Hello! Come on in and get to know a little about me. I was born in Palm Beach County, Florida, to Robert and Angelina Denoncour. I am the oldest of four, Sussette (that’s me), Jessica, Carrie and the baby Andrew (at 5′ 10″ he’s not such a baby anymore). I was raised mostly in Boca Raton. I attended St. Joan of Arc for K thru 8 then Pope John Paul II Region High School (PJPII). I also spent a brief time at Palm Beach Community College.
I would describe my childhood as idyllic, I lived in a nice home, with nice friends, a loving family, and usually a nice family pet or two (dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, fish). I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try dance, gymnastics and piano. However, my favorite pastimes were walking endlessly along our backyard fence line hunting for anoles (lizards), riding my blue banana seat bike, and boating with my dad on our Catalina 22 sailboat. We vacationed in Mexico several times, where my mother’s family lives. I enjoyed the benefits of my parents’ sacrifices to have me in private school with a fulltime-at-home mom. Then in 1988 all that peace came to a very abrupt end with my parents divorce. Divorce is destructive and devastating. I was a junior in high school (not a good time to lose my foundation) and began to run “amuck”. Going from job to job, boyfriend to boyfriend looking for the love, peace, and safety that was taken by the termination of my family. I eventually even lost my faith in God and began to just exist.
Mercifully, God had not lost sight of me and in 1990 He sent me Patrick (my now husband). Soon He also placed a new friend, Alisa, in my life. Alisa, I am sure lead by the Holy Spirit, invited me to attend church with her at Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale ( a local non-denomination church). And there God came literally crashing into my life. With the Holy Spirit working through Pastor Bob Coy (the pastor at Calvary) my faith flourished and I began a powerful new time in my life. I began to fervently read the Holy Word of God, in the Bible. Sometimes, after a 2 hour service, I would sit in my car, in the parking lot, starving for more pouring over the scriptures we had read and then `reading beyond. I was beginning to feel the peace I had so desperately been looking for. In 1994, I married Patrick in the Catholic Church and we were starting our family. I still however felt a void a longing for something more. I thought “a baby will fill this void”. But, God knew better. Before I delivered my first child, Aubrey in 1996, I began the journey home, to be fully in communion with my Lord, my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I attended a service at Calvary Chapel in which we remembered the last supper. Crackers and, I believe, juice were distributed, we were told anyone could receive regardless of their church affiliation. But, as the basket of crackers and the tray of small plastic cups approached something within me kept me from partaking in this “meal”. The next week I attended Mass at St. Jude and approached the altar with a sense of urgency I did not understand. I had continued to occasionally attended Mass with Patrick and my father. In ignorance and (now I know) sin I received this “unleavened bread”, and in that moment I understood, this was what I was longing for. I was desperate to learn more, to understand why, what could possibly be the difference. I was also frustrated with the situation. I argued in my prayers, “Lord I don’t want to be Catholic. These people don’t know or love You.” But the sensation that this WAS where the Lord wanted me was very strong. It was also during this time that the Lord blessed us with our first child, Aubrey. She born 3 weeks 5 days early, but in perfect health. She was Baptized Catholic at St. Jude 20+ days later.
With a perfect baby to raise for God I wanted the best for her. I told Patrick I didn’t like St. Jude and that I wanted to find a more comfortable Parish. At this point in my walk home the external was still the priority. I was also convinced the Lord was asking me to be Catholic to save Catholics from the “inside”. So we began to attend Mass at St. Elizabeth’s in Pompano. I made new devout Catholic friends at a charismatic prayer group. One in particular Maryanne lent me the book Rome Sweet Home by Scott Hahn. It was an incredible night for me, I started reading it after I put my daughter to bed and finished reading it just as the sun came up and Patrick left for work. WOW!!! In those pages were answers, brief answers, but finally answers. I immediately ran to buy more books by Scott Hahn and devoured The Lambs Supper. I also read other books by authors like Patrick Madrid, Mark Shea, Jeff Cavins, Bud MacFarlane, and others. In the pages of those books all the Scriptures I had read, studied at Calvary Chapel and at home came alive. The Bible no longer contained stories about ancient characters, these people were family, fellow members of Gods family. Finally the answer to my main question, what was so different, why did the crackers and grape juice differ so immeasurably from the bread and the wine? How can I be so drawn to the Mass when Calvary Chapel had been so awsome, so energized, so much fun? The answer is fundamental, the crackers and juice are just that crackers and juice but, the bread and the wine are infinitely more, they are literally the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. The Church uses the word, Transubstantiation, to describe this reality. In receiving this Bread and Wine, the Eucharist, Jesus is received, not just into the heart, but physically, our bodies physically joining, communing. Jesus and I literally became one. I began to understand what was meant by “we are all brothers and sisters in Christ” (Galatians 6:10), this is not just a brother/sisterhood like a fraternity or sorority this is actually sharing one Blood, the Blood of Christ, Our Savior, our Redeemer. WOW!!! “Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the words and my soul shall be healed”.
