Earlier this month I had the pleasure of interviewing Brie Sanford, an alumna of Catholic Marriage Prep. We discussed baseball, high school, and avoidable wedding mistakes, but even more importantly I heard the story of her faith journey, long-distance engagement, and the ways that she and Walter, her fiancé, have grown in Christ together.
Tell me more about yourself. What’s your faith and family background?
I grew up in Phoenix, in a Catholic home, and went to Catholic school for most of my life. But I didn’t necessarily care much about the faith or take it seriously until I was blessed with some good teachers, here at Xavier College Prep, actually. My theology teacher was important for me. In his class I encountered the truth, and that really set my heart on fire to know Jesus more. It put me on this trajectory for evangelization that I didn’t know at the time.
After college, I served as a FOCUS missionary for a few years. I served first at University of Southern California and then in Colorado where I served at the School of Mines. Then I came back to Arizona to work at Xavier College Prep and began to evangelize here. I’ve built some true Catholic community where I am. My heart is definitely in evangelization and wanting to make Jesus known and loved.
How did you meet your fiancé?
We met when I was serving as a missionary at the Colorado School of Mines. I had been in a difficult situation in California, so I moved to Colorado in March of 2019. Walter was a student at the time. We first saw each other at a mass as the only non-80-year-old people present, but didn’t actually speak to each other at all.
After that, we officially met in the Catholic community at the school and were just friends. I moved back to Arizona, but in the fall of 2020, he also was moved here for baseball. He lived far away from me and only had approval to go to the field, get takeout, and go to mass, since we were in the middle of the pandemic. I was the only Catholic friend he knew here, so we went to mass together. In the spring we stopped being “just friends.” We started dating that summer, in 2021.
Could you describe your fiancé’s experience as both a devout Catholic and professional athlete?
It’s super hard. He goes to daily mass and prays every day, and has a beautiful, rich faith. At this point, he’s pretty used to feeling like an outcast on some of his teams, because he just won’t partake in certain conversations that are happening around him. But he also doesn’t shy away from a chance to talk with people about the faith. They have a team chapel and bible study, and he’s always inviting people to that, and he invites teammates with Catholic backgrounds to go to mass with him. He sees it as his mission field—that the Lord has him in professional baseball for a particular reason.
Was there a point when you knew you should get married?
Yes. In the summer of 2021, Walter was living in South Carolina, playing baseball. Toward the end of the season, he got Covid, and they ended up sending him back to Arizona for recovery and rehab. It was originally going to be for just seven days, but he got injured and had to spend the rest of the season in Arizona. We were finally able to see each other every day. That ended up being a huge blessing. He came back again to visit in October, and that was when we first had a conversation about getting married. We felt so much peace and joy around our relationship—loving the Lord together and wanting each other to grow. We got engaged this past February.
What was your experience with our marriage prep program like?
I had a lot of hope for marriage preparation in general. Walter and I both wanted and desired good formation, as much as we could receive. When I learned that we wouldn’t be able to take the in-person class, I was disappointed. I had low expectations going in: I was worried that online prep was going to feel more impersonal, or less fruitful, or not have good content. But we both were so pleasantly surprised with the accompaniment—I think that’s the word that comes to mind when describing it. I felt accompanied by Karen and Deano, our instructors, who would read all our answers and give great input and feedback.
We read everything: all the links that were attached to articles and the supplemental information in our answer sheets. We’re pretty good Catholics, but we still wanted more! There’s always room to receive more spiritually and I was grateful Agapè offered it. One thing I appreciated was the timing. Completing the course took us a long time—most of the summer—but we weren’t racing through it. We had the time to be attentive.
Tell me more about what your experience has been in your long-distance engagement.
I feel a little split on it: I am very grateful for our distance, but I also hate it. In some ways it has been a blessing for our dating and engagement because it has let us remain focused on what is most important. We want Jesus, we want to get each other to heaven, we care about the rite of marriage, and about what it means to choose someone and sacrifice for them until you die.
I think there’s a lot of sacrifice involved in a long-distance relationship. We’ve learned how to ask what each other needs. We’re finding more creative ways to love each other. It’s been a blessing for us, and this preparation has been exactly what the Lord intended for our good, ultimately for our holiness.
When is your wedding?
It is December 30th! The Feast of the Holy Family falls on a Friday this year, so we went for it and scheduled our wedding on the same day. When Walter was here last, we got to help with the youth group at the church where we’re getting married, so it really is my parish home.
After our interview, I learned that Brie graduated from Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, AZ, the same as I did. Not only this, but she and Walter will be married at the same church, and by the same priest, as I was. Please keep them both in your prayers as they prepare for their marriage this December!