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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Inside Job: Conversion IV


The 1000sq ft home that had served us as a newly married couple was no longer adequate for child rearing so off to Farmington Hills we went and a new parish: Our Lady of Sorrows. I had parked the idea of being a "joiner" as far as the catholic church was concerned and became immersed in the wiles of new motherhood and a new business venture that Ron and I initiated. We struggled financially but managed to stay solvent. I really liked the Mother's Group at Sorrows and became involved in learning the craft of parenting from people who, frankly, I grew to respect a great deal. There were many ladies there who did not balk at the notion of having a big family which I thought was charming and eccentric; even if it was baffling to me. I also found them to be willing to lend a hand or an ear as needed. We became well acquainted with the priests at Sorrows and struck up a nice friendship with one of the associates there - Father Bill. To my amazement, I learned that "priests were people too" and even could enjoy a round of golf among other "normal" activities. I continued to grow spiritually, relying more and more on this rosary concept and I knew at some level that there was much more to the Catholic Church than I cared to admit. But I wasn't ready. Instead, I decided to distract myself by being busy about things. I became a Stephen Minister (Similar to the work of the St. Vincent de Paul Society) and - get this - I decided that it would be good idea for me to take Holy Communion to the homebound. Not content to stop there, I taught a bit of religious education at the OLS school. Not bad for a rookie! When I look back on all of that now, I've determined that God was working on me from the outside-in. *A Word of Caution to all Pastors & Catechists: It would probably be a good idea to review the credentials of your parish volunteers from time to time!*

Through a strange turn of events, Ron and I received an opportunity to move our business out of state and make a start fresh in a warmer climate. Both of us were weary of window scraping and 4-5 months of snow drifts. We considered Arizona. Ron had family in Phoenix and I, having traveled to Tempe with my marching band in high school became smitten with the desert. We took a chance and made a bold move; one that I have never regretted. On an unforgivably cold February morning as a half foot of ice lay beneath our moving truck's wheels, I left Michigan - the state that I had called home for 30 years. The snow finally melted off in large chunks in San Antonio, 3 days later. By the 4th day we were in bright, glorious, sunny, orange-blossomed, Phoenix Arizona. God is good! We settled into a townhome and another new parish: St. Paul Catholic Church.

St. Paul was a handsome church with a large congregation. We made friends quickly and Karsten found playmates in a well-attended play group, called PlaySpace. Many of the moms in PlaySpace also were part of another group called the Moms to Mom Sharing where I later became involved. I sort of picked up where I left off, minus making the home Holy Communion visits. Missing music, I joined choir instead. I flew beneath the radar at St. Paul for a few years, never admitting to a soul that I was a non-catholic. I countinued to receive Holy Communion every Sunday and sing in the choir without so much as a question from anyone. Until one Saturday.

The Moms to Moms group was looking for a co-chair and my friend Hollie persuaded me to join her for a training session. I indulged her and traveled to the one-day seminar not too far from home. Hollie smoked, so on breaks we would go outside so she could have a cigarette. Hollie was a deeply spiritual woman and I always enjoyed her stories. She had 4 kids and not a lot of money but seemed intrinsically happy all the time. I don't really know how we got on the subject that afternoon, but Hollie eluded to the fact that she was a former Lutheran before joining the Catholic Church. I was surprised. I had no idea that this woman who I had known for close to 2 years was a convert, let alone that we shared a Lutheran background. We talked for awhile and I think what I began to realize is what finally did it for me. Hollie had also "faked it" in the same way that I did. Masquerading as a Catholic and receiving Holy Communion. Some advice had been give her to "fast" from the Eucharist while she prepare to enter the Church. And fast she did. She told me that it transformed her. The more she fasted and restrained herself, the more in love she became with the Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Something was changing her...for the better, and why? Not because she clamored after something she felt she deserved, but because something she loved so much that she was willing to accept obedience to the Church that He inspired. If I believed in Jesus, and I certainly did, then why would I not also believe in the Church that He established. And if I could believe in it enough to not only attend as a faithful, pseudo-Catholic, but also to raise my child in this Church, then why would I not go the distance? And where had I ever considered that doing something half right, was right? The questions stirred a lot of pain in my soul but they did lead me to action. Hollie helped me get the big picture. And if she could fast from the Eucharist, so could I.

A surrender. The added embellishments of what I perceived as public humiliation & embarrassment did ensue, but what I discovered was that I was no better than anyone else. My pride had kept me away from the church and my pride would have to be lovingly and thoroughly dispensed with. It was a most appropriate penance.

On April 6, 1996 at St. Paul Catholic Church, after 7 months of formation, I became a Roman Catholic. Ron and I had our marriage blessed at the Vigil Mass and I returned to Mass the next day to sing. I wore the tea length dress that I wore on the day I married Ron. My reception into the church is a true BIRTHday. I came from the darkness of my ignorance into the light of understanding & the new life of the sacraments. I give the glory to God whom I love above all things and my thanks, admiration and love to Our Blessed Mother and the wonderful brothers and sisters that have been placed on my path. The place where I now call home is a parish in Carefree (no kidding) Arizona: Our Lady of Joy. Can't help but chuckle over the "ironies" in all of this...
St. Paul Lutheran to St. Paul Catholic
Our Lady of Sorrows to Our Lady of Joy
The Moms Groups in Michigan and in Arizona where I was "mothered" by many but spiritually by Our Lady in the Rosary which I prayed for the first time 5 years before entering the church. Coincidence? No way. Like I said, it was an inside job.

2 comments:

  1. I have thoroughly enjoyed your conversion story - thank you for tell it. You said it all when you said the word "surrender".

    May God continue to richly bless you.

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  2. Karen, I can't believe it. I was at St. Paul's at the same time you were! Like I told you, I think I truly do understand now whey God brought us together when He did because he could have done it more than a decade earlier otherwise.

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