The Mass is the highest form of prayer. Here in communion with all the Angels and Saints I can hear the Word of God proclaimed and then live that Word, worshiping God giving Him all honor, glory and praise., and receiving Him as He commanded. “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and Earth are full of Your Glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.”
I had been taught very little about the Church in my Catholic schools, and I had been mislead about the Church by very well intention Protestants. It took several years to sift through and separate fact from fiction. The first and for me the most important challenge was the Authority of the Church. First, through Scott Hahn’s awesome cds “Answering Common Objections to the Catholic Church”, I learned where in the Bible defense of the Church’s authority can be found. And then I believed it. There is great freedom in submitting to the Authority God has placed here on Earth. There is Peace in knowing that when you do, it is pleasing to Him. There is love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. There is safety in the promises of Jesus. Everything I had looked for was here in Christ’s Church waiting for me to return.
After all this incredible revelation I am faced with a test. Previously in 1996 I had conceived and carried my daughter Aubrey to 36 weeks with no life threatening problems. But then, after almost 2 years of trying and trying to conceive a second child, one beautiful Friday morning I woke up, took a pregnancy test, and discovered our prayers had been answered, I was pregnant! I spent that day planning every detail of how I would tell Patrick our wonderful news. I decided to have him meet Aubrey and I at a restaurant, Chilies. Aubrey and I were there waiting at the table with a ceramic bootie and a whole bunch of pink and blue balloons. It was a great dinner. But, our joy was very short lived. As soon as we returned home I knew something was very wrong. I called my OB, Dr. David Lubetkin (great Doctor) and he told me not to panic it could just be normal, to stay off my feet, and relax. I tried. The Lord answered my prayers with “not this child”. And by Monday afternoon the baby, I had already named Nicholas (no, I do not know if the baby is a boy or not), was gone. Patrick and I were devastated.
We tried to remain optimistic, I had finally conceived, so no problem, many couples miscarry, we would still have another child, no worries. But, months went by and nothing. After seeing several doctors I finally conceive again and again it was not to be and our Elizabeth went on to be with God. A few months later again I am pregnant, but this time I know to worry and again another child, John, leaves my womb for Heaven. Again a month later I am pregnant this time with twins, Mary and Joseph, and again our children have other work to do and God called them. I must mention here that God was very, very merciful during all of this. I miscarried very early. I had a wonderful healthy child, Aubrey. Several times God warned me in advance that I would miscarry. And at Mass once God allowed me to know that although I could not be there to mother my children, Mary would.
During this time we dropped our infertility doctor, Dr. Denker. He and a few members of his staff were very insensitive/disrespectful to the life of the unborn. Dr. Lubetkin at this point went from great Dr. to a gift from God. He showed incredible compassion and an understanding of what I was going through that few others could understand. He had recommended a geneticist, Dr. Marie-Louise Lubs in Miami. She injected me with Patrick’s white blood cells (let me tell you that stings). That next month, I was to avoid becoming pregnant to allow my body time to heal after 2 back to back miscarriages. As I had not ovulated on my own in over 2 years I was not too worried. And that is when God chose to show His hand in our lives. As artificial means of birth control is a sin we did not artificially prevent conception; however we only threw caution to the wind once and God chose that moment to allow me to ovulate. On the day I was scheduled to call the OB to force a cycle (I was not even cycling on my own) I took a pregnancy test, just to be safe and it was positive. I couldn’t believe it. I took 3 more and they all confirmed yes, yes, yes we were again with child! I carefully planned telling the news to Patrick (I did not tell him in a special way with our first child, nor with the 3 last miscarriages, only with Nicholas our first child to go before us to meet the Lord). I told Patrick Aubrey was craving chicken wings from Rooties and that we would meet him there for dinner. And there, in the restaurant, barely able to breath with fear, we thanked the Lord for this new child.
