As a Church, we are uplifted by stories of conversion. Books recounting how and why people came to (or came back to) the Church fill our shelves. They inspire us as we walk our own faith journeys, reminding us of the abundant treasures we have — and too often take for granted — in the Faith.
But whether we are cradle Catholics or converts, whether we are fully engaged in the sacramental life of the Church or still trying to find our way, we are all called to conversion. Because, regardless if we are lifelong Catholics or if we’re still discerning, conversion is an ongoing process that involves a lifetime of striving to emulate Christ in thought, word and deed.
Pope Francis last October told a private audience that “contemplating the life of Jesus and looking at our life as pilgrims in this world with so many challenges, we feel the need of a profound conversion and the urgency of reviving faith in him.” He said, “Every day we are called to renew our trust in Christ and his life to be inspired to fulfill our mission.”
That mission was given to us at Pentecost, and as we celebrate the feast, let us pray that the same Holy Spirit who descended upon the apostles 2,000 years ago, who dwells within us, continues to show us the path to true and lasting conversion.
Our Sunday Visitor is proud to share the following conversion stories submitted by our readers. We hope they inspire you on your journey. Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuning into the Faith
After I lost my darling mama, I was agnostic for five years. One morning I was channel surfing; Mass was in progress on EWTN, and it moved me. Then, watching Mother Angelica reruns, I grew ashamed at my lack of faith. Reared Presbyterian, I began RCIA classes in September 2014 and was confirmed at the Easter Vigil in 2015. Thank you Jesus, Mary, EWTN and Mother Angelica!
— Carl Dobson, Asheville, North Carolina
Relationship with Christ leads to getting ‘more’ out of the Faith
I had no idea I needed conversion — after all, I was a good student during my years in Catholic school and participated in all of the rites and rituals. I had all of the trappings of a good Catholic life, among them: the Rosary, scapulars, a miraculous medal, Mass each Sunday, weekly confessions, making the stations and novenas, abstaining from meat on Fridays, learning Latin hymns, etc.
One morning at Mass, probably in seventh grade, I remember looking up at the crucifix in front of our grade school chapel, thinking: that should mean more to me. My childish assessment was that priests and nuns felt “more,” and because I wasn’t going to be either, I was OK.
Years went by. My dedication and sincerity waned a bit, but I never missed Sunday Mass. By my mid-30s, I was married with four children and a boat-load of marriage problems. Around that time, a Baptist co-worker witnessed to me, and I began to attend a Bible study. I soon had a deep feeling that the Lord had “more” in store for me and knew I didn’t want to miss it. This led to being baptized in the Holy Spirit, surrendering myself to the Lord’s plan for my life and attending a Life in the Spirit seminar [with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal] where I learned about having a personal relationship with Jesus.
In March of 1977, what had been a black-and-white, words-on-a-page religion was becoming a multi-dimensional, full-color living relationship with the Lord and his Church.
I thank him every day for that!
— Dianne Spotts, Hatfield, Pennsylvania
Finding the faith of his father in prayer
One day my sister stopped by with a box of some things that belonged to our dad, who had passed away some 28 years ago. One of the items I chose was a small prayer book of his. I’m not sure why, but I took the small booklet and placed it on my nightstand, where it sat unread.
About a year had passed, and I was back on the path of trying prayer again, this time for my son with whom I had a strained relationship. We argued about everything, it seemed. I had an app on my phone to help me with prayers, including guiding me through the mysteries of the Rosary.
That day I decided to set my dad’s prayer book next to me as I used the app to get myself “once around the beads” on the rosary. As I was praying, I placed my hand on this small prayer book. I was halfway around the rosary when suddenly I felt a warm, gentle hand upon my hand that was resting on this small prayer booklet. Instantly, I somehow knew it was my father’s hand gently holding mine. It startled me, yet I was frozen with the thought of what I was experiencing. Then, in the next moment, it was as if he was proudly displaying the fact that he was, with his other hand, holding the hand of Jesus!
I didn’t see anything; I didn’t hear anything; yet I knew somehow, with absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that what I was experiencing was so very real. Overcome by emotions, I began to cry like a baby. Joy and love filled my heart, and I realized I was given a true miracle.
