The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue
Local News

Why become a Catholic?

Convert Catholics offer faith insight for cradle Catholics

By Patricia Kasten
Associate Editor

At the Easter Vigil, over 300 people will enter the Catholic Church. They will join countless other "converts" who have joined the Church as adults, entering from another faith.

But why does someone become Catholic? Many "cradle Catholics" have always been Catholic, born and raised in their faith. They haven't explored the faith "from the outside." So they may ask what draws an adult to join the Church? Why become a Catholic, and why stay a Catholic?

This year, The Compass asked these questions of "convert Catholics" across the diocese.

We received response from people who became Catholic 40 years ago and those who have just joined the church. Their faith stories are listed below as an insight and inspiration to all of us -- whether we were "born Catholic" and whether we are still inquiring about the Catholic Church:

I was 19 years old and about to marry into a "good Catholic." That was reason enough for me to leave my Lutheran background and spend six weeks pouring over the Baltimore Catechism, preparing myself for initiation into the church (although they didn't call it initiation then).

It was 1959, the priest was saying Mass in Latin with his back to the people while the congregation prayed their rosary or read from their Sunday Missal. Then Vatican II happened. The priest turned around and spoke in English. The people became active participants. I came to know Jesus as "friend."

The thing I like best about being Catholic is being catholic (small c means universal). I can go to Mass in California or Florida or Maryland and on any given Sunday, I will hear the same readings, participate in the same responses, sing the songs, see the same Renew banners and receive the same Jesus in the Eucharist. I know I am not a visitor; I am a member of the one body - one holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Barb Wautlet
Ss. Francis/Wenceslaus, Coleman/Klondike

I have spent most of my adult life in the Catholic Church having come into the Church when it was still the dark, mysterious place that we, as Protestants, knew very little about beyond its closed doors.

In coming to the Church, I have come to know our Blessed Lady. She has helped me to be successful in my marriage, in my family life, and in working for and in the Church. To me, she is a true figure of the faith and a complete human being.

I have found the Church reality. The statements issued by her are of tremendous importance in my life. Daily, the Church seems more wonderful to me, the sacraments more solemn and satisfying and the moral decisions wise and true and right.

I appreciate the changes of Vatican II and, at last, my good parents could understand and see why I would embrace this Church wholeheartedly.

Laura Thelen

A closer walk with you, Oh Lord,

Is what I'm searching for.

Each day to find Your peace and joy,

T'would make my spirit soar.

A place to turn in times of strife,

My troubles to take there.

And strength and calm to fill my heart,

As God does burdens share.

Each day to strive to walk the path,

As You would want me to.

And seek to show Your strength and love,

In all I say and do.

As the first anniversary of my entering the faith approaches with this Lenten season, I would like to express my deepest gratitude and thanks to all who walked this faith journey with me.

And my special thanks and love to Ron for his never-ending patience, support and encouragement throughout my constant (and sometimes incessant and challenging!) questioning about Catholicism and Catholic tradition. His strong faith and love of God and the Catholic Church could not be shaken and carried us both through my many ups and downs during my journey-and ultimately brought me HOME.

Carol Rosik
Holy Cross Parish, Bay Settlement

When I was in my early 20s, I had a roommate that was a "cradle Catholic." Her family included me many times in family dinners and events. I had the opportunity to get to know their priest and be there for their youngest daughter's First Communion (at home).

After a time, I started asking my roommate all sorts of questions. She often had an answer that left me wanting more. Finally, I believe she got fed up with all my pestering and said, "Why don't you go and talk to Father?"

At first, I only went to ask my questions and then I felt really moved to want to join the Church. It felt like coming home.

I can truly say that I have never doubted that I belong in the Catholic Church. But there have been many times when I have felt like I really missed a lot not being "born and raised" Catholic. But there is even a happy ending to those feelings. I have two daughters and the oldest is in second grade and about to have her First Communion. I enjoy going to the Mass that her grade has on weekday mornings. I am learning right along with them.

Jayne Conard
Holy Rosary, Kewaunee

I have had many blessings in my life but the one that has made the biggest impact in my life was the blessing of becoming Catholic in 1999. After my husband had a heart attack and emergency open heart surgery in October of 1997, we believe the Lord has been very present in our life to give him another chance at life and to make us servants of his.

My husband was a "cradle Catholic" but had not practiced in the 28 years of our marriage. I had been baptized Lutheran, confirmed Congregationalist and practiced in the Methodist Church. In December of 1998 we began to attend St. Raphael Parish in Oshkosh and with our first service we knew that we had found a new home with Christ. It was a very emotional time for both of us and we knew exactly what was next and that was I needed to become Catholic so I could feel the true meaning of receiving the Eucharist and be part of the service. I began the RCIA process in June of 1999 and this was the most awesome and inspiring time of my life.

I will never forget the times when we stood in front of the congregation and expressed our desires to be Catholic and have the group accept us, the blessings we received were very emotional also. The church family was so accepting with arms always opened like in the image of Christ.

