Today, Christians celebrate the new life Jesus won for us through his triumph over death in his resurrection. For the thousands of people who were received into full communion with the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil, it is also a time of new beginnings.
This year, Our Sunday Visitor asked readers who are converts or reverts to recount their faith journeys. For some, the journey took many difficult years with questioning, doubt, prayer and reflection. Others experienced an intense, immediate calling to the Church.
We were overwhelmed by the heart-warming, thought-provoking stories we received, and wish we could print all of them. While only a sampling of the stories appear on the following pages, we will include more stories in the online edition of this issue.
Going it alone
I began my improbable path toward the Catholic Church at age 45. My husband and I had been attending a Methodist church for several years, after having almost no exposure to any religion prior to that. I really enjoyed being there with my husband. It felt good to share our faith in God.
About three years after regularly attending, I felt like something was missing. I went on a spiritual hunt, visiting several area churches and I assumed that when I found the right one, my husband would follow me. I attended a Lutheran Church for about six months and I liked it but yet something was still missing.
One night a very good Catholic friend invited me to visit her church. I laughed out loud, thinking that she was joking. She wasn’t. She invited me again and I agreed to go. Something took hold of me. I really couldn’t say why I wanted to join because it was more of a feeling than anything I can put into words. I talked to the parish priest and signed up for RCIA class.
When I told my husband my decision, he was very upset. In hindsight I see that I should have considered his feelings more than I did. He was very happy going to the Methodist church but quit going when I began to look elsewhere. We had arguments about the Church and he let me know if I go, I would go alone. I went alone. I found the “something” that was missing from the other churches — Jesus.
My husband now respects my decision and even attends occasionally. I’d like to think that is because he sees that I have become a better person because of my faith.
I live with the guilt that I took him away from his church and pray that he will someday go back to church or maybe even become Catholic himself.
— Judy Keller, Sycamore, Ohio
Learning the Truth
It was in the fall of 1999 that I began my RCIA process. I was 25, working at a video rental store, living with my parents, and not knowing what life held for me.
My manager at the video store was an active Catholic, and I would ask her all kinds of questions about Catholicism. If she knew the answer she would tell me. If she didn’t she would say, “You need to come to RCIA.” She said that I did not have to make any commitment, but I could ask all the questions I wanted.
I began to attend the classes on Tuesday nights, and my soul was filled. All the questions I had were answered, and those answers made logical sense to me. I learned what Catholics REALLY believe, and it was NOT what I had been taught all those years as a strict, fundamental, independent Baptist.
There was a peace in my soul that passed all understanding. I was spiritually happy and fulfilled. My soul had found its home.
I continued my teaching in RCIA and was received into full communion with the Church in Easter 2000.
There have been many ups and downs in my life since then, but I know one thing is sure, and that is my faith in Christ and in his one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church.
— Richard Warren, Pooler, Ga.
I think I was pretty typical of many cradle Catholics at the time of my journey back. If someone had asked me why I was Catholic versus another denomination, my only answer in my early 20s would have been “I was raised that way.”
|Tiffany Pell with the couple’s three sons (from left) Grayson, Austin and Nathan. Photo by James Pell
Through dating and just curiosity, I went to a lot of mega-churches in the Dallas area and had good experiences, but something was missing. When I met my wife, Tiffany, I was still pretty indifferent and she was raised Southern Baptist, but in a way, she was a bit indifferent as well. Neither of us could have defended our faith at the time.
Anyway, we got married in her church. After we were married we moved to central Texas and we would sometimes go to a non-denominational church and sometimes a Catholic church.
At one of the non-denominational churches they invited the members to specifically invite Catholics to a short seminar they were having the next Sunday. What I heard about Catholicism shocked me. However, I was not prepared to defend, dispute or challenge it. That same night I was listening to a radio program called “Catholic Answers Live.” A person called in with exactly the same representation of what they thought Catholics taught, and I was amazed at the Catholic answer. It was biblical, historical and reasonable. Anyway, this started my journey back through reading and apologetics.
I had never really shared the details of my passion for the truth with my wife, but she noticed it and starting asking me questions. She said she wanted to join the RCIA program. I had never asked her to consider converting since I was still on my journey. What had happened was that I was now convinced that the Eucharist was the real presence of Christ.
