How sending her daughter to Catholic school led one mother back to her faith

Leigh Trerice and her oldest daughter, Madelyn, attend the March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24. Though raised Catholic, Trerice was apathetic about her faith until her parents offered to pay for her daughter to attend Catholic school. That decision, she says now, completely changed her life. (Photos by Paul Duda | Detroit Catholic)

Daughter's education at St. Mary School in Royal Oak began a life-altering journey back to Catholicism for Leigh Trerice

STERLING HEIGHTS — When Leigh Trerice was in her early twenties, she experienced a complete 180-degree turn in her faith — thanks largely to the impact of her daughter’s Catholic school.

When an opportunity to send her daughter to St. Mary School in Royal Oak presented itself in 2011, Trerice took it, not realizing how much of an impact the Catholic learning environment would have on her own faith, which had been non-existent for some time.

“We went to Mass and we upheld good values and morals standards,” said Trerice, who was born and raised Catholic. “I took CCD classes (as a child), but it wasn’t like we were living our faith.”

When Trerice was preparing for confirmation, her family moved out of the United States to Germany, and Trerice never finished her classes, leaving confirmation behind. Trerice stopped attending church regularly, and by the time she was living on her own, she had stopped practicing her faith completely.

“I was maybe agnostic; I didn’t really think about it much,” Trerice said.

“I learned so much in RCIA. I was like, ‘What? We believe what? That is so amazing and that makes so much sense!’” Trerice exclaimed.

As a single mom at 22 years old, Trerice’s parents offered to pay for Trerice’s young daughter, Madelyn, to attend Catholic school near them at St. Mary. She eagerly accepted, regarding it as a “cute” opportunity for her parents to pick her daughter up from school and spend time with her.

While some Catholic schools require parish tithing for families to receive a discount on tuition, St. Mary was different; rather than tithing, the school required regular family Mass attendance.

So Trerice started attending, eager to help her parents save on tuition after their gracious offer. Over time, Trerice experienced an awakening in her faith, becoming more involved in the school community and getting to know the other families.

But that wouldn’t be the only significant change the St. Mary community would bring about. Unbeknownst to Trerice, some of the other mothers at the school conspired to set her up with one of their bachelor friends. In what Trerice describes as a work of the Holy Spirit, she uncharacteristically went on a blind date with her now-husband, Arthur.

“We knew right away that we were being called to marriage,” Trerice said. Arthur was Lutheran, but he wanted to practice the same faith as Trerice and her daughter, so he entered RCIA with Trerice as his sponsor — a learning experience for her as much as for him.

“I learned so much in RCIA. I was like, ‘What? We believe what? That is so amazing and that makes so much sense!’” Trerice exclaimed.

Right before Arthur became Catholic, Trerice was finally confirmed in her faith.

Trerice continues to learn about her Catholic faith and is amazed by the truths of the Church. Now a mother of three — with a fourth due in May — she continues to discover her faith through her children’s school, where she serves as an administrator.

Trerice and Madelyn are passionately pro-life. She believes it's important for her family to participate in communities that share their faith and values. Outside of the Catholic environment, many have the attitude of morals and values being relative, she said, and in fact, she felt that way once herself. 

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“I am constantly learning about new things and the new ways we can celebrate our faith,” Trerice said. “There is always something to learn,” whether through a novena she has never heard, the lives of the saints or through the celebration of a feast day, she said.

Trerice keeps the faith alive for her kids at home and said so much of what they do as a family revolves around their Catholic faith.

“Our whole family is just in love with the faith,” Trerice said. “The little ones lead us in prayer. We try to talk about what is happening in Mass and some of the beautiful things in the Church and make it real and a part of daily life for them,” she said.

Further, Trecrice believes it’s important for her family to participate in communities that share their faith and values. Outside of the Catholic environment, morals and values can seem relative and arbitrary, she said, a view she once held herself.

“If we have our Catholic environment, we can put it in perspective and see that moral relativism is not a good thing,” she said.

On Jan. 24, Trerice and Madelyn attended the March for Life in Washington, D.C. Once apathetic about the issue of abortion, both mother and daughter are now passionately and vocally pro-life.

Trerice continues to learn, and her devotion to her faith is palpable. She recalls learning for the first time the truths of marriage through St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, and the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist as true turning points in her appreciation of the Catholic faith.

“The True Presence struck me the most,” Trerice said. “I grew up my entire life as a Catholic, attended CCD, and I did not understand what we really believe: that is Jesus.”