OK, so thank you for coming back to hear the rest of my story about finding my faith. Remember Fr. Jeremiah I mentioned? It was like he could look through me. I had never spoken to him, but finally got to the point where I would walk through the line for the eucharist and cross my arms across my chest to be blessed. If he were in my line, his icy blue eyes would darn near pierce me or see straight through to my soul. The moment he touched my head, he would look into my eyes and mumble a blessing. I would immediately break into tears and walk back to my seat to pray.
I can’t tell you why. It was not like I was sad. It was a feeling I got like no other I had felt before. I was connecting to something and it was filling my life. There was simply too much and it spilled out through my eyes – each time he was the one doling out communion. And then one day in the spring of 2016 I decided I needed to make an appointment and actually talk to him. I wanted to talk about my faith and what steps I needed to take to join the Catholic Church. I knew this was going to be a decision that was surprising to many – and to be honest, I kept my meeting with Fr. Jeremiah to myself. No one knew I was going to talk to him until after I had.
He was not a Diocesan priest. I don’t remember what he was, but this is not super important to the story. I went into meet with him in his office a very sunny and nice afternoon. We sat and talked about my life and why I wanted to enter into the church. He was not born and raised Catholic either. He was a convert too – one that had a rough road to get there. He had had a drug dependency in his life and he attributed in part finding God with his road to recovery from that addiction. He had snuck in the back of a church for almost 7 years before he decided to convert and then the only path he could fathom was a religious path where he gave himself to God. He was a little surprised that I was ready to find out what i had to do to join the church in a mere 5-6 months of attending.
I explained to him that my daughters had not been baptized either and that I wanted us to all do that together. I told him that I had appreciated my growing up getting to believe what I wanted, but that I also wanted my kids to feel like they had a church home and had guidance for their spiritual questions and thoughts. I think a big part of this was my thinking about my friend Carla joining the Baptist church when we were in high school. You know how they do it, right…if you feel the spirit upon you and would like to join the church you walk forward during the service. Once you do, you work with the Pastor to arrange your coming into the church and/or your baptism. I remember when Carla made this decision. I think we were 16 for some reason, but here I find out we were only 8! LOL Man does time fly?!?!? I thought about how courageous (not so much in those words) that was of her to make that decision and how I just did not think I could in front of all those people. I was not yet able to be that vulnerable I also remember when Jan made this decision in Alabama – although I am pretty sure she was baptized in Tennessee. I was in awe of that too – making that decisions as an adult then, not a child or teen – still wasn’t willing to be that vulnerable even in my 20s. And when both of them did so, I thought about how easier it may have been if I had never had to make this decision – if mom and dad did do what my grandmothers had wanted way back when. But I will tell you this, I do not regret for one moment that decision they made and am happy with my journey the way it has played out.
When Tiffany had her first son and was looking for God Parents, I was so hopeful that I could be an option, but I certainly was not, because even if I had not been Catholic, I could have still been the Godparent if the other was Catholic. Minor detail, I was not baptized. In all the years she and I had been friends, she never knew this fact. I will remember forever the day she found out. The look of shock on her face was hilarious as she blurted out “but you are a really good person!” I am a firm believer though that being a really good person does not make you a really good Christian or Buddhist or Muslim or Agnostic or Atheist or vice versa. And still to this day, I believe this is true. You certainly have to practice what you believe and live your life in a way that does not make you a hypocrite. It was about the time Tiffany was deciding on God Parents for her second son that I was looking to join the church – full on baptism and everything. And she waited for me! I am so glad that I am a God Mother! I love my little man so very much…I love his brother too, don’t take that the wrong way. 🙂
So anyway, back to Fr. Jeremiah. We had a plan. You see, to join the Catholic church, you have to sign up for RCIA classes and commit to about 9 months of education about the church/religion/beliefs, find a Catholic in good standing to sponsor you (like your God Parent!) before you are confirmed or baptized and then confirmed. Fr. Jeremiah was so excited. He said he could see it – me and my girls joining the church and getting baptized together during the Easter celebration of 2017. And then he was gone. Like – disappeared in the night. I guess that sometimes happens with priests – they are reassigned and go to the next stop. I felt sad and let down and did not know what to do next. He did not tell me he was leaving and we had a plan. And now here I was back at square one.
Michele told me I needed to meet the people at St. Francis. That was actually her church although for this whole time she really only went to St. Johns. This is when I started to go to St. Francis with Michele and her family. She said she thought I would really like Monsignor Cincinnati…turns out she was so right! And bonus, I got to meet Deacon John and adore him too! I signed up for the RCIA program through St. Francis and signed Emlyn up for the 2nd grade confirmation classes too right away. We would start in just a few weeks from when I completed all of the paperwork.
Now I needed to find a sponsor. Not only for me…but ones for my babies too. One evening we were having dinner with Jason and Tina. Jason was the most Catholic non-Catholic I had ever met. HA! He has been going to was for years upon years and knew what to do, all the words in his head and out his mouth without even thinking about them – he just had not taken the steps to join the church. We decided that night that we would do it together. I am not so sure he really really wanted to, but Michele – his sister from another mister – said she would be his sponsor and Tina said she would be mine. I do think Jason and I have pretty awesome God Mothers if I do say so myself! LOL Now for the girls – I knew I wanted Tiffany to be one of the girls God Mothers. We decided Charly would be the best option there because she was about a year older than her oldest son and it made sense. I then asked Rayanne if she would consider being Emlyns God Mother. If I have ever had a blessing in life, it is meeting this lady and I just knew she would be a perfect God Mother for Em. She did not hesitate a moment and I hope she knows how special this bond to Emlyn!