Three weeks earlier, I had gone to confession on a Saturday and my wife met me at Mass. I had just received Jesus and I came back to the pew where she was. I was having a very profound experience as I asked Jesus to please help my wife on her journey, and I placed my hand on her knee. Later, she asked about that day and what I was praying for. I told her I was having a rare but profound feeling and asked Jesus to share it with you. She then said to me that as soon as I put my hand on her, she felt something profound and wondered if what she was feeling was Jesus in me.
She converted, we had our marriage validated in the Church, we have three beautiful boys and I now write an apologetics email to more than 450 parishioners at my church in Colorado to help precipitate their journey.
— James Pell, Castle Rock, Colo.
Filling the hole
Born into a Catholic family, I was baptized, confirmed and attended Catholic school through fifth grade. We attended Mass daily through the week and Sunday. After my mother died and after my father’s disastrous remarriage, I lived temporarily with several families until age 12, when I found myself on my own and didn’t need that “religion stuff” anymore.
My teen years were filled with things that my friends couldn’t get away with since they had parents at home. I managed to graduate from high school, serve four years in the Army, marry and have two beautiful daughters. I had a good job, my own home and thought that I was in control of my life, but in reality, alcohol had crept in and taken control. After several attempts to get control, I joined AA. After two years of sobriety, my life had turned around.
But why was I still so miserable? I felt like there was a big hole in my chest with a cold wind blowing through. After realizing that I had no relationship with God, as other happy people had, I began attending Mass, did a face-to-face reconciliation, explored my relationship with the Church and finally felt that I was home. Today I am active in my parish and treasure my Catholic faith, perhaps even more than some who have never experienced the barren life without God.
— Frederick Cruea, Casstown, Ohio
Broken legs, healed soul
Two broken legs changed my life.
I had been struggling with a very stressful job, worrying about both my health and where my next paycheck came from, when, during a seizure caused by medication, I broke both of my legs. That marked the start of my coming home to the Church.
It took several years of being unable to work and on disability for me to heal both physically and emotionally from the strain I had been under. But all through my troubles, I had felt the presence of God with me, encouraging me. When I was well enough, I started to analyze just what I wanted to do with my life, and realized that God was continuing to encourage me, but now he wanted something of me — to come home, where I belonged.
I was not raised a Catholic. Instead, I was born high Anglican and baptized in that church. When I was ready to become a Catholic, it was comforting to be able to go to the one Faith that had sustained me all along. I finally took the plunge and joined the RCIA group then forming. I have never looked back.
My faith journey has been easy and pleasant. I have found my faith again, acceptance and friendship in the Church, and cannot imagine ever leaving. By the way, I was 55 years old when I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil on April 23, 2011, so it’s never too late!
— Elizabeth Turner, Syracuse, N.Y.
Blanketed in prayer
I was born and raised a Catholic. During my 20s, my faith became weak and near 30, I left the Church. I was gone for 30 years.
Six and a half years ago my life was a mess. My mind and heart kept telling me I was missing something, but I didn’t know what.
For some unknown reason, I started making prayer blankets for my local Catholic Church. Each one I made, I thought of what it was for — praying. Something I hadn’t done in a long time. I didn’t remember how to. So I just thought about religion, God, the Church, I was praying.
Months went by and my need grew stronger and stronger. Not knowing exactly what to do, I decided on March 5, 2006, the first Sunday of Lent, to go to 8:30 Mass. That changed my life completely.
Mass had just began and I heard “Jesus wants you to come back home.” I cried. I knew what I was missing. I knew what I had to do.
On March 14, I made my first confession in almost 30 years.
— Judy DeJean, Huron, S.D.
Following priest’s lead
At the Easter Vigil in 1986, I was baptized, confirmed and accepted into the Catholic Church. My real conversion occurred in 2010, when I met Father Michael Voithofer, who would forever change me as a Catholic, Christian and human being.
I am currently incarcerated in a federal prison, and in the last 18 months I have been moved through five states and six different prisons. Father has shown me that God has sent me on a mission, a covert operation inside the walls of the prison to help save souls. Through his teachings and guidance, he has inspired and directed me to help bring God to those who don’t know him or who have fallen away.
