When I was 15 I quietly committed my life to God at a Protestant youth retreat, telling no one. He was there for me when my father suddenly died when I was 18. I knew God would never fail me. Before my conversion, I was 19 years old, living at home and going to college. I was close to the pastor and staff at my Protestant church, where I had worked.
What happened that led to my conversion to the Catholic Church was a thunderbolt of love, followed by a gradual awakening of what God wanted. I loved Phil before he realized I was the one for him. We both resisted getting serious, but we were falling deeply in love. Trouble was, he was a faithful Catholic. Before he even proposed, I would have to decide whether to marry in his church or move on. Could I live without Phil or without my church family?
The first turning point was when I struggled with how I would tell my mother. I realized I had made my choice. I wasn't choosing Phil over God, only over my dream of marrying a Protestant in the church I loved.
Love was changing everything in my life—except my relationship with God. You see, I would do anything for Phil, but I knew in my heart that worshipping God was between him and me. That settled; we became engaged.
Fr. Burke gave me six weeks of instructions and married us under the huge golden wings of the Holy Spirit in the cathedral, but without mass. Somehow both families rejoiced. I was 20, and Phil was 22, with one more college semester before graduation.
The second turning point came 2 ½ years later. We were finishing our two years in the service and heading home with two babies. I had spent those two years trying out the disciplines of the Catholic Church, which at that time meant meatless Fridays and following the Latin Mass. In the three places we lived, I marveled at the universality of the Church, the consistency of liturgies and the instructions from three different priests. The last one said I knew enough to become Catholic and told me. “When you go home, have the priest who married you baptize you.”
I knew I was ready by the peace in my heart. Our two babies were Catholic. It was time for me. When we returned home, Fr. Burke heard my first confession, baptized me and gave me my First Eucharist in the cathedral.
Now I am one of those faithful Catholics that I saw in Phil so many decades ago. I have never looked back except to thank God and my mother for a solid Christian upbringing, which nurtured my personal relationship with Jesus. The tenets of faith I received there enabled me to leave that church, but not my relationship with God.
I‘m sure that falling in love with Phil was the only way God the Father could ever get me into the Catholic Church. He was showing what extremes he uses in guiding us into the joy he has for us. And I find great joy in belonging to the Catholic Church.
Like every conversion, Love, which is the name of God, initiated my conversion. And Love, who creates his will in us through love, completed my conversion. I might be happy as a Protestant married to a Catholic, as my in-laws. But what joy to share every Eucharist and many ministries with my husband and children.
(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)