Skip to main content
Conversion StoriesOneness PentecostalPentecostalReverts to the Catholic FaithUnited Pentecostal

A Oneness Pentecostal Minister Becomes Catholic

Michael Garcia
September 28, 2023 No Comments

Formation and Family History

I was born into a Catholic family in May of 1953, baptized as a baby, went on to do my confession, received my first Holy Communion, and was confirmed by Bishop Buswell at Our Lady of Guadalupe church, the oldest parish in Colorado. I loved everything about God and the Church. I even saw myself serving as a priest one day, but would eventually dismiss the thought because I wanted to be married and have children. My mother would have us pray the Rosary whenever there was a need, and made sure we went to Mass; but my father was sporadic in attending church and never prayed the Rosary with us, although I knew he loved God.

I grew up in Conejos, a small community in southern Colorado, where my ancestors were some of the first settlers to make their homes there. The story is told that, when my great, great grandfather brought the first settlers to the valley, one of the burros refused to go on, and they discovered a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the site, so they began their settlement in that area and built a church to honor her. In another community, one of my great grandfathers donated land to the Catholic Church so that a church and a cemetery could be built. I was told that another ancestor would spend time by the river praying and reading the Scriptures. Looking back, I am thankful for their faithfulness.

In my teens, I slowly began to drift away from the Church by not receiving Communion and eventually not attending Mass at all. I always seemed to find an excuse for not going. I did manage to go to Christmas Midnight Mass and Easter, along with all the other “C&E Christians.” After high school, I entered the United States Navy in November of 1971, and my church attendance eroded even more, but I always felt that God was somehow with me. I do remember going to a Catholic Church once, when I was stationed in Hawaii, and I felt God’s presence and experienced the beauty of the Mass with the local people. But I never went to Confession or Communion. At this time, my older brother was getting involved with a United Pentecostal Church (UPC), and I saw a change in his life. He would talk to us about God whenever we were around him.

While in the Navy, I had a friend who was with a Christian youth group. He talked to me about giving my heart to God. I remember going to bed that night and talking to the Lord, telling him that I was not ready to give my heart to Him. I felt that doing so would make me “miss out on life” at the time, but my plan was that, at some point later on, when I was ready, I would wholeheartedly give my life to God.

Getting into Pentecostal Ministry

When I was discharged from the Navy, in the fall of 1975, I attended college at Adams State in Alamosa, CO, but didn’t attend Mass. By this time, my brother, Tom, had moved to Denver and had invited me to a revival at a new UPC church that he and his wife were helping to start. I drove up to visit a service there and was taken with the music and emotional preaching. In the spring of 1976, having finished my college fall semester, I moved to Denver, where I got involved with the UPC. The services had music and a lot of emotion, and since I was somewhat of an emotional person, I was drawn to them.

I had an experience with the Holy Spirit and felt that God was real. I wanted more of Him. Remembering my prayer in Hawaii, this time felt similar. I wanted to sell out completely to God. The UPC preached a “One God” message and that baptism had to be performed using the phrase “in Jesus’ name.” From what I could see with my limited Bible knowledge and church background, I felt they were preaching the truth. I earnestly began to study the Bible and the Oneness doctrine, trying very hard to justify to myself that what I was being taught was the truth. Prayer became a big part of my life, and I became active for the congregation, knocking on doors and inviting people to church.

After a couple of years, I felt a call to preach, and I approached my pastor about going to Bible school, but he felt it was better for me to sit under his leadership and learn from him. I was soon getting invitations to preach at some of the local churches.

Our denomination held a camp meeting once a year, usually in the mountains close to Denver. The tradition behind this meeting dated back to the time when the various Pentecostal organizations would meet in the summer to have fellowship and discuss administrative matters.

It was at one of these camp meetings, in July of 1978, that I met my wife, Susanne, who was from Albuquerque, NM and was a recent convert to Pentecostalism. Her whole family was Catholic, and her father’s favorite saint was St. Ann, so all eight of his girls had an Ann in their names. Susanne was in Craig, Colorado, helping her sister with her children, when she joined the Pentecostal Church. I had an opportunity to preach at her church, and there was an instant connection. Within six months, we were married.