On my journey, Father has shown me how to have compassion and care for the least of all us brothers and sisters. He has given me the wisdom and courage to see Christ in everyone I see and every dark place I have been.
— Mary Wong, Alderson, W.Va.
Back on right path
I was raised a Catholic by a devout mother and non-practicing father. While I received the Sacrament of Baptism and first Communion, I never truly felt a faith in the Lord while growing up. As soon as I could, I stopped attending Mass.
In the time of my most need, I prayed to the Virgin Mary. Even then I still didn’t truly believe in the Lord.
About seven years ago, while suffering a life-threatening illness, I was invited to and attended a Pentecostal church. For the first time I truly felt the love of the Lord in my life. I decided to give my life to the Lord at that time.
Jesus delivered me and cured me of my illness, but I struggled with accepting suffering in the world. I wanted to cure everyone of their many pains, but God wouldn’t answer all my prayers the way I thought he should.
After approximately two years in this church, I relocated back home to a different city and decided to learn as much as I could about the Catholic Church.
Three years later, after being blessed to meet many devout Catholics like me, and learning what the holy Church really believes, I have officially reverted back to my origins. On March 2, at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Coral Gables, Fla., I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. My faith journey has been full of ups and downs but I feel that the Lord has led me to the right path.
— Juan Michael Burgos, Miami, Fla.
We have been home in the Roman Catholic Church for 40-plus years, but it almost didn’t happen.
Paul was a cradle Catholic and I was a fundamentalist. We were convinced that we were a mismatch and almost didn’t get married because of our religious differences. I attended the Catholic Church with him and Paul attended different Protestant churches with me, but it was no use. I would not be Catholic and he could not be Protestant.
A friend suggested the Episcopal Church as a bridge. We found a “high church” (Anglo-Catholic) Episcopal congregation with a wonderful pastor. It was Catholic enough for Paul and Protestant enough for me, or so we thought. Little did we know that not all Episcopal churches were this unique.
After three years of marriage, a move to a new city left us with no “high church” Episcopal congregation. Paul’s solution was to return to the Catholic Church. I was crushed.
I called the pastor of the Catholic Church that had become our place of worship, and I poured out my story about being an Episcopalian, my new love for liturgy and not wanting to change, the need to be united in one faith. After listening to my confused rant and rave for several minutes, the pastor said, “I used to be an Episcopalian before I became a Catholic. Come see me and we’ll talk.”
We are convinced the Holy Spirit led us to the Episcopal Church and then back to the Catholic Church through a couple of wonderful, faith-filled pastors. How ironic that one of us had to leave the Catholic Church in order for both of us to come home.
— Paul and Jolinda Fulton, Homosassa, Fla.
My late husband, Bob, was Catholic, and I was a Southern Baptist. When he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, I was devastated, to say the least. What amazed me during his courageous battle with cancer was his never-ending faith. I looked on as priests came to visit him and he received the Sacrament of the Sick, as well as the Eucharist. He came to a point in his battle where he accepted and was looking forward to being united with Our Lord. He told one priest (five days before his passing) that he didn’t want to do this anymore. The priest preceded to tell him then maybe it was time to go home. Bob nodded and said, “I think you’re right, I’m ready.” He had such peace and acceptance with this.
Three weeks after his passing, I was in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is where I met Sister Mary Ann Ankoviak, CSJ, who was the instructor of the RCIA. I came to the RCIA broken and grieving the loss of my husband. Sister Mary Ann took me under her wing and showed me the truth and the way of the Catholic faith.
I’ve often said, had it not been for the Holy Spirit, and my husband’s unwavering faith example guiding me to the Catholic Church, I’d probably still be sitting in a corner licking my wounds. I know, with every fiber of my being, this is where I should be. Thanks be to God!
— Linda Abraam, Algonac, Mich.
Grace of confession
I did not have any desire to become Catholic, but I wanted to investigate Catholicism as I had recently discovered that some of the things we had heard about the Church were not true. There was simply a wish to find out the truth. Gradually, all the teachings that were so foreign to my fundamentalist thinking began to make sense, and I found myself in RCIA.
