While my siblings and I were not raised Catholic, his faith in action was a strong testimony to us. As I grieved his loss, I felt called to start attending mass. I found the weekly routine familiar and comforting, as it reminded me of attending mass with Dad throughout my childhood. After two years of discernment, I enrolled in the parish’s RCIA program with a dear friend from work as my sponsor. This led to my third significant milestone, answering God’s call to join the fullness of faith.
I converted to Catholicism in the mid-1990s when many of my friends were pridefully leaving the Church during a confusing and tumultuous time. I found myself having to defend my decision to convert, which further convinced me that I was making the right decision.
My conversion was rewarded about a year later when I met my now husband, John. This fourth milestone requires a little more explanation to understand and recognize God’s hand in it. At the time, John and I lived about 12 miles apart and traveled in different circles. Honestly, we probably never would have met if I wasn’t Catholic. Why? The Holy Spirit, though a co-worker, encouraged me to place an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of a Chicago newspaper. One of the first things I said about myself was that I was Catholic. I also emphasized I was “marriage and family minded.” I was sure this phrase would deter most readers while attracting “Mr. Right.”
While taking a work-break, John read my ad and noticed “Catholic” right away. In an uncharacteristic move, he called me immediately away and left a voicemail. After talking on the phone several times, we finally met in person. He was impressed that I had given up meat for Lent, and as they say, the rest is history.
As a devout Catholic, John was able to help me continue to grow in my spiritual path and we’ve supported each other throughout our 20+ years of marriage. While we were not blessed with children of our own, over several years we served as host parents for international high school students from three regions of the world, and sharing their Catholic traditions enriched our understanding of the universality of Catholicism. With John’s encouragement, I applied to a doctoral program in higher education at Loyola University Chicago (my first taste of Catholic education) and after five long years of studying, I received my PhD in higher education. Our marriage was filled with many happy memories and blessed with a large family that includes five grandnieces and seven grandnephews.
While the other milestones took years to achieve, my fifth milestone took just about 12 hours. This milestone was a reminder of how quickly life can change.
On a cold November night, John and I drove to our cabin in the north woods of Michigan. Arriving late at night, we turned on the heat and went to sleep in anticipation of an enjoyable long weekend. About three o’clock in the morning (the hour of mercy) I woke up not feeling well. John went to the kitchen to pour a glass of water and returned to find me passed out on the floor. John was able to wake me and we began to understand something was terribly wrong. Little did we know, a rusted furnace pipe inside the walls was leaking carbon monoxide into our small cabin. I called a friend of ours who lived about an hour away and he was able to get emergency vehicles to our cabin. As I was on the phone with an emergency dispatcher who advised me to open all the windows, John struggled to stay coherent but throughout it all he never stopped praying for our Blessed Mother’s intercession and aid.
When we arrived at the ER, both of us had extremely high levels of carbon monoxide poisoning and received oxygen therapy while the doctors carefully monitored our vital signs. After about eight hours, we walked out of the ER with no side effects and our doctor declared our recoveries a true miracle. Thanks be to God!
This near-death experience was the catalyst for a deeper and more profound relationship with the Blessed Trinity – for both of us. Renewed with an unshakable belief that we are here for a reason, we have committed ourselves to answering God’s call in our lives everyday.
The curious thing about a milestone is that one usually does not recognize a moment or achievement as “a milestone” until it has passed. That said, as I near the completion of the Metanoia Catholic Purgative Way coach training program, I can’t help but think that completing the program is yet another milestone in my spiritual journey. The past few months in Metanoia Catholic have been a time of exponential growth. I have gained a stronger awareness of my thoughts, emotions, and motivations through Metanoia Catholic’s one-of-a-kind curriculum, coaching practice drills, and opportunities to observe transformative coaching experiences. My daily routines have changed as I listen to Metanoia Catholic podcasts, read supplemental books, and study the materials provided in the 16-week course.
Yes, I am “all in.” I can feel a transformation occurring as I recognize how my strengths, education, work experiences, and God-given gifts are culminating in this new creation I am becoming. I am learning more and more about our Catholic faith and effective coaching strategies. It’s an exciting time filled with reflection, learning and action.
John and I have a marriage motto, “the best is yet to come.” God willing, I will accomplish several more milestones before I am called to my eternal rest. Until then, I will continue to enjoy my “second chance” and look forward to a life filled with more faith, hope, and love.
Yes, the best is yet to come.
About the Author
About the Author
I’m Virginia! I’m a proud Catholic convert currently living near Orlando, Florida. I have more than 30 years experience in higher education as a student affairs practitioner and scholar, faculty member to undergraduates and graduate students, and have volunteered with several professional associations. From modest beginnings as a first-generation student, I earned a PhD in higher education from Loyola University Chicago and have excelled in a variety of roles at prestigious public and private U.S. universities. I enjoy helping students of all ages learn how to thrive and make the most of their time in college. In addition to my leadership in higher education, I served as executive director of the nonprofit Chicago Peace Museum and as an Assistant Director of Northwestern University’s Sequential Celebration.
I currently work for the University of Central Florida with the LEAD Scholars Academy. I am aChristopher Leader, aCursillista (2020), and am active inmy parish as a lector, catechist, andSt. Vincent DePaul Society Spiritual Advisor. For three years, my husband John and I have served as therapeutic foster parents. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, gardening, fishing, and working out.
I’d love to hear from you! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, I coach college students of all ages, including students who are incoming freshmen, first-generation and non-traditional age, and at graduate/doctoral level. I also coach Catholic higher education professionals working at secular or Catholic institutions, as well as partner industry professionals.