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I felt as if I were being pulled away from God…

I
am a convert to the Catholic Church, having left the Southern Baptist
Convention in 1994. When I began to take instruction in the Catholic
Church, there were a lot of things going on in my life, both
spiritually and personally.

On the spiritual side, I felt as if
I were being pulled away from God. I was baptized in the Southern
Baptist tradition in 1985, just before I graduated from high school.
What I didn't know was that I was entering a denomination that had a
division more bitter than the worst divisions within the Catholic
Church; the nearly quarter-century old (at the time) division between
the denomination's fundamentalist faction, which favored an extremely
literal interpretation of the Bible, and the moderates, who favored a
more open approach to the faith. The fundamentalist faction took over
the denomination the year I left; since I considered myself a moderate,
I felt that I was about to be pushed out of the denomination. I was
also being pressured by some within the denomination to get married
before I turned thirty years old, whether I was ready for married life
or not. I was also ashamed to be in a denomination that had supported
racial segregation and slavery in the past (before both institutions
were declared invalid), as well as one which ordained the likes of
Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Personally, I had been
struggling to get into my chosen profession (commercial broadcasting),
forcing me to take work outside that industry. A year before I entered
RCIA at my home parish near St. Louis, I had broken off an engagement.
My former fiancee was not even a Christian; she had been raised by an
atheist father and an extremely tough mother who hardly, if ever,
attended church. It was a very bad situation; her parents had been
going through a very bitter divorce. When they decided to interfere in
the relationship I was in, I had no choice but to get out. This was
God's way of telling me that I wasn't ready to get married.

During
the summer of 1994, I took a deep look at my relationship with God. I
concluded that my relationship with Him hadn't been very strong. I had
been considering conversion to the Catholic faith since the late 1980s;
I attended my first Mass in the Archdiocese of Atlanta (where I was
living at the time) in 1992; it was ironic that I went to Mass on the
day before I returned to my home diocese, the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Finally, on a very hot July afternoon, I walked three blocks to St.
Martin de Porres parish, where I spoke to the Associate Pastor about my
interest in converting to the Catholic faith. On September 15, 1994, I
started RCIA classes there; I had a lot of guidance from not only the
parish priests, but also from the catechists. One of the catechists,
Bob Knopp, wrote an excellent book called "Finding Jesus Through The
Gospels". I have a copy of that book. When it came time to choose a
sponsor, I called upon a family friend, namely my family's real estate
agent. I went to school with four of his six children; they're like a
second family to me. I was received into the Catholic Church and
received Confirmation and First Communion exactly seven months later,
on Holy Saturday 1995.

Since then, I have grown closer to God
than I've ever been at any point in my life. I have been able to
reflect and pray more often than at any point in my life, and feel that
God is a friend who will listen. Nowadays, I'm involved with the
Catholic student union on the campus of the university I now attend;
the young men and women I work with in that group are a very faithful
group. I thank God every day for these young men and women; they are
the future leaders of our church; whether the path God puts them on
will lead to religious life or lay ministry. One student I worked with
is now in seminary in Chicago. This is my seventh year involved with
this group of faithful young men and women.

Conversion to
Catholicism from a Protestant denomination, especially one that's a
180-degree difference like the Southern Baptist Convention, is quite an
experience. You'll feel that you're being pulled closer to God as your
new life in the Catholic Church goes on. My faith still gets challenged
every day, especially with relationship troubles and my mother dealing
with ALS (better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease), but I always know that
God is with me.

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