Tuesday, December 22, 2020

(246) JOHN-PAUL SEBASTIAN + ELIZABETH LEE HERRERA A Man of Polish heritage and a Woman of Latin American Heritage Blend Into One

 AMDG


JUST MARRIED…...minutes ago just before the Offertory of the Nuptial Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Roman Catholic Church in Keller, Texas (a suburb of Dallas)!  Euphoria!  Introducing Mr. John-Paul Sebastian & his bride, Mrs. Elizabeth Lee Herrera Sebastian on July 10, 2020.   Fr. Christopher Andrews, who has bi-ritual faculties (both in the Latin Rite as a priest of the Benedictine order and also in the Byzantine Rite as pastor of St. Basil’s Byzantine Catholic Church in Dallas), presided at the wedding Mass in the Latin Rite.  In the Byzantine Catholic tradition on Grandma Sebastian’s side, they would sing: “May they have many years”.  May Christ be at the center of their home as a domestic church with the Holy Family their model to follow as witnesses of what a Christian marriage and family should be.  Trailing behind is little sister Victoria Herrera (the Maid of Honor) and little brother Joseph Sebastian (the Co-Best Man).  Texas was a hot spot in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic at the time and everyone in the 

John-Paul has met beautiful women both in the United States and across the ocean in far off Poland.  But he found the love of his life deep in the heart of Texas.  A Knight of Columbus, John-Paul proudly walks down the aisle in the above photo, having won the heart of his Princess Elizabeth. May he reciprocate every day by giving himself completely to her until death do they part.

       Elizabeth majored in Drama with a Concentration in Education at the Catholic University of Dallas.  She transmits her love of the theater daily to her students at Nimitz High School in Irving, Texas by her teaching and directing four productions a year.  Elizabeth has a beautiful calling because the theater is often more powerful than any lecture in reaching people with the Christian message and values……witness William Shakespeare.

       At Ave Maria University in Florida, John-Paul had a double major in Math and Economics.  He also ran track and cross country and belonged to a household modeled after those of Franciscan University. At graduation John-Paul was recognized as the Outstanding Economics Student.  A whiz at Math since a toddler, John-Paul has been a Math teacher in middle school and high school.  In his eight year career he has prepared many students for life and for careers in science and technology.

       The Courtship. His sister Stephanie and four other women rented a house together.  Her big brother, big hearted John-Paul would graciously cut their grass and they would graciously reward the chow hound with a good home cooked meal.  One of the girls in particular caught his eye. Furthermore, his sister recommended her.  Both enjoy sports, particularly jogging and as a bonus, her family is a part of Steeler Nation.  It was no wonder then that John-Paul and Elizabeth hit it off and now you know the rest of the story. Jaga and I met her for the first time during our Christmas stay in Dallas before Stephanie and Daniel’s wedding on December 29, 2018.  As we chatted about the theater, little did we realize that we were talking to our future daughter-in-law!


There she is, Miss America on a Rosary Walk on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan with the Sebastian wing of her extended family.  “Who took the picture?”, I wondered.  Oh yea…….Elizabeth must have taken a selfie and her beautiful smile was right on.  She’s very photogenic!

        As winter turned into Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2019,  John Paul and Elizabeth spent ever more time together….. praying, running, working out, attending Mass, exercise classes, a weekly Theology of the Body study group (that John Paul hosted), social events, cooking dinner together, reading "Lord of the Rings", watching "Stranger Things", and conversing with each other as much and as often as they could.  

     The couple was also growing together spiritually and that’s what Christian marriage is all about…..mutual sanctification.  Previously, after going through a crisis, John-Paul joined a group of men who committed themselves to Exodus 90, a challenging 90 day program of prayer, fasting, and fraternal accountability all geared to spiritual growth.  The experience changed JP’s life as his spiritual development took a leap forward.

In his phone calls to us John-Paul would talk about this girl he was getting very close to.  Anne Spiotta, Stephanie’s in-laws, invited our family to their summer home on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan for Thanksgiving dinner and as house guests for the weekend.  And of course, John-Paul brought his Texas belle.  We immediately were enamored to Elizabeth and got to know her a little better.

      
  
                    
Elizabeth at four and fast forward to 2019……..always devoted to our common mother.  When in trouble, go to Mary and then do what He (her son) tells you (John 2:5).

  A Very Special and Unique Engagement. Then it happened.  It was well after midnight on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, early December 12.  After the special Midnight Mass John-Paul took Elizabeth to Mary’s altar.  They prayed; she said yes; and voila; they were engaged!  Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ..... my favorite manifestation of Mary.  I lived in the neighborhood of her basilica shrine in Mexico City all of April 1965, learning Spanish in preparation for my 14 years as a lay missionary in Peru.  I visited Mary every day.  For the fascinating history of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe go to  

(104) Our Lady of Guadalupe (I): Binding the Americas Together

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2012/12/v-behaviorurldefaultvmlo.html

 (105) Our Lady of Guadalupe (II): Mary’s Message to us in the Image

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2012/12/our-lady-of-guadalupe-ii-marys-message.html

 (199) A Homecoming to the Great Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City 

http://paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com/2017/12/199-homecoming-to-great-shrine-of-our.html     

      Los dos novios spent the next several months planning for the wedding and going through an extensive and very thorough marriage preparation conducted by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church.  See Appendix I for details.  Then there was a lot of planning and organizing……..bridal gown, dress for the wedding party, rehearsal and dinner, priest, church, wedding reception, etc.  The couple did a great job at this.