We were married on January 1st of 1979 because we wanted to start the year together. Looking back, I can certainly say that bringing us together was by the hand of God. She has been a wonderful partner in this journey of life that we share. We had been in Denver for about a month and half when we took on pastoring a Home Missions church, with about eight individuals, in Walsenburg, Colorado. It was a struggle financially and spiritually. Since it was difficult to find employment, we literally prayed for our food, rent, and gas money, and God always supplied.

I remember going to a community church fellowship, where all the churches had been invited to participate. I was asked to be the master of ceremonies. The local Catholic priest was invited to speak, and I remember him speaking about the division in the Church in general, and how Protestants kept building new walls to divide the Christian community. It didn’t go over well with the attendees, but it left an indelible mark in my memory. But it was only later that I came to realize just how many new church organizations had sprung up over doctrinal and other issues.

While working with this Home Missions church, I studied all I could about our church’s beliefs. One study that I enjoyed immensely, was on the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and how God instructed Moses to build an Ark that would contain the two tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments, the pot containing the manna from heaven, and Aaron’s rod. To house the Ark and to initiate the worship of the one true God, the Israelites were to build a tabernacle that contained a Holy of Holies, where the Ark was kept. Instructions were given as to how the Levitical priests would perform their duties and minister to the people and how the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the people. Eventually this type of worship was transferred over to Solomon’s temple. My study of the Tabernacle would eventually help me to better understand the Catholic Church.

Continuing in Ministry

After about a year and a half, we returned to Denver and our home church, where I assisted the pastor and got involved with the Spanish language ministry. We were in church literally all the time. There was Sunday morning service, Sunday night service, Tuesday night Spanish service, Wednesday night midweek service, Thursday night prayer, Saturday morning visitation and Saturday night Spanish service. The Spanish-speaking folk were a wonderful group of people, and we experienced some powerful services.

It was during this time that my daughter, Kristina, and son, Michael, were born. I was ordained into the UPC at a church camp meeting in the summer of 1984 and continued to minister in the Spanish speaking church and would preach for outside groups whenever invited. We had some (as they say in Pentecostal circles) “mighty moves of God,” and there were times when we had awesome deliverance services. We were even involved in a Spanish language radio ministry, called “El Camino de Amor.” In 1985, we were told about a church in Alamosa, Colorado that had been started, but the pastor had left. Leaving our home church, the Spanish church and all our friends to pursue that opportunity was indeed difficult, but I felt that we needed to move on from that comfortable situation.

For an entire year, we traveled every weekend from our home in Aurora, Colorado about 250 miles to minister to a small group of people in that assembly. Some of the congregation were former members of a Oneness Apostolic organization that had closed their church. We also had a wonderful opportunity to spend nearly every weekend with my parents, who lived about 30 miles from our new church assignment. However, the traveling back and forth eventually took its toll on me, and we decided to move back to Denver and start a UPC church in one of the suburbs where we lived and worked. Unfortunately, the organization thought it best for us not to start another church, and I began to question my future in the organization. In 1987, we decided to leave the UPC and take some time to think about our journey.

A friend of mine told me about a Oneness Apostolic family church in Denver and arranged for me to speak there. The elder who had started the church requested that I pastor it, and in 1990 I was elected pastor. The congregation had a nice building with a parsonage, whose basement was used for Sunday School. The church had never really participated in communion services, so I took the opportunity to introduce them to the Lord’s Supper. When I lifted up the bread to mention the words of the Lord over the bread, I felt a supernatural touch on my head and shoulders, and later on in life I would realize how sacred that moment was.

I remember talking to one of the ministers about how, in the Apostolic church, there was no progression of faith for members. It made me think about the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church and how one must prepare for each of them.

After pastoring a couple of years there, I felt that I had done enough, and resigned. We attended an Assembly of God church for a time. They had an early morning prayer time that I enjoyed. We soon left the Assembly of God, and since the Oneness doctrine that we were involved in was unique and different from mainstream Christianity, we started a Non-denominational church named Christ Church in August of 1993. Our intent was to minister to folks that were coming out of the Oneness organizations and had nowhere to go. We found an office complex where there were other churches that had rented space, and we were fortunate to meet a gentleman by the name of Mark, who owned the building. He was very kind and never raised our rates. I found out about a couple of other churches that were Oneness Apostolic, and we would get together with them for camp meetings and fellowship.

