Scott Vandermissen has asked me to tell my conversion story, so, here goes. This is the condensed version. There is no way my brain can describe the awesomeness of my journey into the Catholic Church, so you’ll be stuck with the boring version due to my impediment.
Before I begin, it’s important to remind everyone that I was born with Bipolar Disorder and Asperger Disorder, so my brain does not absorb things like the brains of most people do. Every conversion story is unique. So is mine.
Here’s the beginning, from an old article in my archives.
I was born to protestant parents. We attended a Baptist church when I was a kid. When I was about seven years old, my Baptist Sunday School teacher told us a story about “the Twelve Disciples”. If you do a Google search for that term, yes, you will come up with protestant kids’ stories about these “Twelve Disciples”. The trouble with this is that there were not twelve disciples. “The Twelve” were “Apostles”. All of the followers of Jesus Christ (and there were many) were “disciples”, but “The Twelve” had a special role as “apostles”.
Even at seven, I knew the difference, at least to that level, that “apostles” are more “special”, in some way, than “disciples” are….and they are not the same thing.
Mind you, the average kid would very likely not bat an eye, would brush it off, and go on. Not me. This alone was enough to convince me, at age seven, that these people, though they surely meant well, were telling me lies. This church immediately dropped out of the running for me as a viable instructor of truth. But I am a turtle. I don’t let go ’til it thunders. I kept my ears and my heart open and found my way eventually into the Catholic Church…because I want the truth. I am a turtle.
So, that was kind of “part one” in my journey. The “twelve disciples” thing helped me to see that I was going to have to rely on something OTHER THAN Sunday school teachers to help me to find God. I didn’t know what exactly (actually, it’s the Holy Spirit) but I knew that mere human beings were not going to be the way for me to find God.
Later, we stopped going to this church because my dad had a sort of spiritual falling out with his own Sunday School bible study “teachers.” We just didn’t go to any church after that. Early in my teens, I visited a Missionary Baptist church where they spoke in tongues. That freaked me out. I will not go into that at all right now. When I was a teenager, my dad gave me a Bible and basically expected me to read it and figure it out myself. (Sola Scriptura, you know?) That is how I learned the most about Jesus, to be sure, because we did not attend any church at all, and it was my only source. I firmly believed in God the Father, of the Old Testament, and I wanted to believe in Jesus, but I could not be sure. This part from John 6 was my stumbling block.
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
It was very clear to me that Jesus was speaking literally, but I could not figure out how in the world I was supposed to be able to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. I made a promise to God, if you will show me how this is possible, I will believe and I will follow Jesus always as Your Son. I loved God, and I meant it.
Again, that was when I was a teenager. I always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God, and I did believe in God the Father and believed enough in the Holy Spirit to know without doubt that He would lead me if my heart were open, and it was open. I followed the Ten Commandments as well as I could, and hoped to find the truth about Jesus.
When I was 23 years old, I met the man who would become my husband. He was Catholic. He worked out of town a lot and once, when he went to work in Knoxville, I decided to surprise him and take him to dinner. I drove down to Knoxville, which is about three hours from where I lived, and surprised him in his hotel room. I invited him to dinner and he said, “Sure, but I have to go to Mass.” It was Ash Wednesday, 1991.
To me, it was unthinkable to go to a strange church in a strange town. I said, “How are you going to find a church at this time of day to attend tonight?” He said, “I’ll just look in the Yellow Pages and find the closest Catholic Church.” I said, “But how will you know what they teach there if you’ve never been to it before?” He said, and these are the words I shall never forget as long as I live, “The Catholic Church is the same, no matter where you go, no matter even what country you’re in.”
“Can I go with you?” I said.
“Sure!” he told me. Of course, he was happy that this new girlfriend of his was open to going to Mass with him.
We went to the closest Catholic Church — Holy Ghost parish in Knoxville. (Photos here.) What struck me wasn’t so much the beauty of the church but rather the way, when we walked in, there weren’t a bunch of anxious parishioners at the door pawing all over us and asking us where we were from and stuff like that. We were treated as any other person. It was assumed that we were Catholic or that we were visitors who would be quiet and respectful. This appealed to me very much, for when people are pawing all over me when I visit a church, it makes me feel like they are suspicious of me. I was made to feel welcome because I was treated like other people there, meaning, I was virtually ignored. That gave me a sense of security and of being welcome there. Isnt’ that ironic?
When it came time for the consecration, I was mesmerized. It was amazing to me that the words of Our Lord were being spoken over the bread and wine. I remember the words of John 6 and I knew that this was the moment when God revealed to me that this is His Son and that He was on the altar. Everything fell into place. Here was our Lord, and this is what He meant when He said those words. I was overjoyed. Still, I knew I could not approach the altar for Holy Communion.
I remained in the pew and as the people filed up for Holy Communion, to me, it was as if these were people walking up to the gates of heaven itself. Of course, this is what is happening at that time. Heaven is truly on the altar at the Consecration, and so, they were filing up to the gates of heaven.
A little girl sitting with her father in the pew in front of me said to her father, “Daddy, she’s not going to Communion.” He said, “Shhh, that’s okay.” She said, “But Daddy! She’s not going to Communion.” He said, “Shhh, it’s okay, she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to.”
God was speaking through that little girl and her father. I needed to be told at that point that I could become Catholic if I wanted to, and that I was welcome to receive Jesus if only I chose to do so. It was my decision, and so, not long thereafter, I told my boyfriend, who later became my husband, that I wanted to become Catholic. I was on fire for Jesus and I did not care what the requirements were, I had to receive Him in Holy Communion.
That was how I found the real Jesus in the Eucharist and the Catholic Church at the same time. It took a long time for me to complete RCIA because our parish priest retired during my RCIA time, but on Christmas Eve, 1992, I was baptized at St. John the Baptist Church in the Archdiocese of Louisville. We are now members at St. Augustine Church in the Diocese of Owensboro and I am a Passionist Oblate Associate offering my sufferings for the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery, also in the Diocese of Owensboro.
This story should explain what I mean, by the way, when I say that I am a Eucharistic convert. Dr. Scott Hahn is also a Eucharistic convert.