     They even had a website made with information about how they met, dating, courtship, their coming wedding, and great photos of their engagement, respective families that will merge into an extended family as well as photos of their bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Go to www.elizabethlovesjohnpaul.com that will eventually be changed to a more permanent www.elizabethlovesjohnpaul.minted.us

       My daughter Naomi, my wife Jaga, and I flew down to Dallas on July 2.  We stayed with Stephanie and Daniel in their domestic church (home).  We met Tony and Nancy Herrera for the first time at a great get together for the 4th of July at their home.  We also met Grandma Mary Agnes Herrera.  Her husband Eduardo was stuck in Guatemala since flights to the United States were cancelled due to the Coronavirus.  Victoria, the Maid of Honor and Elizabeth’s younger sister, is an Art major with a focus on Ceramics at the University of Dallas.     

After dinner, Victoria had the entire wedding party practicing for a little Broadway type musical show for the wedding reception.  Wow!  That petit energetic girl used the wide driveway as an improvised stage.  Victoria is quite agile; she showed them and had the wedding party moving!  We put chairs on the street and saw fireworks from the local park several blocks away.     

The Rehearsal Dinner at a Mexican restaurant.  I had a lot of fun with my rehearsal dinner speech.  The introduction consisted of singing a lullaby song I made up in Spanish when John-Paul was a baby 31 years ago.  Since there were many Spanish speakers in the audience, why not honor the Herrera family's beautiful heritage by making the speech bilingual since I love the language?  I mentioned our pride in the couple in going through the courtship and engagement in the right way; my delight that John-Paul chose a woman of a latino heritage, exhorting them to be proud of their Latin American and Polish heritage; that Abuelito Tony speak to the children in Spanish and Babcia Jaga in Polish.  Since Tony Herrera is a rabid Steeler fan and so is John-Paul and I, it was fun taking a playful jab at the local Dallas Cowboys.  That met a mixture of cheers and boos.  See Appendix II for the complete text.

The Big Day……July 10, 2020


Getting ready.  The mirror shows all the action in the preparation room at the church.  Notice the mother of the bride, Nancy Baez Herrera taking the picture between the bride and her other daughter, Victoria.

The studs, a.k.a. John-Paul, the groom and his groomsmen are getting ready too.  

        The Shoe Trade Saga. Half an hour before the 3 pm ceremony, the wedding party was still getting ready in the church.  Despite all the hustle and bustle, John-Paul was secure that he remembered everything.  Then he made a discovery.  His shoes weren’t shined!  “Houston, we have a problem!”  Then we remembered that Joseph has even bigger feet than John-Paul……size 14.  It would be a perfect fit.  Big feet run in our family.  “Joseph, could you do me a big favor?  Could you switch shoes with me?”  Little brother dutifully obliged.  It worked like a charm.  Problem solved!  When it was all over, “Joseph, your shoes are now very special to me; they are the shoes I wore at my wedding.  Could we make the trade permanent?  Thanks, Joseph.”  When his age, JP's father almost went to an interview with two different (unpaired) shoes......a chip off the old block.

HERE COMES THE BRIDE!  Tony Herrera escorts his daughter to the altar to entrust John-Paul with the responsibility of providing for and protecting Elizabeth with deep love for the rest of his life.

The time finally arrived at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller, Texas (a Dallas suburb).  Since Texas was a hot spot of the coronavirus, we had to wear masks and every other row was kept vacant.  The following video will give you the sensation of being there at the wedding and the reception even if you could not attend in person.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5qioTIuias&feature=youtu.be   

Before the reading of the Gospel, the couple will kiss the sacred book. Pictured on the Bible are the four evangelists of the Gospel……Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with Christ at the center..  May they always be faithful to the Gospel, not only to keep it, but also to spread it in little or big ways beginning in their own little domestic church, the home.  After all, the chief educators in the faith are the parents, a grave responsibility.  Catechism teachers are only supplements.

The Wedding Ceremony. It was Nancy Baez Herrera, the mother of the bride who did a great job in taking the photos.  She’s a professional photographer.  Her husband Tony came into the church pulling a wagon full of her photographic equipment.  To see all her wedding photos, click on 

https://www.itsjustmephotography.com/herrera20

The password is sebastian20.  After logging in, type that password when asked for an id or password as often as necessary.


The exchange of rings that bind John-Paul and Elizabeth together until death do they part.  John-Paul, by the way, is a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.  Through their vows the couple in reality administers the sacrament.  God, His priest, Fr. Christopher Andrews, and all of us are the witnesses to this sacred bond (symbolized by the rings) that John-Paul and Elizabeth commit themselves to each other freely, completely, and permanently.


The choir, made up of bridesmaids and groomsmen, was directed by Daniel Spiotta.  Left to right are Jordan & Mara Boer Matteoli and Stephanie Sebastian Spiotta. 