— Brian Courtright, Antelope, California
After years away, cradle Catholic returns
I am a cradle Catholic but left the Church at the age of 16 when I “found Jesus” in an evangelical church. In 1978, I married Gary, who was studying to be a minister. We served as missionaries in Lima, Peru, for 15 years with the Wesleyan Church. I met Catholics there who loved Jesus. That confused me. I had always believed Catholics weren’t Christians!
We returned from Peru in 2001 and planted a church in New York City. It failed after two years, but we never left New York. We attended an evangelical church and, in 2009, Gary became pastor of the Washington Heights parish.
My mom passed in 2013. Dad told me, “She loved Jesus like you do, Charlotte.” Shocked by this, Gary read the Catechism and Catholic books that led him to the truth of the Church. He wanted to convert right away! I, however, was unwilling for 1 1/2 more years. Then I asked God for a sign.
On March 1, 2015, while sleeping, I was awakened by Our Blessed Mother to a strong scent of flowers! It was magnificent! That was my mini-miracle answer from God! Nothing was going to stop me now! We were confirmed last Easter Vigil. I’m a lector and Eucharistic minister and co-lead a new women’s group.
I’m deeply in love with Jesus in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation! I love being Catholic!
— Charlotte Wiley, New York
Led to the Church by Archbishop Sheen
“Don’t worry,” I told my mother, “I’ll never join the Catholic Church.” Why did I feel the need to reassure her? Because my wife, Terry, was a cradle Catholic from Detroit, and I was a Baptist from Mississippi. My parents, who had been Baptist missionaries in Bolivia, were not thrilled about our “mixed” marriage.
When we started dating my intention was to attend Baptist services on my own and Mass with Terry, but that arrangement inevitably proved unsatisfactory. Gradually I lost my Baptist identity because the pull the Catholic Church was exerting on me was relentless and irresistible. As I became more aware of Church history and the beauty of all things Catholic, the attraction intensified, but still I resisted. And then, in 2001, something monumental happened to me. I came across a recently published biography of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a figure from my childhood who once had a popular TV program. My discovery of Archbishop Sheen’s videos and books was transformative. No one had ever explained the Faith to me with such clarity, elegance and good cheer.
I’m greatly indebted to my parents for raising me in a Christian home and to my wife of 44 years for pointing me to the Catholic faith and providing a wonderful model of devotion to the Church. Terry played a huge role in my conversion, but Archbishop Sheen is the immediate reason why I’m Catholic today. Since entering the Church I’ve experienced abundant joy and never looked back. Thanks be to God.
— Melvin S. Arrington Jr., Oxford, Mississippi
Spouses separately find their way to the Church
My husband, Chad, was raised Southern Baptist. I was raised Pentecostal. After we married, we became Methodist. When he returned from his second overseas deployment and we made our third military move in three years of marriage, we began interviewing pastors to find our new church home in the Washington, D.C., area. One Sunday we sat on the back porch of our Arlington, Virginia, apartment. “Chad, I have something I need to tell you,” I stated as I pulled the newspaper down from his view. “I have been thinking about becoming Catholic.”
| Chad and Jessica Drake
“Me, too!” he exclaimed. It turns out he had been on a U.S. Navy ship in the Mediterranean Sea for seven months talking to the chaplain about converting. Meanwhile, I had been in North Carolina, coincidentally surrounded by Catholic girlfriends who had answered my questions and given me tapes and books to learn more about the Roman Catholic Church. We both had decided quietly in our hearts not to convert unless we both did, not knowing that God was working on both of us at the same time. We asked the one practicing Catholic we knew for directions on how to become Catholic. He introduced us to an Opus Dei priest who met with us regularly until we were ready to begin RCIA. The closest church geographically was Blessed Sacrament Catholic Community where the pastor, Father John Cregan, was a retired military officer from the same military branch and military occupation specialty as my husband! Chad joked, “I can get spiritual advice and career direction all in the same place!”
We studied weekly with the RCIA program and entered full communion at Easter Vigil Mass 1999. Eighteen years later we have five cradle Catholic children of our own. We are blessed each week to walk forward to the Communion altar with our whole family and overwhelmed that he has called our family to his table.
— Jessica Drake, Jacksonville, North Carolina