Ok, so all of that is set. Let’s learn this stuff! Every Sunday for the same amount of time it takes to cook a baby, we met at 9am. Some Sundays we also had field trips. We had to participate in all Holy Days of Obligation. We had reading materials and homework, kinda. Our RCIA class was big and lead by Deacon John. We were his first class, I believe – definitely the first at this Parish. There were like 9 catechumens (not baptized ones) and a ton of people converting to Catholicism – like 22 or something crazy all together. Deacon John will have to comment and correct my numbers. I am already packing in hopes that St. Joseph will intercede and come through with God to help my house sell and all of my stuff has already been packed. 🙂
We learned so much and had wonderful conversation. We met many members of the church who were sponsoring us into the church. I thought it was super interesting to see how much more we learned or knew about this faith from our classes that the cradle Catholics who knew nothing else. I know they once knew all of this too – or would hope they did from their REP classes, but you are young and it possibly doesn’t mean as much then. I would recommend all cradle Catholics find themselves a convert and sponsor them…I think you will be happy you did and glad to remember or learn all about your faith.
As a catechumen, I was released from mass each week after the Homily with the other converts who were also under instruction. We would go to a different room in the church and discuss further the masses readings and the Homily. Although I truly missed being in the room to learn more about the Eucharist, I was glad to have this time to discuss and ask questions to the catechist who took us to discussion. Of course, just like in life, there were some catechist I enjoyed more so than others…like there was a better connection with some who took us out than others. I also am very comforted that even now, after all is said and done, these people remember when I joined the church and speak to me whenever they see me out and about – generally offering blessings and well wishes and asking questions about my continued journey into faith.
We were close to our field trip day where we all took of to Wheeling to a special mass by bishop Micheal and a reception to follow, when I had a conversation with someone who thought my joining the church was counterintuitive. I was made to feel that I was joining the church under false pretenses and that if I continued to do so without them “knowing the real me” that it would be just like lying. So here I was – faced with this conversation and back to questioning everything. I was so enjoying my classes and the people I was meeting. I know Rayanne always says that the people who know me know me…and I so hoped this was true. I had never lied to anyone about who I was and was made to feel like I had somehow. So I sent a long email to Deacon John.
I explained to him that I had been married before and that I was obviously no longer – I had been married in a Baptist church and that we were divorced. But even stereotypically worse in the Catholic faith that divorce, it was most likely obvious that I had a girlfriend! I did not want to “confess” to loving someone of the same sex as me because I did not feel it was wrong and would not change. That I felt comfort in the fact that there were many members of the congregation who were also homosexual and seeing some of them so active within the church – with decorating, delivering the gifts, etc – was actually comforting to me. But that I had been made to feel like I was crazy for willfully wanting to join a church that did not (stereotypically) want me as a member. And this was the section of the response that gave me so much comfort and the knowledge that I was in the right place and doing what I was supposed to do with the right people: “Jesus was all about love. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality – that was all Paul. God is love. We can’t put him in a box.” We have since had many other conversations. Remember, I love to discuss religious views on all topics! I have never felt so comfortable in a church setting and this solidified that I had made the right decision. I know it is a combination of love, faith and acceptance that gives me comfort.
Some people obviously knew this was what I was doing. I remember telling Amber I had been taking the RCIA classes and that I knew she would see on Facebook and that I was becoming Catholic. Remember, she is my holds no punches friend, but she was crazy supportive. She wants me to do what I feel is right in my life – no judgement, all love! And when I told Amy the girls and I were getting baptized and becoming Catholic, she burst into tears! Remember, this is my Methodist Temple Amy – lol – but the fact that I had let God into my life and made steps to acceptance and faith gave her a huge sense of relief and joy for me. I could not see her obviously, she was in OKC when I told her this news, but I could hear this was a total ugly cry!
So the Easter Triduum came and the girls and I attended all three masses – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. We were baptized together with a huge audience (remember, there were a lot of us!) filled with our friends and family. Emlyn and I were confirmed together. Charly has to wait for Confirmation and Communion and go through the REP classes when she gets into 2nd grade. My mom, Jennie and the girls came to the Easter Vigil and were there along with our sponsors/god mothers and we had a huge celebration. For those of you who do not know, Easter Vigils are super long. Especially for 5 year olds. BUT, I did not feel like it was. We were active participants and I felt so relieved. I felt washed over by the Holy Spirit, comforted by my sins being washed away, and full of new life.
I am still the same person I was before – still sassy and spunky and have the mouth of a sailor (sorry, Deacon John) – but I am more full of life. I am not perfect, but I am perfectly myself and I am working each day on seeing my progress in life and becoming my most authentic self – my faith journey is part of that realization. I am comforted in the thought that I always have a home. My girls and I have a huge extended family. Deacon John was right – I feel surrounded by love and light – this is the church’s message. This is such a departure from the Hell and Brimstone that I have heard so much of in life in religious settings. I can’t seem to find the right words to describe the difference in the weekly messages I hear through the Catholic Church and how full of hope and promise they are as compared to other messages I have heard in my past, many filled with fear mongering and alarm.
I am so thankful for this path and for the friendships I have made and strengthened through this spiritual journey. I am thankful that I am still able to respect other beliefs and enjoy a good conversation about the differences between all forms of spirituality and faith. I am hopeful that I someday get to go on an Italy trip to the Vatican and possibly to the Holy Land. I am a history buff and I think it would be awesome to touch and see physical manifestations of my faith. These are tips I would love to take with Tiffany – and I wonder what I have to do to arrange Monsignor Cincinnati and Deacon John to join us?
I am blessed in so many ways and beyond happy that I could share these feelings with all of you. I am comforted often by these two passages…I hope you can find some comfort in them too! Romans 5:8 “I loved you at your darkest.” And Colossians 3:14 “Above all, be loving. This ties everything together perfectly.” ♡