I never knew that there were so many converts at my church until I started helping with RCIA classes. Not only do I recognize the new ones, I have met others along the way. People who I would have assumed were life-long Catholics, I discovered, have only recently been initiated into the Church. It certainly has been a wake-up call for me.
I love asking converts about their journey into the Church. I find their stories fascinating. In our parish I know of at least one member who was a non-Christian, another who was Mormon, and many former Lutherans, amongst other traditions.
One gentleman who I attend a Bible class with had an interesting prompt that sealed his decision to convert. He is a former Lutheran. His wife was Catholic, and their children were being raised in the Catholic Church. He had been attending Mass with his family for years but remained within his tradition. One day, while at a yard sale, he happened upon and purchased a ten-cent book. Reading that book made him decide, right then and there, that he wanted to become a Catholic. That book was a biography of St. Therese of Lisieux.
My own wife, Vicki, is a convert. When she was a teenager her family had moved to the San Francisco Bay Area from Texas. She quickly made a friend who happened to be Catholic. She would go to Mass and the various church youth activities with her friend. Vicki loved what the Church had to offer. It was not until many years later that she decided to convert. Ironically, her friend left the Church and Vicki joined it.
In meeting these converts, I see that they have an ardent love for the Eucharist. Their desire to receive Jesus is so profound. I saw one lady whose prize was to receive the Eucharist. It amazes me how people with either no Christian background, or who come from Christian traditions that do not acknowledge the True Presence, somehow come to believe and fervently desire to become one with Jesus. No, I know where the desire comes from; it comes from the Holy Spirit! It truly is fascinating and awe-inspiring to witness their faith.
In addition, the converts I have met, in very short order become very active in their faith. Some attend daily Mass, others become involved in the life of the parish through various ministries and prayer groups.
It is almost a misnomer to use the word “convert” for these special people because they are Catholic through and through. I use the word convert in a special sense, in a sense of respect. They have found something in their new faith; something they were not getting in their old faith traditions. In many instances they have suffered heartache; the heartache of breaking from the familiar to seek something unfamiliar; that cannot be easy. In some cases, they risked abandonment and/or estrangement from family and friends because of their decision to become Catholic. But, I do not think they would have it any other way. They found something worth risking everything for. Isn’t that what the gospel tells us? To seek Jesus and follow Him even if it means to give-up everything?
Let us life-long Catholics look to the convert Catholics among us. Get to know them and ask them about their journey to Jesus and the Church. They may teach us a lot and help us strengthen our own commitment to the Faith.
Copyright 2018 Michael T Carrillo