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Stories of Generosity: Mark & Nicole

Mark Moreno and Nicole Gatto

When Nicole’s and Mark’s paths came together four years ago, they shared a lot in common. They had studied at the same university, had lived in the same neighborhoods and had even gone to the same church where they had sat in the same pews but not known each other. When they did meet, they talked about wanting to develop the spiritual side of their relationship and begin their faith journey together.

Mark suggested All Saints, where he had been a member nearly 20 years ago. He had come with Rich, his older brother and mentor, who later died from AIDS. For Mark and Rich, All Saints provided a spiritual refuge that was accepting.

As a child, Nicole didn’t understand why she couldn’t be an altar girl. Eventually, she found ways to experience God other than church. Over the years she had heard about All Saints from friends and had experienced a desire to reconnect with her spirituality.

Nicole recalls, “When we came to All Saints as a couple for the first time last summer, I was struck that a female priest was preaching. Zelda Kennedy, who would later marry us, artfully wove into her sermon a parable about a dog and a cat. She had this animal lover’s attention!”

They couldn’t believe it when, a couple months later, they were invited to bring their beloved dog to church to be blessed on the Feast of Saint Francis. As they processed with Prima through the church, Nicole was certain she was thinking, “Why haven’t you brought me here sooner?” The fact that Prima was so at home at All Saints they took to be yet another validation of the specialness of All Saints. Ten days later that they lost Prima to an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels. After Prima died, they felt as though this beautiful reconnection to faith was being tested. One month later Nicole’s father was shot and killed by a robber in Nicole’s childhood home.

Nicole says, “Mark and I now have deep loss in common. In his sophomore year of college Mark had lost his mother to breast cancer. His middle brother, and his best friend, died of testicular cancer a few years later, and his father died from complications of diabetes 10 years ago.  I think it would have been understandable if we had turned away from our faith. Yet we remain drawn here to All Saints week after week because we are nourished by that which is greater.”

“Each week messages about faith, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude resonate deeply with us and remind us that we are part of a larger family traveling together on this journey. Some Sundays when the despair of grief has been overwhelming, the welcome we receive from a smiling face greeting us on the lawn helps to lift the weight.”

“At All Saints we find a balance of spirituality, activism and intellect. We have participated already in so many activities from Monday night mediation to the Rector’s Forum to congregational dinners. The New Members’ class opened us to a new community of friends, and we have been struck by the stellar, high quality, like-minded individuals we continue to meet.”

As part of the Rapid Response Team with Francisco Garcia, Nicole helps to identify an issue for the Church to take action on each Sunday. She has also become a reader at the Sunday service and is involved with the Gun Violence Task Force. Mark is a small group leader for the New Member Class.

Nicole and Mark agree, “The goodness of All Saints motivates us to be generous back with our resources. We view our support for All Saints equally as a right and a responsibility. Our annual pledge is a statement about what we believe is important. We care so deeply about All Saints that we want to do our part to see that it continues to succeed.”

“It is often that we say, Thank God for All Saints!”

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