Episode 19. June 5, 2016. Today I want to talk about my great aunt Katy and an amazing experience I had this week in regards to this valiant woman.
Last week I mentioned the temple trip that the Makati 4th Ward (our English speaking ward here in the Philippines) took to the Manila Temple which occurred on May 26th. We were thrilled to have 57 members from our ward in the temple that day. It was a glorious day indeed as we participated in endowments, initiatory work, family sealings, baptisms and confirmations.
For me the highlight of the day was the first sealing session that we participated in. This is the one I mentioned last week where we sealed 20 couples and numerous children to their parents, all a result of research LaDawn and I have been doing over the last few years. From our ward we had Josh and Nicole, Becki, Cassi and Adam. Along with these 5 from our ward we had 5 Filipino members who we did not know, but who we came to love and value as part of the service we rendered that day. So why was this first session so significant, considering that we were involved in two others that day? It was because of Catherine Pazdera. You see she is my great Aunt. I never met her, most just called her Katy. She was born in Arkansas in 1901. I do not know where or when she died as I still haven’t been able to find her death record. Well in that session that day we sealed Catherine to her parents, and my great grandparents Joseph and Julia Pazdera. I immediately perked up. How could I have missed doing this for so many years? All of the rest of the children had been sealed, but for some reason, I had missed Catherine. When we printed out the cards to take to the temple, her name was among those who had not been completed. I had not even paid attention to the names until that very moment, but when her name was mentioned I felt a deep spiritual stirring. I could feel her joy and yes, even her very presence in that moment. It was a very special moment for me. You see, it was while searching for Catherine’s birth record that my second cousin Alicia first went to Shoal Creek in Arkansas to find out whether she was born in Pennsylvania or Arkansas. In looking for my aunt’s birth record, which she did find, she found the home village of my great grandparents that opened the door to finding and completing temple ordinances for hundreds of relatives. It also led Alicia, LaDawn and me on a trip back to the Czech Republic where we were able to visit with living Pazdera relatives in the home that my great grandfather help build just outside Prague. You can hear all of the details of the story in Episode 7.
Well, the euphoric feeling I had from that one moment stayed with me the rest of the week. After saying my prayers on Saturday night, I picked up my iPad and began to take some notes. It was then that I heard Catherine speaking to my heart. It was not an audible voice, but the impressions were so deep I simply began writing. This is a portion of what I wrote: “Thank you so much for this great gift of sealing me to my parents, but there is more I need you to do for my immediate family. Specifically my husband and my children.” I was a little taken back, because again, I was pretty sure I had done all of the work for her family and at first I thought, maybe this is just me. But the impression and spirit were strong, so I told myself I would look into it.
So after church the next day I looked up Catherine on Family Search and found she had been married twice, once to Thomas Brinkso and then later to Harvey Baril. Catherine married Thomas in 1923 and seven years later he died. In 1936, she married Harvey Baril, a man 22 years her senior, who died in 1966. Harvey Baril’s work had been done, with the exception of sealing to Catherine. Thomas Brinsko’s work had been reserved but still needed his initiatory work, endowment and sealing to Catherine. Both of these names had been reserved by our eldest daughter Mauren and she had given a stack of names to our sons to do. Neither of these names had made it to the top of the stack, so neither had made it to the temple to complete the ordinances. As soon as Mauren awoke on Sunday morning (we are 13 hours ahead of Houston), I sent her a text asking her to unreserve the names. Within 30 minutes she had done so and I had gone in and re-reserved them.
I then tackled the question of her children. Thomas and Catherine had a son named Francis who drowned in Crystal Lake in Iron Mountain Michigan when he was 8 years old. I had done the work for Francis before the requirement for written permission was implemented, but he had never been sealed to his parents and it now required approval. I noticed in my family tree in FamilySearch that there was a child named Mildred under Catherine and Harvey listed as living. This was new information to me. The annotation on the record indicated it had been added by FamilySearch. I am still not clear of its origin or how it got there. However, as I continued to search, I found a family tree on Ancestry.com that had been submitted by a woman named Nicole Verrette . In that family tree was a child named Mildred that was supposedly born To Catherine and Harvey in 1936 and died that same year. There was no reference indicating the source of that information. I could find no further information on a child named Mildred either on FamilySearch or Ancestry, but in my searching I came across a death certificate for a baby girl, simply named “Baby Baril” that was born in 1937 and died from a cerebral hemorrhage within 8 hours of her birth! This I believe is the child that was named Mildred in the family tree on Ancestry.com. The death certificate indicates she is buried in Iron Mountain Cemetery, but the cemetery has no record of her. Perhaps she was named after she died and was buried. That mystery will be solved another day.
But now I was more sure than ever that Catherine had indeed communicated with me. Here she was, this wonderful woman on the other side of the veil who had received her own ordinances, had been sealed to her parents and now wanted more than anything to be with those she loved more than anyone else. She had not been sealed to either of her husbands or her two children. This was why I had that experience on Saturday night.
With a new felt urgency to help her, I sent two emails to the Church to request approval to seal Francis and Baby Baril to their parents. They had no descendancy and were without hope of someone doing this work. Imagine my joy when two days later on Tuesday morning I received emails back approving the sealings indicating they had already placed them in my reserved list of temple ordinances! I was elated!
Before going to the temple on Thursday, I printed the ordinance cards for Catherine, Thomas, Harvey, Francis and her unnamed baby girl. Because of the recent changes in the clothing requirements for initiatory work, I was able to complete Thomas’s initiatory work right before attending the 7 am session where I completed his endowment. Because our friends Carol and Jonathan as well as Adam went to the temple with us, we were able to have enough to do the sealings following the session. It was again an amazing experience for me. Within 5 days of hearing Catherine’s plea for help, we were able to accomplish everything she had asked. I know that our family lives on the other side of the veil and they are very much interested in us and they are trying to get our attention so we can help them. I now know this in a very personal and sacred way.
Just one more thing, as LaDawn and I were trying to sort out exactly what information we needed to help Catherine, we opened two new lines of research. Both Thomas Brinkso and Harvey Baril had families and were widowed before marrying Catherine. The work for these families is also very important to her and we are working on that now.
I am so grateful this week for this marvelous and thrilling experience that has again testified to me that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living church on the earth and that it has the priesthood authority necessary for exaltation for both our families now on earth and those who have gone before.