At the end of our study, the priest announced that we would all need to go to confession. I was 50 years old. How could I confess or even remember 50 years of sins? At the appointed time, I went to the priest’s office and knelt to confess a half century of transgressions. Then the priest put his hands on my head to give absolution. Suddenly something strange happened. There was a sensation of speeding back through time. I was aware that the hands touching me were hands that had been touched by hands that had been touched by other hands in a direct line back to Christ. I felt that I was flying back in history to my Savior through that direct line.
I have wondered many times since what it was that I experienced. The priest’s office had carpeting. Perhaps when he walked across the rug and touched me, it caused an electrical shock. Perhaps, but I do not think so. I will never forget the feeling of peace and joy that came through my first encounter with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
— Margaret Finley, Long Beach, Calif.
If anyone would have told me a year ago that I would become a Catholic, I would have said they were crazy.
On May 12, 2011, I attended a funeral of a dear friend. He and his wife were Catholic. I had never been to Catholic Mass before. I walked into that church at 11 a.m., and when I walked out at noon, I knew I would be back, I knew this would be my church home, I knew I would become a Catholic.
The Mass that day was a transforming experience, a spark ignited in me that turned into a fire that has only intensified over all these months. On Nov. 4, 2011, by affirmation of faith, I became a Catholic. The journey involved many people leading me along. My sponsor was the wife of the man whose funeral I attended, who, even in her sadness and grief, took me under her wing and became a great mentor to me. The education director was so very, very, patient with me.
Oh yes, there is one more person ... my priest, Father Dave, a rock of faith, compassion and kindness. He has the ability to meet you right where you are and gently lead you along. The first time I spoke to him, telling him I wanted to become a Catholic, he threw his hands in the air and said “YEAH!” That pretty much sums it up.
— Melba Cone, Hamilton, Ind.
God had a convoluted way of leading me to Catholicism! After being raised and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, after spending my married years (widowed in 2004) as the wife of a Quaker minister, after spending a few years in a non-denominational setting for four years, my oldest son, Ray, called me one evening in 2003 to let me know he was being “welcomed” into the Catholic Church at St. Francis parish in Columbus, Ohio.
|Ray and Kris Slaughter joined the Church in 2008. Courtesy photo
Seeing myself as “Mom,” I felt it was important that I be there and get some understanding of what my son was doing. I knew he had been seriously studying various translations and paraphrases of the Bible, and would do no less in this new venture. I went to witness this “welcoming.”
As a Quaker for so many years, I had deeply felt the absence of communion, and experiencing the Mass that day was the most amazing feeling of contentment in my most inner being that here, finally, was the place where I could feel spiritually fulfilled. Ray had said that he found the Mass to be completely Bible based and the most true to Christian roots.
Talking with Ray later, I learned how the Church was teaching people about beliefs and practices through the RCIA process. Being “Mom,” I decided to check that out, too! I continued to attend the RCIA sessions. We were confirmed and received our first Eucharist together on March 11, 2008! I am confident and at peace in knowing that my life on earth will end happily and with joy.
— Kris Slaughter, Columbus, Ohio
I was born and raised Missouri Synod Lutheran. I remember how I loved Sunday school, coloring pictures of Jesus surrounded by children and I imagined myself there with him.
Later, after I graduated from high school, I attended many different churches.
|Pete and Jan Smith pose with Father John Dietzen. Courtesy of the Smiths.
While attending Bradley University, I met my husband, who was home on leave from the Navy. He was a Catholic! “Heaven forbid!” I thought.
When he went back to service, we corresponded for nine months. He came home and presented me with an engagement ring on my birthday, Nov. 2, 1954. And then began my instructions in the Catholic faith. Father John J. Dietzen, a newly ordained priest, was my instructor. In his presence, I felt like God had his hand on his shoulder. It must have been a grueling time for him, though. The “Question Box” priest later said that I broke him in, because I asked more questions than anyone else ever did!
But after I joined the Catholic Church, right before our wedding April 16, 1955, all my doubt ended, questions had been answered, and I thanked God for my conversion to the Catholic faith, and for giving me an opportunity to introduce others to the Catholic faith.
Father Dietzen died March 27, 2011. We miss him so much, but I cherish the gift he shared with me — my Catholic faith. He inspired me to share my faith with others.
— Jan Smith, Springfield, Ill.