       Fr. Christopher Andrews presided at the Nuptial Mass.  The lectors were Monica Ashour and Richard Le Grand.  The cantor, Erin Scalisi; the flower girls, Everly Guilbeault & Daphne Chernoff; the ring bearers Zachary Guilbeault & Seth Wooming.

Our Lord is there too in the Eucharist as we recall the Gospel verse: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Matthew 19:6).


John-Paul accompanies Elizabeth to present flowers to Mary at her altar.

The entire wedding party.  From left to right are Ellen Rogers, Zeina Chernoff, Kerry Kennedy, Rachel Polzer, Jennifer Brady, Naomi Sebastian Faro, Annamica Klem, Stephanie Sebastian Spiotta, Rachel Sullivan, Mara Boer Matteoli, Jenna Bowersock, Victoria Herrera, the bride and the groom, Joseph Sebastian, Patrick Gordon, Jordan Matteoli, Jacob Bowersock, Daniel Spiotta, Matthew Klem, Michael Reardon, Santi Duran, Andrew Klem, Daniel Ybarra, and Justin Ryan.  


And now we are a family of eight, thanks to Daniel Spiotta and his wife Stephanie on the left and the bride, Elizabeth Herrera Sebastian with her groom John-Paul.  To the right of the groom are the parents, Jaga Gajda Sebastian and Paul, Joseph, and Naomi Sebastian.


The Herrera Family also increased by one!  To the left of the bride are Victoria and her mother Nancy Baez Herrera.  On the right is Tony Herrera, John-Paul’s father-in-law.


The grandparents of the bride.  Eduardo Herrera could not get out of Guatemala because of Covid-19.  Mary Agnes Herrera on the right arrived before the lockdown.  To the left of the bride are Oscar Baeza and Manuela Salas.  John-Paul’s grandparents --Josef  and Frederika Kasprovich Gajda and Drs. John J.S. and Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian-- are there in spirit.  Now John-Paul has a new set of grandparents.

    Wedding celebrations also serve as family reunions and we remember our loved ones who have passed on to eternity, in this case......the Sebastian and Gajda extended families on John-Paul's side and the Herrera and Baez extended families on Elizabeth's side.  Some of them are in the following picture of family at the wedding of Paul and Jaga Gajda Sebastian.

Three people in this August 13, 1988 wedding photo of Stephanie’s parents are no longer with us, but were present at the wedding of John-Paul and Elizabeth in spirit.  Many of the invited extended family did not attend because Texas was a hotspot for the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, but were also there in spirit.  From left to right are Nicole Sebastian Peeney, Fredericka Kasprowicz Gajda (Jaga’s mother, now deceased), John Sebastian (Paul’s younger brother), Dr. Stephanie Mihalich Sebastian (Stephanie’s grandmother, now deceased), John Victor Sebastian II, Mark Sebastian, Jaga & Paul Sebastian, Michelle Sebastian Gleason, Frederick Sebastian (Paul’s youngest brother who never married, now deceased), and Kathleen Marks Sebastian (John’s wife).  Among the fruits of the marriage of Paul and Jaga is the handsome groom, John-Paul.  We are looking forward to the fruits of the marriage of John-Paul and Elizabeth.  Look who has the grey hair now.  Time marches on until we’re all together again for that big party in Heaven.  You’re all invited; MAKE SURE YOU GET THERE!   

Beso, Beso!  But nobody was looking except the photographer in front of the Milestone center in Denton, a Dallas suburb.


A kiss amidst cheers by their fans, the Wedding Party.  To the left of the bride is the Maid of Honor, Victoria Herrera.  To the right of the groom are the Co-Best Men, Joseph Sebastian and Patrick Gordon.  The bridesmaids are: Jenna Bowersock, Mara Bower, Rachel Sullivan, Stephanie Sebastian Spiotta, Annamica Klem, Naomi Sebastian, Jennifer Brady, Rachel Polzer, Kerry Kennedy, Ellen Rogers, and Zeina Chernoff.  The groomsmen are: Jordan Matteoli, Jacob Bowersock, Daniel Spiotta, Matt Klem, Michael Reardon, Santi Duran, Andrew Gill, Daniel Ybarra, and Justin Ryan.

Enter the bride and the groom at the reception.

        The Reception.  The Milestone in Denton, Texas is a beautiful venue.  Everyone had a good time……such a good time that we forgot all about wearing masks.  Social distancing?  We forgot all about that too and we could have danced all night.  We had some great conversation, but too close to each other because of the loud music.  One guy sprayed a bit and that was a bit scary.  Miraculously, nobody got sick. Thank you Lord!  I pray that God will be with us at Naomi’s wedding.

       The prince and his princess and their court ready for dinner.

                             Cutting the cake; doing things together.

        There were many toasts by the maid of honor Victoria Herrera, the best men Joseph Sebastian and Patrick Gordon, the groomsmen, and the bridesmaids.  The texts of a number of them are in the appendices below
.
                  A toast by Tony Herrera, the father of the bride 

The Musical Show. The reception was unique.  Victoria, the Maid of Honor, put on a great Broadway type musical with the members of the wedding party.  They danced like pros.  We danced with the stars!   Watch it on the video; the link is above.

