by Virginia Lieto
Conversion experiences can come upon you gradually, or all at once. In my case, it was extremely gradual, more of a series of conversions, with one building upon another over my lifetime. I am a “cradle” Catholic, having attended both Catholic grade school and high school. Growing up, I dutifully received the sacraments. Yet in my 20s and into my early 30s, I would categorize myself as a lukewarm Catholic – running through the motions of doing what was expected – attending Mass on Sundays.
It was when I was in my late 30s, during an employment layoff as a result of a bank merger, that I began placing my trust in Jesus. It was also at this time that I was asked to be a Godmother to my friend’s baby. To attend the Baptism, my husband and I traveled from New Jersey to Utah. While out in the Salt Lake City area, I looked around and saw how beautiful the area was, how friendly the people were, and took a leap of faith and got a job in Utah.
We had a wonderful four years in Utah. Since Utah is predominantly Mormon, I was asked many questions about the Catholic faith. In answering those questions, I came to realize how much I cherished my faith and how much I needed to learn about my faith to adequately explain it to others. This time in Utah served as the impetus for where I am at today. It was during this time, that I believe God was calling me to serve Him, yet I was unqualified.
“Home” in the south
After our four years in Utah, and because of another bank merger, we moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. My husband’s and my faith had grown stronger while in Utah, to the point where our decision on housing would be based upon the proximity to a Catholic Church where the Holy Spirit was busy at work. We found Saint Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, served by Franciscan Friars. The minute I walked into the church, I knew I was “home.” It was here that God really put me to work! I got very involved with parish activity, participating on the Finance Council, chairing the Evangelization and Communication Commission, the Evangelization Ministry and a Capital Campaign!
All the while though, the volunteer work wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I wanted to learn more. I wanted to be able to connect the dots for those inquiring about the Catholic faith. I wanted to be able to serve God better. The burning desire to change my life was building. I was working as a Technology Audit Manager, and that was getting tiresome. Audit clients never want to see you, let alone hear what you have to say about what’s wrong with their business. I wanted people to feel better because of what I had to say, rather than feel worse. Such a change would mean the end to finding fault with processes, procedures and employee actions. It meant the beginning of inspiring others with a vision for how one might live a happier life, growing closer to God. God was speaking to me, and I decided to take another leap of faith.
Committing my life to God
In 2011, I retired from the bank auditing profession. At the same time, I made a commitment to give my life to God. I believe that God’s plan for me is far better than anything for which I could conceive. With that commitment, and my faith, I obtained a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Theology from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine in 2014. In my studies, I learned a great deal about Church history, biblical studies, moral values and social teaching. With Masters Degree in hand, I can truly attest that the commitment to give my life to God has been the best decision of my life. God’s plan for me has brought me so much joy.
God has qualified me, the unqualified, to give me what I need to do His will. Now I am at the precipice of taking another leap of faith. I am starting a fledgling business to evangelize for the Lord. I am a Catholic blogger, a part-time college instructor, an author of an upcoming children’s book on the virtue of patience, and I am ready to conduct day retreats and public speaking engagements on the virtues. I am ready to help others connect the dots on why we believe what we believe as Catholics. Please pray for me as I take that next leap of faith!
(© 2015 Virginia Lieto)
Virginia Lieto: You can find Virginia blogging about the virtues at virginialieto.com. Her writing is inspirational and encouraging, while her suggestions for incorporating the virtues are practical. Virginia teaches Sacraments and Liturgy for the Catechetical Certificate Program at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine – Theology Program Online. Her first upcoming book titled, Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity – Finding Patience will hopefully be published during 2015 – God willing! Virginia is available for public speaking engagements. She lives in Harrisburg, NC, with her husband of 35+ years, Nick. Virginia loves living in the south where the cuisine, the sunny, warm weather and the hospitality are at their best!t