It was a very scary pregnancy, long gone were the naive days of my first pregnancy. I watched, waited and prayed. Days went by, then weeks, and even months, then 2 weeks 2 hours before his scheduled due date, Joshua Patrick was born, a very healthy 7 pounds 2 ounces beautiful baby boy. I delivered him without the intervention of any medications and everything went textbook perfect. I had never felt such relief and gratitude. I experienced a release of all the pain suffered with the loss of each previous baby, it all melted away as I looked into the eyes of my son.
Almost 2 years later Patrick to my absolute thrill agreed to move “north”. Well, north of South Florida. We decided to use an invitation from Christy and Ty for Thanksgiving as an excuse to check out the Gainesville and Tallahassee areas. Christy is my sister’s sis-in-law. Anyway, the realtor took us to see several places but none moved me until she took us to see this house built in 1930 in the city of High Springs. It had suffered sever damage in the hurricanes that year and was in desperate need of love. I fell for the history and the land. The property is almost 6 3/4 acres, some wooded some shady pasture. Patrick was NOT so taken. He saw the reality of how much work it would take just to move in. So we went and looked in Tallahassee. Nothing. Thanksgiving was very nice, it started at mass at Queen of Peace in Gainesville. The Gospel was about the 10 Lepers Christ cured with only one coming back to thank him. The priest spoke not on ingratitude but on not recognizing when we have been healed. I was very emotional crying inside that if it was not His will for me to have anymore children, and I desperately wanted to do His will, “please take this overwhelming desire to have children away so I can better focus on where you want me to be.” Well, as I finished this prayer the priest was explaining how we are “healed” because of Christ sacrifice on the Cross, our relationship with God, our ability to be with Him in heaven was repaired. “So remember your healed.” I felt very strange when I heard his words, but did not want to be crushed by false hope, so I put it out of my mind. The next morning I couldn’t help myself I was drawn to take a pregnancy test and to my in my disbelief it was positive!!! We were in our camper in a campground and I was screaming and crying at the top of my lungs. Pat came running scared of what was wrong. I showed him the test and screeching asked over and over “Do you see it? Do you see it?” His “yes” barley audible. Poor Aubrey woke thinking I was having a nightmare. Always the practical guy Pat is lead back to the falling down 1930 house, I had loved. He drove around the area all morning and returned ready to call the realtor and make an offer. We bought the house and Pat began repairing it long distance and on weekends. The kids and I moved in in February and Pat moved up in mid March. After 10 years of marriage I thought “6 weeks, no problem”, it was however the longest 6 weeks of my life. Wow, I missed him. We were very happy to discover the small country parish, St. Madeliene’s, just outside our neighborhood hosts the local Catholic Homeschool group. We made several wonderful friends.
July 16, 2005 one of my new friends, Tammy, and I decided to help my baby out by going to Borders to look at books (squatting of course) and drinking lots of raspberry tea. I dropped her off at home around 1am. By 2:30am we are headed to the hospital. Pat was awesome. He took such great care of me. By this third delivery, he had grown into an awesome birth coach and I am so grateful. Tammy watched Joshua in the lobby while Pat, Aubrey and I continued into my room. Aubrey had wanted to stand by my head (so as to avoid any “gross stuff”). Apparently it wasn’t as gross as she imagined because she never came near my head, in fact she was the first to announce “I see the baby’s head, I can see it.” It was a few moments later when my midwife insisted I reach down and pull my baby out. Wow, what an incredible experience. I lifted him out and directly unto my belly. We had already decided to name him Max, Maximilian Thomas. We were back home about 12 hours later. It was truly my dream delivery. Max is now almost 8.
I have three more details I would like to point out. The week I submitted to God’s prompting to re-enter the Catholic Church, we became pregnant with Aubrey. The week I publically (telling my nextdoor neighbor) embraced the teachings of the Church about the sin of contraception, we conceived Joshua. When we committed ourselves to be completely open to God’s Will for the size or lack-thereof for our family we conceived Max. (His name story is very cool, but I am afraid this is already very long winded ).
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I am so grateful for all the Lord has done for me. I am especially grateful that my walk in faith was WITH my husband. So many of my friends have come to embrace the truths of the Catholic Church, only to suffer religious disunity in their marriage. It is a very heavy cross to carry. Please pray for these families.
We continue to pray God’s will for the size of our family and remain grateful for all things. Know that you are all in my prayers.