    Her musical and her team are number one!  Let the show begin! 


  Dance of the Studs Team as the center, John-Paul goes up for a jump         shot just like his boyhood idol, Michael Jordan did it.  Their common       love of sports helped to bring John-Paul and Elizabeth together.……         thus sports is the theme of the musical.



 The quarterback and his team set for a forward pass of the terrible   towel of the Pittsburgh Steelers.


The grand finale just like Broadway.  Not bad for only a couple of practices.  The director, the Maid of Honor Victoria Herrera did a great job in such a short time. 

        Now it’s our turn to dance.  Everyone had a good time.  John-Paul and Elizabeth have a great circle of friends.  We enjoyed meeting them and had some interesting conversation.

      The first dance

“I love you, my daughter!  Always keep close to your family”, Tony Herrera seems to be saying.

      

    John-Paul’s second dance……with Mom.

       They could have danced all night with social distancing........sort of.

Celebration! We share their joy.  They had a great time and baby too.

 Groom leads the saints while cigar toting Papito holds onto his daughter.

The glorious exit, using 4th of July sparklers.  Notice the Pittsburgh Steeler terrible towel hanging out of his pocket.  Does it go on the honeymoon too?


And the Steeler sweethearts are off in style.

Off For the HoneymoonThe honeymooners decided to go to Colorado where John-Paul taught at St. John Paul II School in Montrose, Colorado for two years.  John Paul knew exactly where to take his bride in the Colorado Rockies as seen in the following two pictures.

     

Honeymoon in Colorado.  The background in the second photo is the Colorado National Monument.

Appendix

Appendix I: JP & Elizabeth’s Excellent Marriage Preparation

          As Described by Elizabeth Herrera Sebastian

I wanted to take a minute to tell you about the extensive preparation John Paul and I have gone through with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church and the Diocese of Fort Worth.  In this diocese, we are expected to go through various courses and prep classes which have been very enlightening and incredible to go through. All of this prep makes me a proud member of the Diocese of Fort Worth and SEAS. The first was an informational session in which they go through all the requirements.  This session is led by three parish employees who explain each requirement and have been in contact with us regarding our "packet" which was just completed yesterday!  This session lasted a couple of hours. At the end of this course, we each took a 160 question "test" independently of one another.  We were instructed to not look at each other's answers, but they will come into play later....

We first attended a Pre Cana class taught by our very good friend and spiritual mother, Monica Ashour.  She is the leader of the Theology of the Body Evangelization Team (TOBET) here in DFW.  She leads the JPII Theology of the Body study group every Wednesday at the JPII house (John Paul's house).  I don't know how much you know about this group, but it is incredible!  We gather every Wednesday and have dinner and then read and discuss content on the body and dignity of man and woman in relation to one another and specifically in marriage.  This has honestly been an incredible marriage prep without actually calling itself that because of what we discuss. 

It was a very welcoming surprise when we walked into our Pre-Cana course and our good friend, Monica Ashour, was there to lead us in two nights of reading, discussing, and information regarding the church, marriage, and what it means to say "I DO."  It was eye opening to see the couples in the room who did not attend daily mass as JP and I do, who don't fully believe in the church or in the traditional roles of a man and woman; however, the class was taught VERY well and Monica was strong and Truthful in emphasizing "the body matters" which is her big "go-to" saying, and how beautiful this sacrament of marriage is while rooting us all in basic Catholic theology. Each night they served us dinner which was a VERY nice bonus! :)

The next course we got started on was our Natural Family Planning (NFP) class which is required in the Diocese of Fort Worth (unlike in the Diocese of Dallas).  We were originally going to take this course with JP's previous roommate Andrew Gill, but then ended up taking it with a delightful woman by the name of Lindsey Sinclair and she was very informative and helpful.  We had to take four sessions in which she reinforced the Church's stances on being Pro Life and natural in conceiving.


Lisa and Tom Flobeck, the mentor couple, who coached the bride & groom along.

Lastly, we were required to participate in the "Fully Engaged" course, but we were not alone!!  This last course was taken with a sponsor couple!  We were paired with Tom and Lisa Flobeck and they were so incredible!  Tom and Lisa were kind enough to wait until we were able to meet with them in person after the quarantine loosened up a little.  From the start, we were greeted with warm smiles and hugs not with arms (due to social distancing) but with welcoming words. We met with them a total of four times, but for other couples it may be more depending on how quickly they go through the material.  We read 14 sections/chapters together and each chapter had several questions which they would answer some questions and then we would answer some questions.  This is where they would share their personal experiences and insights with us and WOW! it was so good to hear from them!  I love hearing stories and experiences from those who have more to share than I do. 

After answering the questions in the book, we would look at the questions John Paul and I answered from our 160 questionnaire back during the informational session!!  Now, we had answered these questions months ago and it was very interesting to see how we answered them back then and how some of our answers have already changed!!  All of our answers were put together in a packet which had the following format: question, preferred answer for the Church, Groom's answer, Bride's answer. Every time our answers differed from the church, differed from each other or a question was a priority regardless of how we answered, we went over the question and discussed our answers.