A prodigal daughter
It was the mid-1990s. I was happily married, had a solid career, but there was an emptiness, something was missing. I grew up in a happy Catholic family, the fifth of seven children and attended 12 years of Catholic school. During college my faith began to wane. I graduated college in 1974 and considered myself “a former Catholic.”
At age 28, I married an atheist; it lasted three years. I married again, this time to a non-practicing Presbyterian. We lived a career-driven, self-indulgent life lacking any focus on faith, prayer, worship or having a family.
Then, in 1999 a neighbor invited me to Mass; my world was rocked. I joined a returning Catholics class, secured an annulment, and our marriage was convalidated in 2001. I was a practicing Catholic again!
My husband became curious, joined RCIA and was confirmed at Easter Vigil 2002. We became RCIA sponsors, Cursillistas and choir members. In October 2006, we sang High Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. What a blessing!
I thank God for my neighbor who invited me to Mass. That crucial moment opened the door to the home I had left, to the gift I had rejected. I am a prodigal daughter. I am on fire for the faith. Thank you, Lord, for bringing me home.
— Claudia Geraghty Graham, Black Mountain, N.C.
Out of the desert
I am a cradle Catholic. I was married and have four children. My wife left me, I obtained a divorce and raised the children by myself for four years.
Then I met a lady, who was also divorced. She had three children. After a short courtship, we got married and I left the Church knowing full well what I was doing. My new wife was understanding and had no problem in helping me raise my children in the Catholic faith.
We were married 40 years. Ironically, Moses was in the desert 40 years. My wife died two years ago, and I returned to the Church. When I contacted the priest, it was recommended that I also attend a Bible class. This was the smartest thing I could have done.
You see, when I was going to church before the divorce, I went to church because it was a mortal sin if you missed Mass on Sunday. That was it. I really did not pay much attention to the Mass, and I believe most cradle Catholic don’t pay attention to what the Mass is all about. While attending the Bible class, I have now become aware of what the Mass celebration is all about. I have learned so much and can’t believe I missed so much growing up and attending church when I was young.
— Leo A. Renne, Jackson, Mich.
I grew up in what might be called a “mixed” marriage — my mother was a cradle Catholic, my father a Protestant who eventually converted to Catholicism — and was raised as a Catholic. However, I often kind of took my Faith for granted. You could say that my being a Catholic consisted in going to Mass on Sundays and the occasional prayer during the week, as well as a general acceptance of the “moral” side of being Catholic.
It is when I left for a secular college that the Protestants stepped in. In many such instances, they would have stepped in and taken a lukewarm Catholic and turned him into a Protestant; instead, they managed to galvanize my resolve to become a better Catholic. Most of my friends, and all of my roommates, were evangelical Protestants, and thus much of my social life might be described as “ecumenical.”
For many of these folks, I was the only Catholic they knew who was or seemed to be a practicing Catholic. Thus, there was a bit of curiosity mixed with some of that zeal to convert me. And their questioning spurred me to start trying to learn about my Faith. Thus, I found that while my faith in Christ was strengthen by theirs, my faith in the teachings of his Church was also strengthened by their questioning thereof. Moreover, I found that my faith was changed, because whereas I began by trying to convert them, I soon came to realize that my job is not convert people but rather to evangelize them. I also had an intellectual conversion, from merely accepting the Church’s teachings to actually understanding them, assenting to them, and even defending them. And finally, I had something of a conversion of will, from merely going through the motions of going to Mass out of obedience and a sense of duty to actually attending and participating in the Mass out of a desire to be there; and to viewing the sacraments as a gift and not merely an obligation.
— J.C. Sanders, O.P., Austin, Texas
Real vs. imitation
One usher started the tray of grape juice in little paper cups down a row of worshippers, and he was followed by a second usher with a tray of wafers. It was our first Sunday to worship with these good people who had befriended us in Puerto Rico and who had welcomed our boys in their English-speaking school.
My husband, Taylor, and I were raised Catholic, and I had attended a Catholic grade school. At some point in raising our young family, we had slipped away from attending church.
A job opportunity brought us to Puerto Rico, and I welcomed the normalcy our new evangelical friends offered our boys and ourselves. I was also attracted to the fervency of their faith.
