Why you want to know Belinda Ortner: Belinda, director of religious education and RCIA coordinator for St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, was recognized in January by the Diocese of Little Rock’s Office of Faith Formation for 20 years of service to religious education. Ortner, who was born Catholic in Kansas and was later a “revert” back to the faith, said the close-knit community at St. Anne’s is what she has loved about the church since moving to Arkansas in 1991. She is currently teaching the confirmation class, leading a Scripture study group and she works with a team to instruct the RCIA elect.
City: Pulaski County near North Little Rock
Family: Husband of 26 years, Bill; and three children, Breanna, 25, Mikayla, 22, and Michael, 19
IN HER OWN WORDS
Arkansas Catholic’s theme this year is “Grow in your Family of Faith.” What are some ways you learn about Jesus and Church teachings?
I think it’s just constantly studying, I think you have to be self-motivated to learn more. Right now I’m really big into Scripture study; I feel that’s a great way of forming my faith. I try to attend every diocesan workshop we have for DREs, just everything to keep it going.
What do you like most at St. Anne Church?
The friendliness of it. Because we’re a small parish, everybody knows everybody, which is nice. People love to talk; they don’t just get in their cars after Mass. We have this little awning out here and people stay out there and talk for the longest time. Just the true joy everybody seems to have. We’re all on this faith journey together so it’s really wonderful.
What brought you back to the Catholic Church?
We drifted away from the faith for many years. We actually didn’t get back into the faith until we moved here. I’ve always had a strong longing in my life for Jesus, and I always knew there was something missing. When we got married, we got married in the Catholic Church. I knew that was the right thing to do to start off our marriage. … My husband got transferred here for his employment and one day we saw in the bulletin about RCIA classes … Through that RCIA process, I went as a good wife to support my husband, but I learned so much myself, it was such a conversion experience for me as well.
What is the best part about the Catholic faith?
It’s so rich in traditions. I could spend my whole life learning about the faith and experiencing and I will never, never uncover all the mysteries of the Church. It’s just so beautiful. The Eucharist, I can’t imagine other faiths not believing in the real presence of body and blood and not being able to be nourished and strengthened through Communion every time we go to Mass.
What do you enjoy about leading religious education and RCIA?
The thing I love about PRE, I love the kids, they are so wonderful and the families, especially with our Hispanic families, they are so happy just to be here. That’s really a unique experience. RCIA, one of the things I love with that too is it kind of keeps you up-to-date on your Catholic family because you’ve got people asking you and hammering you with a lot of questions about this, this and this, so you feel like you have to be well-educated. People will stump you with questions and you have to say, “You know, that is a good question, I don’t know, we’ll have to find out.” So it’s constantly a learning process. And of course Easter Vigil after they’ve made their sacraments of initiation, the expressions on these people’s faces is so remarkable; you just remember each and every one.
Was there ever a time, either in religious education or RCIA, that a participant really touched your heart?
For me, especially with our Hispanics, I love working with the teens, to see some struggles that they’re going through that you can never imagine them going through. We have kids where the parents are undocumented and that fear of going to school and coming back home and maybe mom or dad has been picked up by immigration. I see kids very candidly talk to me about trying to stay away from gangs because the lure of gangs is really there. Just some of them, it’s the poverty too. Kids come here hungry a lot of times; so many of our catechists will bring food and treats and what not.
What Scripture verse inspires you?
Psalm 23 has always been since I was a child; when I was a kid I used to have very bad nightmares and my mother would get out the Bible and read to me Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd” and that would always soothe me. I could always recite that in my head to go to sleep.
What are your hobbies?
Gardening, sewing, those are the two; I like bicycling … I’m usually in the neighborhood, I try to do 10 miles … I usually try to get in anywhere from four to five times a week.
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