More stories were shared between our sponsor couple and ourselves, and it was enlightening to see how they love each other so much and have grown closer to God because of their marriage.  They have distinct differences which were sometimes stark and obvious such as Lisa was quick tempered and very strong in character and a definite leader. Tom was a little quieter and laid back.  She was a night person and does not like getting up early, he is a morning bird and loves to get up and get going with his day.  The differences go on and on, but they have so much in common which is love for each other, God, the Church and giving back.  These obvious similarities to me were reasons why they love each other so much, and there are certainly many many more reasons and similarities.  The most obvious take away for me from our sponsor couple sessions was about how it is absolutely ok for John Paul and I to have our differences and it is even ok for us to disagree.

I wanted to tell you the titles of the 14 chapters we read and discussed: Differences, Division of Labor, Recreational Activities, Family of Origin, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Catholic Identity, Finances, Intimacy, Infertility and Adoption, Catholic Parenting, Vocation/Career, and Sacrament of Marriage. Lisa brought our fourth meeting to a close with the following conclusion which I will never forget.  She asked us two questions: At this point, can you honestly say that you are entering this marriage "without coercion, freely and wholeheartedly? We both said yes. Are you entering this marriage with the understanding that the two of you will be together for life? We both said yes. Then she said, "Great!  That's all I care about!......because this is irreversible!" We all kind of laughed, but what she said has so much truth to it.  One of the major themes lately in the Wednesday night study group is the verse "my sister, my bride." John Paul is my brother, my groom.  I am his sister, his bride.  Just as the relationship between a sister and brother are irreversible, so is the sacrament of marriage. Marriage will not be perfect, but I do know we are perfect for each other.  

The last thing we recently had to do was visit with Candy who you will see at our wedding rehearsal at the church.  She had us answer a prenuptial questionnaire which was very serious and unlike what we had done so far.  She asked us a series of questions which were along the lines of, "Are you aware of the commitment you are about to do, Are you currently married, are you forced to be here, are you willing to give yourself entirely to your spouse, are you willing to be faithful, etc." and hearing John Paul answer these questions brought me to a little tear.  It was so beautiful hearing him answer these questions because I know God has given me a strong, faithful, dedicated, honest man who will love me forever through whatever challenges we will be given.  There is no one I'd rather live my life with than your son and I am so grateful to God, Jaga, You-Paul, and the entire Sebastian lineage for creating the man I am about to give my whole self to.  I am honored to become a Sebastian.  

I love you greatly as well.  In only a few more weeks we will be united once again and in 37 days, we will have the biggest party we are able to have!!!!!!  I know this celebration will be so full of life, love, excitement, and merriment!!!  I can't wait to dance the night away with you and the family!! 

If you have time, I would love to hear some stories about how you have given yourself completely to Jaga.  What have you done in your marriage that worked and opened you up to give her love and receive her love?  What were some of your struggles and solutions? As I mentioned earlier, I love hearing stories and personal stories from you would be very special to hear... or read in the form of an email.  :)

Appendix II:

Rehearsal Dinner Speech By the Father of the Groom

The following speech is bilingual as a tribute to Elizabeth and her family and their rich Latin American heritage, something that merits great pride.  We are Americans first.  Yet we take great pride in our ethnic roots........Hungary and Poland on John-Paul's side........Guatemala, Mexico, and Spain on Elizabeth's side. 



          Let's turn the clock back exactly 31 years and do a replay:  “Juan Pablito, wawito, bebito, chiquito, y lindo......lindo”.  Juan Pablito just didn't want to go to sleep until I sang it several times.  You see Jaga and I agreed that I would speak to our kids only in Spanish and she would speak to them only in Polish.  After all I'm Polish by marriage.  Research shows that kids have a marvelous affinity for languages as long as each person consistently speaks to the child in only one language.  Then the child identifies the language with the person and does not confuse one language with the other.  Abuelito Antonio, por favor, habla con tus nietos solamente en Español.  Babcia Jadwiga, proshe talk to your grandchildren only in Polish.

        I sang in Spanish because I love Latin America, particularly Mexico and Peru, having spent 14 years there  as a lay missionary teaching business, economic development, chemistry, and the methodology of science teaching at the Universidad Católica de Santa María in Arequipa, Perú.    I would read Bible stories to our children in Spanish and they understood.  We called the book “El Libro de Jesus”.  We also watched the adventures of Perro Pepe on PBS TV.  Little Stefcia would call her big brother Juan Wawito.  She speaks very good Spanish today.    

     Mientras que cantaba el lullaby improvisado en español, no pensé que mi primer hijo crecería ser un hombre guapo, intelligente, fuerte......y encontrar una joya como la Princesa Elizabeth en el corazón de Texas.  Estoy felíz que Elizabeth Herrera viene de una familia con raices latinoamericanos........es decir Guatemala y México......paises con una herencia cultural muy rica.   

         As I was singing my improvised lullaby in Spanish, little did I realize that our first born would grow up to become a handsome, intelligent, and strong man and find such a gem as Princess Elizabeth deep in the heart of Texas.  I am delighted that Elizabeth Herrera comes from a family with Latin American roots, namely, Guatemala and Mexico........countries with a rich cultural heritage.    And as a bonus the members of her family are loyal citizens of Steeler Nation........Yes!!!  Go Steelers; beat the Cowboys.