A friend of mine hosted a live television show in the morning, where he would pray for people on the air, and there were times when he was not available, so he would ask me to sit in for him. I really enjoyed praying for the callers’ needs. As a result, we were able to start a half hour program that would broadcast at five in the morning. Needless to say, we did not get much of an audience, and it didn’t last long, but it was an experience.

 We had a great group of people, but after a number of years, I began to question the validity and futility of pastoring while also working a full time job. The fatigue finally got to me. We closed our church in 2007 and began to attend a large Vineyard church that was near our home, with lively music and positive sermons. My time in the Navy had provided me with a background in computers that opened opportunities for me in computer operations and software engineering, so I always had a career and an income. I worked for various government entities and finally started working for the Federal Government, retiring after thirty years of service.

Moving and Church Shopping

In 2009, my wife and I moved to Indianapolis when my job was transferred there. While in Indianapolis, we visited a number of churches — Reformed, Mennonite, Methodist, and a Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) — but we finally settled into a megachurch that was part of the Reformed movement. They had three morning services: one for the more traditional folks, that had hymns and a choir, while the other two were more rock and roll oriented.

 We attended the early morning traditional service so we could hear the choir and sing the hymns. We were gone a lot on weekends, so we weren’t there all the time, but the pastor there took a paid sabbatical, then eventually left. From what I heard, some members of the congregation were not too happy with him, anyway. As a Protestant minister, you are evaluated on your ability to preach a good sermon, and if you don’t connect with the people, you can find yourself looking for another job.

Turning Towards Catholicism

While living in Indiana, we took a cruise to Europe, visiting Barcelona, Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Ephesus and Malta. Seeing the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica was amazing. Walking into that great building and viewing all of the history before us was so captivating that it made me want to become a Catholic right then and there.

In 2012, when I retired, Susanne and I made our way back to Colorado and settled in Pueblo West. We began to attend an Assembly of God church, but searching for something more, we moved to a Church of God fellowship — again finding a great group of people, beautiful music and worship. But still, something was missing in my life.

Years earlier, my wife and I had attended some funerals of our family members who were Catholic, and every time we would leave the church, we both felt something special. One weekend, we took a drive to the Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic shrine in Chimayo, New Mexico. It is one of the most popular pilgrimage places in the United States. When we entered the chapel, we could feel the beautiful presence of the Holy Spirit. Many miracles have been attributed to the Lord through the Santuario. The visit left a huge impression on us.

Every time we went to a Catholic Mass, I was envious of the people receiving Communion. I began to study about the Catholic Church, and soon I could no longer attend services at the Protestant church we had chosen. Poor Susanne! She loved the worship there, but I could not bring myself to attend. I explained to her what was taking place in my life, and I think she must have thought to herself, “What is going on with this guy?”

Finally, I asked her to go to Mass with me at a Catholic church, and she accepted. When we went to Mass, I was soaking it all in. From the moment the priest entered the sanctuary until the last benediction was given, I was seeing things in a different light than when I was younger and attending Mass just to satisfy my mom. By this point in my journey, every part of the Mass had taken on a new meaning for me.

 I became fascinated with how the early Church formed after the Apostles passed away, and who took over the mantle of St. Peter and kept it moving forward. Reading about the early Church fathers, like Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius and others, made me realize how God used holy men to develop a Church that would last two thousand years. Reading about the heresies that were often unfortunately created by clergy members who were Catholic, and how the Church had to call councils to discuss these various new doctrines and determine what was true and what was false, led me to believe that these men of God were led by the Holy Spirit. Some of these heresies still exist in some form today, but the Church has stood strong against them all.

What I loved about the early Church is that it was not just one man coming up with a doctrine for the Church, but it was a collaborative effort, with bishops from the various regions getting together to discuss and approve the teachings according to what had been handed down to them from the beginning. Also, seeing that the early Church was liturgical in practice, and that we got the Bible from the Catholic Church, completely changed the way I thought about Christianity.

For years, I could not let go of the Oneness doctrine and struggled to fit in, because in the UPC we didn’t believe in the Trinity, while nearly every Christian denomination outside of the Oneness movement does believe in the Trinity. I began to immerse myself in studying the doctrine of the Trinity, and the more I studied, the more sense it made to me. After reading about the early Church, how they believed in the Trinity, and the importance of the Eucharist, I was ready to make the change. I earnestly prayed that God would lead me and Susanne to the True Church. I remember reading about a professor named Mark McNeil, who was a former UPC minister, and how he managed to study his way into the Catholic Church. I found his story through the Coming Home Network, an apostolate formed by a former Presbyterian minister, Marcus Grodi, who had converted to the Catholic faith. His testimony and that of others helped me to see that it was possible to return to the Church. At this point, Susanne was not quite on board yet, although she would attend Mass with me at various churches.