As the ushers approached with the trays, I heard distinctly at the base of my skull these words, “This is all very nice, but why should you settle for an imitation when you can have what is Real?”
And thus began my journey — our journey — back to the Catholic faith.
Within weeks, Taylor was offered a better position in Oklahoma, and shortly after the move, I celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation and returned to the Church. Taylor soon followed.
The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist remains pivotal to our Catholic faith and experience.
— Marie Schoettle, Darien, Ga.
Drawn to Eucharist
Sitting cross-legged on the bed, I read Mary’s Christmas card. “So much has happened, changed, and opened. Christopher and I are getting married in May; Jim and Betsy, in January; why don’t you come ?” Then these inscrutable words:
“Christ has emptied himself for us ;we must empty ourselves for him.”
What? What is that, Swahili? I don’t understand these words! What is she talking about? And why is everything wet?
I looked up to find the leak in the ceiling, but it wasn’t the ceiling. It was my face. My face, arms, lap, the bed and the Christmas card all were soaked. Yet I wasn’t actually crying. I felt nothing. Nothing but emptiness.
Mary had been one of my roommates in college. Our senior year, she began to go back to mass and, although I wasn’t Catholic, I went, too. I understood nothing, but I went. Twice a week. There was a plain white wooden cube mounted on the wall near the altar. On the way home I asked, “Mary, what’s in the box?” Half-way through one sentence, she stopped trying to explain. We rode home in silence.
The following year, I did go to Ann Arbor for the wedding, and from there to Madonna House in Canada. There, on May 17, 1970, I made my profession of faith and was received into the Church. It was the Eucharist that drew me. That was 42 years ago. It’s still the Eucharist that draws me, and sustains me every day.
— Kimberly Sheftall Curtis, Hollidaysburg, Pa.
Ready to listen
I was raised in a small, predominantly Catholic blue-collar town near Newark, N.J. I was taught by the Sisters of Charity and (in high school) Christian Brothers.
When I got to college, I completely abandoned practicing the faith. I married outside the Church, but we did not go to church until our son was born.
We eventually split up and I was living in Philadelphia in 1994 when, out of loneliness and desperation, I hit bottom spiritually. God knew that now I was ready to listen. The next Sunday I walked into Mass and God was speaking directly to me in the readings and homily. “But while he was yet at a distance, his Father saw him and had compassion,” and enrobed me with a multitude of graces. I soon got the courage to say “Bless me, father, for I have sinned, it has been nearly 20 years since my last confession … ” With a smile and a simple “Welcome back,” I was finally home.
God sent Donna and we now have three wonderful children — Anna, Cara and Colin. I became increasingly involved in the parish and Knights of Columbus, but something seemed missing until last year when I was accepted into the Permanent Diaconate program at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary — Class of 2017, God willing!
— Mike Cushing, Chalfont, Pa.
No other option
I grew up Presbyterian, and when I became a pastor, stood before our governing body and said that I was firmly in our Reformed tradition, and could be nothing other. That was the truth, no way could I have foreseen eventually becoming Catholic.
My conversion was brought about by a number of things. Perhaps a chance encounter with Cardinal Avery Dulles at a seminar opened the door, showing me that someone from a very Protestant background might — through intellectual reasoning — become Catholic.
But it wasn’t until several years later that I began that reasoning process myself. As part of my Doctor of Ministry degree, I was working on issues related to inadequate elder training. Presbyterian elders have considerable power, determining not only church polity but even what creeds are adopted, and I came to the conclusion that difficulties went beyond training, but stemmed from the fact that non-theologians had authority to make theological decisions. From there it was a short jump to examining about how this authority was conveyed.
I found myself — a member of the committee that supervised pastoral candidates — questioning by what ultimate authority we ordained our clergy, since there was no apostolic succession. And finally, I was troubled that Protestants said, “This is the body of blood … ” when we did not believe that is what it actually is — and if we didn’t believe it, what was the point?
Based on these theological reasons, there was no other option: I, a retired Presbyterian minister, became Catholic.
— Ruth Hempel, D. Min. Sunny Hills, Fla.
‘Loved into Church’
I was brought up in the Pentecostal faith. We were not allowed to wear pants, make up, cut our hair, or go to the movies. You had to be Pentecost at any cost to get to heaven.