          We are proud of you John Paul and Elizabeth for choosing as the venue for your engagement the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe after midnight Mass on her feast day this past December 12.  Viva Cristo Rey and the heroes of the Cristero War in Mexico for religious freedom!  Viva ls Virgencita de Guadalupe!  Let me hear it.......VIVA!  Que Cristo siempre sea el centro de su familia.  May Christ always be the center of your home.  May the patroness of the Americas always nurture your faith and pray for your family.

       Somos orgullosos de Uds. por hacer su preparación por el sacramento de Matrimonio en una manera muy recta........nada de vivir juntos antes de la boda.  Que Uds. sean un fuente de luz in un mundo oscuro.  Que Uds. sean testigos de lo que una familia cristiana debe ser.  Somos felices que Uds han crecidos spiritualment durante su tiempo juntos.   Eso es lo que un matriomonio es........sanctificación mutua y el producto de su amor serán hijos.

      We are also proud of you both for going through your courtship and engagement in the right way.......no shacking up.  Now may you be a beacon of light in a dark world.  May you be a witness as to what a marriage and a Christian family should be.  We are very happy that both of you have grown spiritually during your time together.  That's what marriage is all about......mutual sanctification and the product of your love will be children.     

        Si, Uds son primeramente, Americanos.  Pero sean orgullosos de su herenecia cultural.  Imigrantes han hecho America un gran país.  Generalmente solamente los mejores vienen.......los que estan listos de trabajar duro por poco sueldo; listos de mejorarse; de superar obstaculos y incertidumbre.........todos contribuyeno al bien común.  Quizás ellos no logran el sueño americano immidiatemente, pero sus hijos y/o sus nietos con frecuencia son exitosos.  Tu papa, Elizabeth es um gran ejemplo de un inmigrante que logró el sueño americano.  Este pequeño discurso es bilingue para ser un tributo a sus antepasados.  Qué no les olvidemos porque están aqui en espíritu.  Y extranyamos un Herrera que no podía salir de Guatemala debido a la coronavirus.  Espero con anticipacin de conocerle.       

     Yes, you are Americans first.  Yet be proud of your cultural heritage. Immigrants have made America great.  Generally only the best come, those who are willing to work hard for little, improve themselves, overcome many obstacles and uncertainty......all contributing to the common good.  They may not achieve the American dream immediately, but their children and/or grandchildren often do.  Your father, Elizabeth is a prime example of one who did.  This talk is bilingual to be a tribute to your forefathers.  Let us not forget them because they are here in spirit.  And we very much miss your Grandpa Herrera who could not leave Guatemala because of the coronavirus.  I'm looking forward to meeting him personally.

        Conserven su herencia rica.  Animen a sus hijos aprender español.  Formenles con virtud para servir a Dios y la Patria.  Pasen la herencia a sus hijos.  Pasen la fé a ellos.  Entonces el mundo será un poquíto mejor debido a Uds. y sus hijos.

         Preserve your rich heritage.  Encourage your children to learn Spanish.  Form them with virtue to serve God and Country.  Pass down the heritage.  Pass down the faith.  Then the world will be just a little bit better because of you and your children.

Appendix III

Toast by Joseph Sebastian, the Co-Best Man and Brother of the Groom


Wow. I still find it hard to believe that John-Paul is marrying such a beautiful and wonderful woman. As John-Paul's brother, I appreciate him n' all, but I think my basic attitude was "Who could ever learn to love a beast?" Like this is the guy that when I was a little kid would torment me by placing me on the carpet and then whenever I would try to leave the carpet, would tackle me right back into place. As John-Paul and Elizabeth's relationship had advanced, I remember him telling me, "Joseph, she really likes me"...but I still had my doubts. But then I got the Save the Date and saw their wedding website: ElizabethLovesJohnPaul.com. It's on the internet, it must be true.

So how did we get here? 

As long as I have known him, John-Paul has been a dreamer. He loves to imagine weird hypothetical situations or fantasize about being like Michael Jordan or his favorite movie characters. At one point, he was in love with Arwen who is an elf from The Lord of the Rings. Since Arwen is already married to Aragorn and is also fictional, this dream wasn't quite actionable. But in general, John-Paul would follow these words of a wise man: "Don't let your dreams be dreams...Just Do It!" 

Like once, our family was visiting Stephanie at her college in California. There were some nearby mountains and they were sending a challenge to be conquered. So John-Paul and I resolved to climb one. We didn't tell our family we were going in case they would say no. So after drinking some water and without any further preparation we left to climb the mountain. After a while the trail ended, but we decided to push on. After a couple of hours, we realized that it was going to take longer than we had thought. But we weren't going to turn back. Eventually we made it to what we concluded to be the top. 

But we still had to make it back down and we were very thirsty in that hot California sun. So we slid down the mountain the best we could. Our throats got so parched that we thought we might die out there. John-Paul got so desperate he drank from a dubious puddle. But we survived and that is one of my favorite memories.

