My father was the pastor of a few different churches throughout Ohio and West Virginia during this time. He began as a Pentecostal minister, and would later go on to pastor a Baptist church. My father never attended a seminary, although he received his preaching credentials under the teaching of another Evangelist via postal-mail. I remember as a young girl, my father worked hard at his biblical studies. He continued to work full-time as a carpenter to provide a decent living for his family, but on many evenings, he would slave over a stack of books for long hours.
“I was fighting so many demons that I lost track of where they came from and how they were manifested. I became enslaved to spiritual poverty, sexual depravity, and a greed for money that would take its toll on my emotions and psyche for years to come. Everything in life seemed easily disposable, especially my money, which I spent lavishly to maintain my steady diet of alcohol and drugs that would salve my emotional pain.”
I was born in the ghettoes of Chicago’s South Side in 1961. My first memories are of dilapidated apartments, window frames without windows, trash strewn on the streets, urine-soaked alleys, and a neglected-derived independence. As a three-, four-, and five-year-old, I remember many times coming and going from the apartment my mother, siblings and I shared while my mother, an active alcoholic at that time, had friends over from morning till night — days filled with card games, cigarette smoke and all the beer and vodka they could want. When I was about seven years old, my father, whom I had only met once, came to the apartment announcing that my six siblings and I were going with him. It was the last time I would see my mother for years. Much later, my father told us my mother told him she was moving and leaving us at the apartment, and warned him that if he didn’t come get us, we would be abandoned.
As I try to recount my journey into the Catholic Church, I feel as if I could write from so many different perspectives: history, the sacraments, the saints, Mary, or contraception. All of these words characterize, in part, my reasons for becoming Catholic. I feel like each represent a small book I could write. In this story though I want to connect how I believe my particular Protestant tradition prepared the way for my entrance into the Church. I pray it will encourage many more to fulfill the prayer of Christ “that all of them may be one as I and the Father are one” (John 17:21).
I am about to turn 40 years old. The older I get, the less inclined I am to speak about myself. I’d rather talk about Augustine, Aquinas, or someone else that time has vindicated their right to be heard. On the other hand, telling my story reveals to those who listen that the things I speak about are things that have guided the course of my life and truly reflect what is most meaningful to me. There is an enduring value, I think, to listening to the life-story of another. The more durable, coherent and compelling the discoveries of another turn out to be, the more meaningful and transforming they may turn out to be for another. Since my life has several significant “twists” and “turns,” some find it at least curious that I have settled in the Roman Catholic Church. My arrival in the Catholic Church was neither quick nor easy. This arrival was not in the recent past. My initial choice to be Catholic and the present are separated by more than ten years. I think time has shown that my choice to be Catholic was neither hasty nor shallow. I hope you will find the following brief account helpful in your own journey.
I also came across people such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christadelphians who questioned the deity of Christ. We both appealed to the Scriptures for our beliefs, my interpretation against theirs. I blew this off because I knew that Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, always had believed in the deity of Christ (looking back, it seems I was already appealing to Sacred Tradition, though I didn’t know it at the time). To me the Bible alone doctrine was the other side of the same coin as theological liberalism. It solved nothing, leaving everything in question, and nothing certain.
“I went and talked with a Catholic priest. As it turned out, he was less than encouraging. I don’t know if he was disgruntled with the Church or what, but he seemed to say, ‘Why would you want to go and become a Catholic?’”