Rest in peace, Sarah Harkins, an intentional disciple

It’s one of those stories that’s almost too sad to process.

Sarah Marie Harkins, a mother of four who was 21 weeks pregnant with her fifth child, died July 28 after suffering a brain aneurysm brought on by multiple wasp stings. She was only 32.

Sarah was a native of Greenwald, Minnesota, and had attended Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, where she met her future husband, Eric, while on a mission trip. The couple married in 2005 and moved to Virginia, where they lived in Spotsylvania and attended St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church in Fredericksburg.

But it wasn’t attending a Catholic university or registering at a local parish that made Sarah Catholic. As friends and family have related since her passing, Sarah actively and passionately lived her Catholic faith. Not only was she busy growing a domestic church and home-schooling her four small children, she had been a longtime volunteer at a local shelter for pregnant women. She owned a business making homemade clay rosaries. She had recently started a Bible study.

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“She was such a passionate person, very driven,” Father Ben Kociemba, a high school friend of Sarah, told the Arlington Catholic Herald. “And she directed that passion, all that energy, toward Christ.”

In other words, Sarah lived her life as an “intentional disciple.” Everything she did, she did with the intention of living according to Jesus’ will and the desire to point others to him.

It couldn’t be more appropriate, therefore, that this week’s In Focus centers on learning how to become more like Sarah: how to more intentionally become a disciple of Christ.

The goal for all of us, illustrated in Sarah’s life, is complete conversion that results in an active faith — one in which we completely and freely turn our lives over to God.

During the homily at Sarah’s funeral Mass Aug. 1, Father Keith Cummings said Sarah was a beloved sister, daughter, mother and wife. “But above and beyond all this, she was a child of God. And she knew it.”

“She didn’t care what the world had to say about her, because she was called by her God who loved her,” he added.

The support given to Sarah’s family in the wake of her death makes it clear that she wasn’t only beloved by God.

As of Aug. 5, nearly 1,900 people had donated more than $154,000 to the Sarah Harkins Memorial Fund  to help her family with expenses related to her death. Another fund, set up to benefit the four Harkins children, has raised more than $62,000.

Sarah’s early death is terribly sad, but she left behind an incredible legacy: one of love, faith and the example of one who intentionally chose to follow the will of God in all things.

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