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This article was published in the Summer 2004 issue of The Bridge, a publication of Bridgefolk

The Bridge: George and Abbey Dupuis

A Bridgefolk Story

George and Abbey Dupuy

Two young Christians from other traditions “pitch their tent” on the Mennonite-Catholic Bridge

George and Abbey Dupuy both grew up in Virginia, she a Baptist, he a Presbyterian. They met in the marching band at James Madison Univ. in Harrisonburg, VA. They both com- pleted their education at Eastern Mennonite Univ. in Harri- sonburg. They were married in December 2001. George is now a Mennonite pastor. Abbey is now a Roman Catholic.

George credits Eastern Mennonite Seminary for his change. “Attending classes at EMS was a life-changing experience,” he says. “My experience with the Mennonites I met at Semi- nary was my first real experience of a faith community. I was in seminary on Sept. 11, 2001, and my experience during that time confirmed my need to be in a believers’ community committed to peace and justice.”

“My professors and my friends in the Spiritual Formation department were especially influential. My studies of St. Teresa, Francis de Sales, Meister Eckhart and others were what brought me onto ‘the bridge’.”

“I was invited to attend Big Spring Mennonite in Luray, and soon after offered a job there as Associate Pastor. I was rebaptized and licensed as pastor on the same day, a cold day in November in the Shenandoah River.”

Abbey traces her change to a serious two-year illness that began in her last year of college. “I began RCIA classes in- tending just to learn more about the tradition, but the journey through RCIA was life-changing and made me realize that I had finally found my home. George and I were married in December of 2001, and I was received into the Catholic Church the following Easter.”

“I had been interested in other traditions, especially Catholicism, since middle school, when I used to try to convert my Catholic friends at lunch. My roommate in college was a very committed Catholic, and she made a big impression on me. She managed to live her faith every day without seeming overcome by guilt or the need to proselytize. My sponsor dur- ing RCIA, Elizabeth, was also very influential—she has a strong faith that is obvious in everything she does.

“The most important influence, though, was St. Therese of Lisieux. When I read Story of a Soul, I felt I had met a new kindred spirit. I loved the way she wrote about Jesus and how intimately she knew him. I had always imagined Jesus and my- self as being close friends, and I often experienced God's com- munication with me through images. Finding out that there was someone else—a Doctor of the Church!—who had a similar approach made me feel I needed to be a part of the tradition that valued her way of thinking.”

What did people think when George and Abbey announced they were going to embark on life together as a Mennonite pas- tor and a Catholic? George says, “We have certainly struggled with the Spirit's leading, but eventually we decided that we had to be true to God's calling. We were certain that we were called to be together, and we were certain that we were being called to our own paths in Christianity. We trusted that God would help us work out the details.”

Abbey says, “Most people seemed to think it was a bad idea, but we both knew we were on the paths God had intended for us. We both felt we had come home to our respective traditions and that we were being obedient. We knew, also, that we were called to be together, so we had to accept that the ‘mixed mar- riage’ was just part of the bag. It didn't hurt that we were drawn to each other's chosen traditions, as well. We just covenanted to go to Mass on Saturday evenings and to church on Sunday morning.”

They are now both active in ministry. George is a pastor at Big Spring Mennonite Church in Luray, VA, and director of Faith in Action of Page County, an ecumenical volunteer pro- ject that provides services for homebound seniors. Abbey is director of a before and after-school care program for children in grades K-7 conducted by their Mennonite church. They are in the process of becoming foster parents for a boy they met through the after-school program.

They learned about Bridgefolk in the winter of 2003 from Brenda Bellamy, while attending the annual Worship Week- end at Laurelville Mennonite Church Center, and they at- tended the Bridgefolk conference last summer. “It's so com- forting to know that we're not freaks,” says Abbey, “that we aren’t the only people dealing with these issues.” George says, “It was a tremendous feeling to be surrounded by others that were in similar situations. The confirmation of community was wonderful.”

But they are also struggling with the problems of being a family while living on the bridge. “Every weekend when I get up and leave George kneeling in the pew on Saturdays— knowing that one of the strongest and most compassionate Christian people I know is not allowed to receive Eucharist in my church—what do we do?” asks Abbey.

“Or when my faith community in the Mennonite church— which is very small and much more closely connected to my personal life than my large Catholic parish—stands in a circle to receive communion, turning to each other and saying, ‘The body of Christ,’ and I feel almost nauseated because it some- how doesn't feel right to me?

“Those are the real issues about Eucharist, and it has very little to do with ecumenical councils and dialogues between people who have the power to make important decisions. It's gritty and messy and much more painful than that.”

But despite these problems George and Abbey are commit- ted to continuing. “I can't imagine either of us giving up our chosen traditions,” says Abbey. “Since this is the way we have been made, and since we’re also made to be together, I guess we'll be dealing with a slightly more complicated church life than many other people we know for a long time to come.”

She says this realizing the problems of raising children in a Mennonite Catholic family. Abbey asks, “Is it possible to raise children on the bridge? Has anyone ever successfully done this?”

How do they feel about the future? Abbey says, “I think, for now, we've found a community in Bridgefolk that can sus- tain us in spite of the current divisions between our traditions, and that gives me hope.”

George says, “While the bridge can be a difficult place to pitch a tent, I feel sure that this is where God is calling us to be. I believe that we'll stay there.”