But I think the greatest example of John-Paul following his dream is in his pursuit of Elizabeth. I remember when he brought up his intention of proposing. Some of us thought it might be more prudent to wait longer. But John-Paul had the dream that he would propose after the midnight Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. And he did it!

It was very appropriate that John-Paul proposed after Mass. From his start of Exodus 90 to the proposal, John-Paul was being led by Christ. Saint Pope John-Paul II said, "It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal". John-Paul's devotion to Elizabeth is fueled by his devotion to Christ. And I know that God in his goodness will lead them in their marriage in the years to come.

To the bride and groom!

Appendix IV

Toast by Victoria Herrera, the Maid of Honor and Sister of the Bride



Hi everyone, my name is Victoria and I am Elizabeth’s sister. Since I am the younger sister, I have the pleasure of having Elizabeth as my role model and the person who I’ve looked up to my whole life. She is an amazing, hard working person and I’ve always been known as Elizabeth’s younger sister. I've never minded the comparison though because she is my inspiration and I have always wanted to be like her.  Growing up,  I thought I wanted to be a swimmer in high school, just like her, but turns out dancing is more my thing. I thought I also wanted to be super involved in theater, but I realized that studio art was more my thing.

If I could, I would be just like Elizabeth, but turns out we are still different people and she has always helped me figure out how to be myself. And thank goodness for our differences because it has allowed us to come together to make and create things even from an early age. I used to make up dances and teach them to Elizabeth in our kitchen (and it's funny how some things don’t actually change), and in middle school, Elizabeth would help me with my monologues.

I love finding those moments where our creative sides can blend together, like Elizabeth being the subject of my portrait drawings or me playing and pausing music during her quarantine puppet show. It’s always fun to see the different ways we help each other out. And Elizabeth has helped me out in so many ways throughout the years, whether it be helping me while I struggle to write my first 5 page Phil and Eth paper, or her just coming to keep me company in the art studio. It is moments like those that I am so thankful to have Elizabeth as that person who I know will always be there for me.

I’ve always admired how independent she is and how she is always doing things at full speed and does not slow down for anyone. I’ve always known that Elizabeth needs someone who can keep up with her go go go personality, and you know what, it turns out that John Paul is a runner and is capable of keeping up with her.

Now, I’m sure my dad will go into the first time we ever met John Paul, but I wanted to share a moment from the second time I ever met him. It was at a waterpark and we had rode separately so I was trying to find Elizabeth and JP and I ended up seeing them in the lazy river. I was trying to call out to them to get their attention and say hi and,, they were there in their little tubes going down the river and they were holding hands, talking and Elizabeth was smiling and truly laughing and it was such a simple yet sweet moment and it made me step back and think, because that was only the second time I had ever seen John Paul.

All I really knew was that he was a Steelers fan and that he had this really big beard, I was still pretty unsure of him. But I also knew that if Elizabeth was giving this guy her attention, he must be pretty special, and seeing how happy they were together that day made me think “Yeah, maybe she does really like this guy.”

Ever since, Elizabeth and John Paul have always been laughing and making each other happy. John Paul, you are the calmest person I have ever met in my life, which is why you are absolutely perfect for my sister. Elizabeth deserves the absolute best and nothing has made me happier than seeing how happy she is with you, John Paul. I know that you will treat her right, and I know guys will live such a wonderful life together.

I’m so glad I got to help out with a lot of wedding planning and that I was there through every step of the way, from the beginning when JP messaged me on FB asking for Elizabeth’s ring size, all the way to a few days ago when I was hand painting table number cards.

Everything has come together so beautifully and as the biggest show Elizabeth has ever directed and it turned out truly amazing…. So, here is a toast to my life long best friend and her new life long best friend. I love you both dearly. Cheers!!!

Appendix V

Toast by Patrick Gordon, the Co-Best Man and College Roommate


I’ve been honored to know John Paul since we met in the Florida swamp lands at a small Catholic college in 2008.  Little did I know that this nerdy, quiet, basketball-shorts loving man would become one of my very best friends – And he turned out to be a lot less shy, nerdy, and a lot more crazy, wild, and fun than I would have ever known at first glance. I could not have imagined when I met this guy in the laundry room of our college dorm that we would end up as roommates three times in three different states.  (So, Elizabeth, if you ever have questions about living with this guy, let me know…but for now, I would just say watch where you put your toothbrush.)

However, in all seriousness, the reason I am so honored to be friends with this man is not only because of how John Paul is truly one of the most genuine, unique, and magnanimous men have I ever known, but because where John Paul is there are ALWAYS spontaneous adventures waiting to happen.  Anyone I’ve ever met who has had the chance to become friends with John Paul for any amount of time will always be able to share a “John Paul Story” … Many of these stories might revolve around John Paul’s passion for Poland, his Catholic Faith, and his love for playing or watching sports…most especially those Steelers or his idol Michael Jordon. John Paul is the kind of man who is not willing to settle for mediocrity and lives fully what Pope Benedict XVI has famously said: “You were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness!”

