Emily from Raising Barnes and I have been chit chit chattin’ as of late. She was so gracious to offer up her conversion story for us to read. What a gal! I love me a good conversion story.
My first real exposure to Catholicism came in the spring of 2007. I was a senior in high school. My best friend had convinced me to go with her on a weekend long retreat put on by two local parishes. Since Krista was always the leader and I the follower, agreed instantly. But, as the dates creeped closer and closer, I began to get more and more nervous; I wasn’t Catholic, so why did I ever agree to go on a Catholic retreat? Despite my apprehension, I packed up my duffle and sleeping bag and boarded the bus.
Emily & Krista circa 2007. Forgive our awkward high school selves.
At first, things were more than a little scary. By nature, I am extremely shy. I was suddenly in a situation with at least 70 other high schoolers, who all seemed to know one another; I felt like I was just the shy Lutheran girl, alone in the corner. Thankfully it didn’t take long for a group to adopt me and I began to feel better. Some “Catholic” parts of the weekend still felt a bit awkward, but I left with a new demeanor and lots of new friends.
Coincidentally, it was also on this retreat that I met my husband. He was a part of the drama team and spent most of his weekend covered in gold sparkly paint. But, that is obviously another story.
After the retreat, I began going to the weekly LifeTeen gatherings at Krista’s parish with her. I had found a new group of friends that I enjoyed spending quite a bit of time with. It was an environment where I felt accepted and no one seemed offended by my lack of Catholic knowledge or my questions about the faith. Mostly, I think I was there for the social part of it all, but, looking back, God was working on something else entirely.
When the summer ended, I was headed to college. I had committed early to Valparaiso University, one of the biggest and most well-known Lutheran Universities in the country. I had fallen in the love with the campus on my first tour and was so excited to get involved with the many different faith-based organizations.
As I settled in to my college life, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. I was going to church with a great group of friends every week, taking part in a bible study and exploring other groups as well. Still, the nagging in the back of my head persisted. I spent quite a bit of free time trying figure out what that things was; I read books of all types and perspectives, Googled random things and spent quite a bit of time staring into space in thought. It wasn’t until I was home for spring break that year that it finally hit me. I went to the return Mass for the teens who had been on the spring retreat; Krista’s little sister had gone and we went to welcome her back home. During the Our Father, I realized that this is what I had been missing. After Mass, I turned to Krista and I told her I wanted to be Catholic. Being herself, she wasted no time and dragged me over to another friend of ours’ dad, who happened to be the RCIA director at her parish.
With his help, I found a parish in Valpo that was willing to help me through the RCIA process. I cannot say enough wonderful things about the two who ran that program. They worked around my crazy college schedule, including making classes just for me when my night class got in the way of the regular meeting time. They made sure I always had a ride to Mass. And, they even supported me when my grandmother became very ill.
On March 22, 2009, at the parish where God first planted the seed in my heart, I received my First Communion and was confirmed. Krista, the one who started it all, was my sponsor. The whole day is sort of a blur in my memory, but I will always remember the smell of the Chrism and the feeling of pure joy.
Since that day over 5 years ago, I have been able to celebrate marriage with my husband and the baptism of our first son. Experiencing these sacraments, and even attending a normal weekend Mass, have all been a wonderful reminders of this gift I have been given. I am so grateful for this gift of faith that has been entrusted to me. And, I look forward to doing my very best to pass this gift on to our Simon, and any other children God may bless us with.
Wedding picture courtesy of Abbey Grim Photography
Baptism picture courtesy of Kati Q Photography
At the age of seventeen, when I first encountered Jesus in the Eucharist, I never would have dreamed of this life for myself. God knew. And I am grateful each day that this is the life he has given me.
St. Clare, pray for us.