I always wonder if people who have been Catholic all their lives really understand and appreciate the wonders of their religion as one who has made the conscious effort to become Catholic. I am now the one who shares my beliefs and feelings of my religion with great pride and my family and friends say that they have noticed a wonderful peacefulness about me since my conversion.

Nancy Piencikowski
St. Raphael, Oshkosh

I became Catholic when I met and decided to marry my husband, a cradle Catholic. Being raised to no particular religion left me craving. While dating, my husband insisted that our future children be raised Catholic. It didn't take any pressure to convince me that this was best. I knew I wanted for my children what I never had. He never pressured me to convert.

I wasn't convinced I could accept the church's teachings but went into my studying with an open mind and was rewarded! The idea of Christian Unity blew me right (into) the Waters of Baptism. There was no putting down of other religions, accepting all on the basis of believing in and following Christ. Surely this is what Christ intended!

I'm so glad God lead me to the Catholic Church. After 18 years in the Catholic Church, I'm just as inspired and our faith has guided us through some very tough times. God is now leading me in the direction of inspiring others through music. I recently became choir director for our church.

Narda (Sam) Burzik
St. Mary of the Lake, Lakewood

I became a Catholic Christian when I was 21 years old. My interest in converting began as I became engaged to a nice Catholic boy who had a strong faith and had even been in the seminary for a while.

The interest turned into something much stronger as I began instructions. I had been hoping merely that I wouldn't find anything too objectionable in Catholicism so that my conscience would keep me from converting. Instead, I discovered a richness and depth of Christianity that had been missing for me even though I came from a tradition that emphasized daily Bible reading and memorization. I felt as if I had found the place that Jesus wanted me to be.

I remain a Catholic because this Christian tradition has enabled me to grow closer to God each year. The faithful of communities both past and present strengthen my own faith and sense of belonging to something greater than myself. Eucharist in the Catholic tradition leads me toward oneness with Christ and with others.

Bobbie Whittaker

There is no expression on my 10-year-old face in the birthday photo. Parents divorced, mom dead - my world has crumbled. Auntie and Uncle and Normal Heights Methodist enfolded me in their loving arms. Sunday school and bible stories and the beautiful old hymns and fellowship begin the healing.

Illness brings another move. Church has become a safe, happy place and Jesus is my best friend. This Auntie and Uncle go to St. John's Catholic. It is burned in my memory - when I walked through that door, I felt a Presence that I had never felt before. The worshipers seemed to be aware of this, too. With all my being, I know that I needed, I had to have, I wanted this Presence. I was 12 years old. Jesus had filled me with his Eucharistic presence. It is life for me.

When distributing communion, to see the hands, calloused and worn, soft, young, reach out for the Lord, I, too, feel as though I am being fed.

Elaine Plym
Denver, Col.

For me, Catholicism equals commitment. I grew up in a Protestant family and had a deep love and faith in the Triune God. There came a time in my early adult years that my life was crumbling around me, where I needed the strength and support of my faith community. I found none.

Instead, my neighbors and their priest opened up their hearts, their homes and their faith to me. It was through them I recognized that I had been floundering - moving through life avoiding commitment. It was in the Catholic faith tradition that I felt I was coming home to the Lord, that I could commit my life, my heart and my soul.

Rhonda Trader

I became a Catholic at the Easter Vigil in 1992. Becoming a Catholic was one thing I never wanted or expected to become. I grew up as a proud Presbyterian in a neighborhood of Catholics. Every Reformation Sunday, the elders of our church would stand up and say why they were glad that they were not Catholics.

When I met my husband in college, he was struggling with the decision to leave the Catholic Church. He had met some evangelical Protestants who were excited and educated about their faith and he wanted what they had. We were married as Presbyterians after he left the church.

Because of my husband's job, we moved quite a lot and each time, it was a priority to find a good church. Churches even in the same denomination vary and finding the right church was very difficult at times.

We ended up in a Christian Missionary and Alliance Church, and the contrast between that church and one with a liturgical form of worship was striking. At that point, my husband really began to long for the Eucharist and he talked about visiting a Catholic Church on Saturdays. I realized that his journey back to the church was just beginning and that I could either join him or split up our family worship.

We had several heated discussions, but I decided to accept the Catholic Church and all of its teachings. The difficult teachings were the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the authority of the Pope and praying to Mary and the saints. I also said that I would become Catholic, however, I did not want any of my sons to become priests.

These difficult teachings have now become very precious to me and are the reasons why I would never leave the Church. Having Christ really present means that he comes to me in the Mass in a tangible way. My husband and I have had three more sons since 1992. I have twin sons in minor seminary and if God continues to call them to the priesthood, I will be overjoyed.

Marion Sember
New Holstein

I was going to marry a man I had known for many years and he was a Catholic. I knew if I took his faith, it would make a better marriage. I had to take instructions so asked a friend at work to go with me. She took me to a young priest and he explained everything to me. He gave me his blessing and offered to marry us but we were married in my husband's church with his family. We raised our family in the Catholic faith and we have had 62 years of a very happy marriage.