John Paul truly possesses a childlike wonder and passion for living life to the fullest – I’ll always remember the time John Paul called me and asked me to pick him up after he decided to start running a marathon without any training.  Or the time he followed me hiking down the side of a mountain and blamed me for breaking his tailbone on the way down (It’s still not my fault!).  Or maybe his evangelization ministries at the local sports bar.  But honestly, above the quirky, funny, and unique stories, I have always heard those who know John Paul speak to how genuine he is as person – What you see is truly who he is.  I have never met someone with such a natural authenticity – John Paul truly seems fearless to be who he really is…and yet going beyond that, John Paul is a generous and patient man, willing to lend a listening ear to anyone he meets.  It’s therefore no surprise that so many can call him friends today.

But of all the John Paul stories so far, my favorite one is this one – the one in which he met Elizabeth.  And no – I’m not referring to their classically awkward first date – But rather, I have been so blessed to witness John Paul meeting someone who complements him in such a spectacular way.  Elizabeth has truly demonstrated a love and appreciation for John Paul that is so completely genuine – she is someone who appreciates him so fully for all of his idiosyncrasies and Polish craziness – someone who loves to run and workout as much as he does – John Paul has been blessed to have found Elizabeth.  

And it has been so cool to watch how passionate John Paul loves Elizabeth – There are few things John Paul has shown greater devotion towards than his beloved Poland, Steelers, or Michael Jordon – And yet, Elizabeth has become precisely that – He has shown such a dedicated and passionate love for her in a way that has been truly inspiring. 

But finally, at the heart of all it, and really what I see as the true sign of the authenticity of their relationship, is that their entire relationship has been grounded and nurtured in their faith and trust in God.  It has been truly awesome to watch John Paul grow and mature in his faith and rise to become a spiritual leader in his relationship with Elizabeth – to watch this couple place their love in the hands of Jesus and Mary has been an inspiration to me.  Thus, it was fitting that their life of faith led them to their engagement on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  By placing their trust in the mother of Christ, I know that they will always be in safe hands. Mary is watching out for you two!

Toast:  Let us raise our glasses then to John Paul and Elizabeth – May you have many, many happy new adventures and stories that you create together.  And may you keep up your running – all while running together towards Christ– and in finding Him may you find the always the source of love and grace that will sustain you forever in a happiness that will never cease!

Appendix VI

Toast by Ellen Rogers

Hi everyone. My name is Ellen Rogers and I am one of the bridesmaids. There have been so many lovely toasts this evening, but now I would like to move into the performance part of the evening with a one-woman show I have written for this occasion. 

Just kidding! I promise I’m not gonna do that. But it would be fitting if I did! I met Elizabeth at the University of Dallas almost five years ago now. We both worked on a play called Mary Stuart. I was the stage manager and Elizabeth was the assistant stage manager but I was sort of intimated because she knew way more than me and knew exactly how everything was supposed to be. She helped me so much & made that process go so smoothly. Right away I knew I would love working with her - she has an amazing work ethic, she’s dedicated, she’s calm, she’s just great to be around. And we worked on many more shows together at UD and a couple outside of college, in all sorts of different roles.

But I got really lucky when we began forming a bond outside of theater because I got to see more of who Elizabeth really is- and everyone here tonight surely knows this about her too- Elizabeth has a heart of gold. When I think of Elizabeth the image in my mind is of just pure sunshine, warmth and radiant beauty. She has a great sense of humor, she cares deeply for her family, her community and her students. She is courageous and does not back down from a challenge. The more I admire Elizabeth as a theater artist the more I admire her as a person because she can see truth and beauty in a story and bring that to life. And if you haven’t seen one of her show’s yet, just you wait until COVID is over and we’re allowed to open theaters again! Because she is so smart and talented, and she makes beautiful theater.

Now I haven’t known John Paul for very long, but anyone who is worthy of Elizabeth’s hand in marriage must be a remarkable man. It’s a beautiful witness to the world to see y’alls commitment to each other and to keep Christ at the center of your lives.

One of the less glamorous privileges of being in the bridal party is that all week long leading up to the wedding we get to prepare favors and programs and practice and get things ready. But for Elizabeth and John Paul, Christ has been preparing the two of you to enter this sacrament for a long time and it is an honor to be here and witness the beginning of your marriage.

Now it is my solemn obligation as a University of Dallas Drama Major to quote at least a few lines of Shakespeare - 

"Honor, riches, marriage blessing,

Love continuance, and increasing,

Hourly joys be still upon you!

Juno sings her blessings on you."

—The Tempest, Act IV

To the bride and groom!

Appendix VII

Toast by Elizabeth LaFrance Read By Rachel Polzer

Elizabeth LaFrance wrote this, but could not be at the wedding. 

My dear Elizabeth Herrera, congratulations on your wedding. I'll be praying for you and John Paul every chance I get tomorrow. From when you first called me with "news" that you were going on a DATE with a BOY, yours and JPs has been such a beautiful journey - a testament to the simple and sure form love can take. I will forever be grateful you are marrying a man who so surely will take care of and love you forever - and keep the fiery zest for life you have burning strong all the days of your lives. With you in spirit now with all my love. Tomorrow may make you a Sebastian, but you'll always be Herrera to me 💜


                                                  Appendix VIII

             Toast by Mara Boer Matteoli




Appendix IX

Toast by Kerry Kennedy





                                             

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