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.
I sat at work with my head in my hands looking at the computer screen. I couldn’t believe what I had just read. There was no possible way that was the truth. How could it be? I always thought that I was right and the Catholics were wrong. If the statement I had just read was true, it would mean so much would have to change. Yet, how could they be right? This was only supposed to be a harmless trip to EWTN.com in order to disprove my fiancée’s parents and their firm Catholic beliefs.
I had not considered the Catholic Church as an option. From my perspective, Catholicism was not “normal” Christianity. It seemed very strict and ritualistic, with too much pomp and ceremony. It seemed too formal, rather than “Spirit led.” … After some thought, I had to admit that my opinions were based upon mere glimpses into the Church and that I actually knew very little about Catholicism.
The divorce of his parents at a young age had a significant impact on Chris Padgett growing up in North Dakota. It brought his mother back to church in the
Oh, no, I thought to myself, here we go again. Some latecomers had forced us to move into the middle of the pew. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of the pew in a Catholic church if you’re a Protestant “pew potato.”
You’ve heard of a couch potato? I was a pew potato. I plunked down in my pew every week but didn’t participate a whole lot, other than singing a hymn I recognized or shaking hands with my neighbors during the sign of peace.
One thing many people can’t quite get their heads around is the Catholic Church’s claim that there is one Church founded by Jesus and that one this Church, according to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), “constituted and organized as a society in this present, world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.” Or as Richard John Neuhaus liked to put it, “The Catholic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time.”
My return to the Catholic Church after twenty years away as an Evangelical Protestant was my heart’s response to Jesus, as He drew me back into full communion with His Church and complete union with Him in the Holy Eucharist.
I was baptized Shannon Mary Kelly, oldest of six children of an Irish-Catholic family in Bay City, Michigan. I made my First Confession and First Communion when I was eight years old. I remember how very close to Jesus I felt as I received Holy Communion for the first time.