Returning to the Church

I got in touch with Ken Hensley, a former Baptist minister who is in charge of Pastoral Care at the Coming Home Network (CHNetwork). We talked on the phone, and I signed up to receive their monthly newsletter describing different issues and conversions. Honestly, these testimonies were such an inspiration to me that I couldn’t help but want to become a Catholic. Ken arranged for a Zoom meeting with folks from different parts of the country. Susanne was impressed with the folks on the meeting. We planned on going to one of the retreats sponsored by CHNetwork, but COVID struck. We then started doing daily devotionals at home, using materials from the Catholic Church.

During this time, I prayed for my wife, knowing that this transition was difficult for her. As the pandemic began to wind down, we still had not attended any church, but just continued to do our private devotionals. I was aching to get back to Mass, but I knew that Susanne needed time to process everything.

One night, we were at dinner with one of Susanne’s sisters, who asked where we were going to church. Susanne replied by saying that we were interested in going back to the Catholic Church. It took everyone by surprise — including me — but I realized that she had been trying to be open to the Lord, and He was showing her the way back.

I immediately signed us up for the CHNetwork retreat that was being held in Milford, Ohio in March of 2023. We made a road trip of it and were graciously greeted by some wonderful people at the retreat. Meeting people that were on the same journey as us, along with others who were a few steps ahead of us along the journey, was inspiring. Protestant ministers who had given up their livelihood by leaving their pastorates and joining the Catholic Church made us realize how difficult it was for them, but it was encouraging to us to see that they were willing to do it because of their love for God and the Church. We enjoyed visiting with them and sharing our story. Susanne and I were a bit concerned about Confession, but we had a very wonderful Monsignor, Jeffrey Steenson, who helped navigate that process for us. We were prayed for by the group before our confession, and the next day, after a lapse of almost fifty years, Susanne and I had the wonderful opportunity to receive the Eucharist. I can’t describe the feeling that I had when I realized that I was actually taking the precious Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We both looked at each other and shed tears of joy. We felt that we were honoring the words of Jesus in John 6:53–58.

That evening, we attended our first Eucharistic Adoration, and it was beautiful. Sitting in silence and meditating on the Eucharist before us provided us a new perspective on being Catholic. The retreat was informative, and just listening to the walks of faith that people were taking was exciting. We made a lot of new friends, people who will always be a part of our lives. Heading home from Milford, Ohio, we located our parish church, St. Paul the Apostle, in Pueblo West. We began attending there and had our marriage blessed by our priest, Father Edmundo Valera.

Leaving the Pentecostal/Apostolic organizations was difficult because of the wonderful people we came to know, love, and appreciate. On the other hand, there is no more searching for truth, no more looking for a church, no more debating various doctrines, no more wandering in the wilderness of confusing beliefs. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Church — the one that was started by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for my beautiful wife and best friend, Susanne. She is my true north and is at my side in this journey. Our daughter and son were brought up in the Oneness movement but are no longer associated with it. Our prayers are that, one day, our son and daughter, along with their spouses, our grandchildren, family and friends, will come to understand that our move to the Catholic Church was done with much prayer, study, research, meditation, and sincerity. I feel that we have joined the ranks of a lot of other ministers and lay people who felt the tug of the Holy Spirit and studied their way into the Church. I know that it will be difficult for some of our family and friends to accept our journey. But it is our journey, and we will continue to explore the depth and richness of our Catholic faith.

Michael Garcia

Michael and Suzanne Garcia attend Mass at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Pueblo West, Colorado. After retiring from the government, Michael got involved with genealogy and wrote his first book, entitled Memorias de Mi Familia: Memories of My Family. He enjoys reading about history, studying the Bible and learning about the early Church. Married to Susanne, they have two grown children, Kristina and Michael, and five granddaughters: Isabela, Ameya, Olivia, Sierra and Luciana. They love going for walks, traveling and camping on their property in southern Colorado.

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap