WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Jerry and Pat Heck have been involved in a wide variety of Catholic renewal ministries.
Pat Heck heard the voice of the Lord. He instructed her to do the small things well.
"It's not all about being out in the open doing things where everybody sees you. It's all about what you do when you're called to do something quiet, something unseen," said Pat.
She and her husband Jerry were the guest speakers at the Edmonton Catholic charismatic prayer breakfast, held April 12 at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre.
Born and raised in the farming community of Grassy Lake, near Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, Jerry grew up in a church-going family. However, as a teen he strayed from the Church and got into partying, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. He quit school in Grade 10.
In contrast, Pat's formation as a child was in Medicine Hat, going to Mass at St. Patrick's Church every Sunday without fail. Even as a child, she was hungering to learn more about Jesus.
At age 13, when she moved to Taber, she became more involved with the Legion of Mary, a rosary group and a youth group.
"My life revolved around participation in my Catholic faith," said Pat.
She would go to the church late at night. At age 16, she cried out that she was committing her life to Jesus. Three weeks later, working in the meat department at a grocery store, she caught her hand in the meat grinder. It severed her fingers. She was unconscious for five days in the hospital.
Looking at her swollen, bruised, ugly hand, the words that came from her mouth were, "It's okay, Lord," as a single tear went down her cheek.
"The abundant grace of God that is given to us in Jesus is more than enough to carry us through anything. He is able to give us exactly what we need in any moment of our life, in any situation," said Pat.
Around that time in Taber, Jerry was also going to the church late at night and asking God in a prayerful way for guidance and answers about his future.
"I did that for about a year, and I remember the evening when the Lord was present. This was an older church, and you'd almost get frightened a bit because the walls would creak, the floor would creak, and it was so dark," said Jerry.
"But I remember the calmness of the night the Lord visited me."
There was no exchange of words. But with the tranquility that filled him, he knew Jesus had set a direction for him. He did not yet know what Jesus had planned, but he left the church confident that he was about to start a new life.
Sure enough, at the suggestion of a friend, he went to Utah State University and wrote a two-hour exam. Despite being a high school dropout, he was accepted into the university. Through his university years, prayer was a constant for Jerry. A half hour before every exam, he went to a nearby church and prayed.
"The Lord carried me through those five years of university. You often see the picture of Jesus walking in the sand, his footprints in the sand. I was one of those on his shoulders," said Jerry.
He told guests at the prayer breakfast that if they have children or grandchildren struggling in school, Jesus is there to help them along. During that time, Jesus formed in him a model of ministry and service.
Jerry and Pat married in Taber in 1966. Jerry spent four years teaching, and three and a half years as a principal. Then they moved to Fort McMurray in 1974 where he was the superintendent for 25 years.
"The joy in my heart during those 25 years in Fort McMurray was unbelievable," said Pat, who was happy to serve God there with wholehearted abandon.
The most important aspect of serving God, she said, is that he always returns the favour a hundredfold, giving back with abundance beyond imagination. Their daughter almost died twice from severe asthma. Pat said God healed their daughter completely when she was 12.
A change in Jerry's Christian walk occurred after attending a live-in weekend in Ardrossan. He witnessed about a dozen men worshipping God, joyfully singing praises to Jesus. This brought a new dimension to his life, seeing that Jesus could be a part of his daily life in such an active way.
Jerry and Pat have four children and 11 grandchildren. In 1999 they relocated to Lacombe, and through prayer Pat listened for God's voice to direct the next step in her journey. She started meeting with an elderly woman, and they formed a strong bond.
Later, a couple was dying of cancer, and she developed a strong bond with them as well. Again, she remembered to do the small things well.
"It's all about loving each other, being there for each other, and not forgetting what God has done for us. That great love he has for us, we need to share," she said.
In 2001, the Hecks moved to Sherwood Park where they now live. God has given them a desire to serve others, the Church and the community. Both have been active in the charismatic renewal, Radway Bible School and most recently the Alpha program at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.
Pat insisted that she does not want to do anything that God has not called her to do. Today, they are principal owners of Jerat Enterprises Ltd., a consulting firm specializing in career transitions for youth, community development, inspirational education and spiritual formation.