Mrs. August Quella

I turned Catholic in 1949 because my husband-to-be was Catholic. I went to a Jesuit priest for my instructions. He was a lovely man and really did a good job of explaining everything to me. I have three children, two girls and a boy. My husband passed away in 1969. I remarried in 1972 and my husband wasn't Catholic but after a few years, he, too, became a Catholic. He passed away in 1998. I attend Sacred Heart in Manawa and I try to help at our church activities since my retirement. I am very happy with my choice of becoming a Catholic.

Elaine Graper
Sacred Heart, Manawa

I am Catholic today and have been for the past 44 years because I made a decision, at the age of 19, to convert. It was July of 1956, just before my wedding, when I was baptized. I attended my first Mass in order to gain an understanding of the differences between Protestants and Catholics. In the Catholic church, I found a quiet reverence, a spiritual awakening that I had not known before. To be Catholic means we have Christ's assurance of eternal life. As Catholics, we have a 2,000 year history of Christ's true presence in the Holy Eucharist and his forgiving power through the sacrament of reconciliation, which is not found in other Christian faiths. In troubled times, He has always been with me drawing me even closer to Him. So, I quite naturally immersed myself in that love of Christ and His Blessed Mother. I have made many pilgrimages throughout our world.

Martha Mass

There were Catholics in all areas of the family although my growing years were far removed from them. My guardians were devout stewards living the command "love your neighbor." Early Christian training continued to direct my adult life and the years as a widow offered the hours to fill the needs of others. Travel and "my little voice" prompted a visit to Wisconsin and an elder child.

My efforts to worship were unfulfilling until a Catholic neighbor - stranger - asked why I did not attend church. The stranger was an instrument of God. I attended Mass with her Saturday next. I was called to be there. Knowing that was immediate. I was greeted by so many people. Sr. Judy, in her loving way, invited me to attend RCIA meetings for my "own understanding." I did attend and fully entered the Catholic faith at the Easter Vigil in the year of Our Lord 1992.

When I hear the words "I am a cradle Catholic", I do wonder if the one proclaiming knows what he/she really has. There is such beauty of our Lord in the faith. The Catholic church nourishes and sustains my faith. I have a new life in my Lord Christ.

Martha Powell
Sturgeon Bay

I have been a converted Catholic 25 years now but I must confess, there's a part of my spirit that will always be Methodist. I had no thoughts of conversion when my husband of 27 years and I were married. We respected each other's religion enough not to force it on each other. We were blessed to have progressive Methodist and Catholic clergy agree to preside at our wedding in my church.

That was the decisive moment when I looked at Catholicism a different way. I had grown up hearing horrible stories about the church. Two years later when our daughter was an infant and Dave was at sea on a submarine, I felt a need for church, a need to worship together as a family.

A Navy chaplain in Honolulu spent several hours explaining what being a Catholic was all about. He encouraged me to be honest about my misgivings, feelings and ideas. Most important, he told me I didn't have to accept all of the faith at once. I just needed to allow the possibility of acceptance in my heart to exist and he said God would take care of the rest.

AND, has he ever. My faith in Jesus had always been an important part of my life; being a Catholic has added a deeper dimension of closeness to this faith over the years. I embraced all the rituals, signs and symbols; it always gives clarity to my prayer and thoughts. The sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation which at first I accepted cautiously, are so much a part of my religious conviction now, I wonder why there was ever a question. One thing I do feel with all my heart is God loves all his children regardless of where church is for them. It's what I believe; it's what I tell others.

Marcia Schroeder

Forty-eight years ago, I fell in love with a man who was a strong practicing Catholic. I came from a mixed religious background though I was a church goer. As we planned our life together, it was obvious that my husband-to-be was going to be a Catholic forever.

Since we wanted a family, I felt we should be of one faith. I knew his love for me would sustain us, so I took instructions before our wedding. My First Communion as a Catholic was on Holy Thursday morning, a day I celebrate each year with thanksgiving.

The first few years of our marriage, my faith was mixed with my love for my husband and my admiration for the depth of his faith. Suddenly one day at the kitchen sink, a warm wave washed over me from my head to my toes and I felt the Holy Spirit at work. I truly felt a part of the Catholic faith and I wasn't just looking in. Today, I feel I'm a part of a big family with God the Father's arms around me.

Rose Marie Van Dyke

The reason I converted to the Catholic religion was because I didn't want to have a split religion family. I was Lutheran and my husband was Catholic.

When my husband went into the service, I decided to do something about it so I discussed it with the pastor at my church and he said that you can take any road you want to get to heaven. The priest I took my instructions from was also very helpful in explaining the different aspects of the Catholic religion. Since my husband was in the service, he was not aware of what I was doing.

On the night I was baptized Catholic, I called him long distance to tell him. I must have caught him by surprise because he didn't say anything for a few minutes. Finally, I said, "Well, say something, this is long distance." He was very pleased and a few days later I received a beautiful rosary in the mail. I was baptized in August 1957, confirmed in October of 1957 and married in December of 1957 and that was 42 years ago. It has been a wonderful experience for me.

Nancy Maahs

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