The only Catholic people that I knew as a child were the Catholic kids on my bus. I use to feel sorry for them, because they weren’t saved. Little did I know that someone who was also once a Catholic heathen child would in fact lead me to our precious, loving Lord.
I met my husband the year I graduated. I was not allowed to date him because he was a Catholic. We hung in there and finally he was allowed to come to our home for a visit. We married a year later at my little Pentecostal church.
I was scared to death of God, I had never spoken in tongues and at our church that was a biggie. My big bad Catholic husband said maybe that tongues weren’t for me. The comfort this gave me was one of the turning points in my conversion process.
I was in a hospital chapel in Pittsburgh, praying for my father in law, the most extraordinary feeling of peace came over me, and I knew then that a faith that instilled this feeling of peace in me couldn’t be bad.
My conversion contributes to this “I was loved into the church” welcomed by the bodies of Christ.
— Kim Stadler, Lebanon, Ohio
At the ripe old age of 4, I encountered a wonderful, kind and gentle sister named Juliana. She both made my life bearable as well as greatly influenced me. You see, my mother’s extreme Protestant fundamentalist religion dictated that she visit the sick regularly. My father had an awful temper and she would not leave me home with him. Instead, sister became her ad hoc sitter as children were not allowed on the hospital floor. At that time the Sisters of Mercy ran Warner Brown Hospital. I was placed with sister until my mother was done doing her duty. I remember being fascinated with the old habit and her kind manner. I was an abused child and like so many did not understand why.
Apparently, my subconscious held onto the kindness of sister through many countless instances of abuse. Sister once asked my mother if she could take me on a visit to Ireland. My mother was horrified and said, “Of course not Dianne would come back Catholic.” Which is what am I now.
Finally, in year 2004, I completed my conversion that had started in 1952. I do not know to this day if Sister Juliana taught me or just set a wonderful example for a little girl.
— Dianne Vandervoort, Ogemaw, Ark.
Finally at home
I was received into the Catholic Church on April 3, 2010 at the age of sixty-two. Forty years prior I had set my sites on following Christ. I was married with two babies. My husband was Catholic but had fallen away and I had never considered becoming Catholic. During those years God was very faithful to us through some very difficult times. I attended many different churches and on occasion my husband would go with me but I always knew he was uncomfortable and was only there to make me happy.
There were times when I took notice of the Catholic faith. Growing up with a Catholic friend who took her faith seriously, Pope John Paul’s joy and his love for young people and their response to him during his World Youth Day visit in 1993, his life of faith and commitment right up to his death, and the testimonies of Scott Hahn and others on EWTN had all left impressions on me. My heart had been opened to attend Mass.
My husband, Cosmo, and I started attending our local parish and I sensed his “at home” feeling. So, I’m thinking maybe I could be Catholic? If I start RCIA and find it unacceptable to “my” theology how will that feel? But to my amazement and joy the more I came to understand the Church and its beauty, the more I wanted to be a part of it. It is now my two year anniversary. Celebrating the Eucharist each Sunday always touches my heart with thanksgiving and hope. I am so happy to be Catholic!
— Mary Annese, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Science of Sacred
When anyone asks, I tell them I was a practicing scientist long before I was a practicing Catholic. That is because my desire to become a biologist began when I was five years old, but my desire to know Christ did not bloom until I was 24. Confirmation was my “graduation” from religion and from that moment until I was 22 I never set foot in a church. It wasn’t that I had anything against Catholicism, but rather it was simply uninteresting to me.
During my time studying biology at Loyola University Chicago, however, I had to take theology classes. I quickly recognized that I knew nothing about Catholicism and began to research the faith, with the goal of finding out it was a bunch of junk that I could once and for all dismiss. As I learned more, I found myself drawn into Truth Himself. Finally, after four years of “research,” my heart was moved to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation—for the first time since my first confession – and to regularly attend Mass.
But my story doesn’t end there. During a PhD program in biology I discovered God’s call for me – diocesan priesthood. Now, almost eight years from my reversion, I will be ordained a deacon in October and, in May 2013, a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago. In the end, I now practice a different kind of science — the science of the Sacred.
— Matthew Bozovsky, Chicago, Ill.