I was born into an Italian Catholic family.  My father left us when I was two years old so my mother
became the disciplinarian of the family and was very strict particularly when it came to religion.  

During Lent we went to Church and Confession every day before school.  My mother did not always
come with us to Church and as we kids walked to Church during Lent, I would be overcome with
great fear because I knew I had to go to Confession and I had to list my sins.

Now, as a kid, I just did not spend my time worrying about any of my actions being sinful.  So, I
always would try to think of some sin that I had committed during a 24 hour period so I would have
something to say to the priest. Generally, I would always confess the same three sins when we went
to Confession on a weekly basis but during Lent I really dreaded daily Confession.  I needed to have
more than just the same three sins to confess because I was afraid that if I confessed the same
three sins everyday, the priest would recognize me and know that I was being somewhat insincere.

These were my early memories of being Catholic and since I had such little knowledge and
understanding of what the Catholic Church really teaches, it was not long before I left the Catholic
Church and began looking for God elsewhere.

By the age of 10, I was pretty unhappy with the Catholic faith.  I had been asking questions to
different Catholic Priests and nuns and the best they could do was to teach me how to live the faith
but they never taught me why the Church teaches these things or why I should live this way.  Since I
was so unhappy, my mother reluctantly agreed to allow me to try other Churches. I tried the
Pentecostal denomination which had a very strong youth group but they were high on emotion and
weak on content.  Then, I tried the Baptists which had more of a Bible Study, this gave me some
substance, but I missed the worship aspect of Church.  I also tried the Presbyterians and the
Methodists.  I did this searching while I was still receiving instruction in the Catholic Church.  But,
all I got out of my Catholic Religious courses is what I would call today “Catholic-lite”.  

When I was 15 years old, my mother began studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs).  Since my
mother was the disciplinarian, we were all required to participate in these studies with the JWs.  I
loved studying with the JWs in that I felt they were really teaching us the scriptures.  In fact, my
Catholic Religious Course Instructor would allow me to teach what I was learning from the JWs to
the entire Catholic class!!!!  However, I soon discovered that the more my family studied with the
JWs the more restrictions were placed on me by my mother who was starting to follow more and
more of the JWs’ rules.  For example, we were no longer allowed to celebrate holidays (including
Christmas which was my favorite) and participation in extracurricular activities at school (such as
cheerleading, student government, and school social clubs) was also discouraged by the JWs.

As my mother became more restrictive due to introducing the JW lifestyle into the family, the more
rebellious I became.   This led me to make some very bad decisions in my teenage years which
resulted in life long consequences.  About this time, I met a very troubled young man who had a
very different upbringing than I did.  When we first met, he had just been released from juvenile
detention.  He was also five years older than me and was outgoing, vivacious, dangerous, and
exciting.  He was everything that I was not in that I was coming from a very sheltered, safe, and
structured life.  He showed me a very different world that I found scary but exciting.

Within a matter of four months, he talked me into alcohol and drugs and out of my virginity.  So, that
by the time I was sixteen I had gotten pregnant.  Being scared and naïve, I had no idea what to do
about being pregnant.  However, I had friends who had had abortions (some of them more than
one) who encouraged me to get rid of “IT”.  

They said it was no big deal and many of them commented that they went out to party in the evening
after having an abortion in the morning.  Unfortunately, no one really explained to me that there
were other options besides abortion.  The Planned Parenthood counselor told me nothing about
adoption or keeping the child but simply told me what the abortion procedure would be like.  That
was the extent of the counseling that I received there.  I was told by the counselor at Planned
Parenthood that I was to go home and think about it and that if I wanted to have the abortion to
come back later.

By this time my mother knew that I was pregnant and contemplating what to do.  She offered up no
support in either encouraging me to keep the baby or placing the baby up for adoption.  She also
never lobbied for me to have an abortion either.  However she was very angry with me in that I was
having premarital sex and that I had gotten pregnant and at the same time she did not want me to
become a single mother like she had become at the same age of sixteen.

So, I decided to have an abortion since that was the only information that I really had at the time.  It
will be a day that I will never forget.  It was a snowy winter day and I was standing on the corner
waiting for a bus to take me to Planned Parenthood in the city.  My mother drove by knowing where I
was headed and never stopped me.  It took forty minutes for me to get to the abortion clinic.  My
friend who had already had three abortions in her life was there to support me.  While we were
waiting my friend kept assuring me that this was the right thing to do.  For my friend, this was no big
deal.  To her it was like they were going to take out my appendix.  

The procedure took twenty minutes.  I was awake for the procedure and they placed me in the
recliner in the recovery room.  I was only supposed to have some minor cramping.  However, I was
in severe physical pain to the point where I could hardly move.  I was having extreme cramping so I
had to stay in recovery much longer than anyone else.  After about 90 minutes, my friend came in to
take me to the bus stop.  She was holding me up in the snow as I was hunched over in pain so that I
could make the forty minute bus ride home.

During the bus ride, I was in extreme pain and people are just staring at me.  I was in so much pain
that I could not button my pants.  I got off the bus and walked another 3 blocks home.  When I
entered the house, my mother was sitting at the kitchen table and watched me as a I literally
crawled up the stairs and got into bed where I stayed for two whole days.  (There were no parties
for me that night.)

The procedure was not nearly as easy as everyone had said.  Something in me instinctively said that
this was wrong.   I never knew what this wrong in my soul was until my mother entered the room and
called me a murderer.  At this point the haziness and confusion was gone.  My mother was right.  It
was never an IT!!!  It was a boy or a girl.   They had not removed an appendix, they had removed my
child, they had removed a person, and I allowed it to happen.  Even though I was ignorant, I was the
one who made this dreadful decision and I was the one who allowed this to happen.  I am the one
who holds the greatest responsibility for this action.  In this moment, I realized that I am a
MURDERER!!!

The first thing I tried to do after the abortion was to try to figure out how I could fix what I had done.  
I went into a period of great self-loathing and despair.  I believed that what I had done was totally
unforgivable.  To make amends, I got myself pregnant again within 9 months.  This time I firmly
decided that I was going to keep this child even though my mother tried to talk me into giving this
child up for adoption.  Unfortunately this time, five months after I became pregnant, I had a
miscarriage.  I was devastated because I was going to give everything to this baby that I took away
from the first child.

I thought that God had taken this second child away from me for what I had done to the first child.  I
truly believed that God was telling me that what I had done to the first child was so unforgivable
that He was not going to allow me to have this second child.  (An eye for an eye, you know?)

After the miscarriage, I hit the bottom of the barrel when it came to self-loathing.  I thought I was
unlovable particularly unloved by God and just waiting to die.  So, for the next four and a half years,
I spiraled out of control to the point that I became homeless and lived in the local public park.

Around the age of 20, God had mercy on me and gave me back some of my self-worth.  My
reasoning was that since God was not going to kill me at this point, I might as well do something
worthwhile until He was ready to destroy me.  I wanted my mother’s love and approval again so I
made amends with my family and moved back home.  In order for this to work, however, I had to
start studying with the JWs again.  It was not long before I had gotten a decent job, an apartment of
my own, and became a JW myself.

The JW god worked for me; after all, those of the earthly calling among the JWs are really second
class citizens.  The JW god is far away from us.  At best I could only hope to become a friend of the
JW god.  The JWs gave me some hope that if I worked hard enough maybe, possibly, I could be
forgiven for this terrible thing I had done and might be able to live forever in paradise on earth.  I
knew I could never have the hope of seeing God face to face since I was a MURDERER.

I did the work that the JWs wanted me to do.  I became an auxiliary pioneer and was very active in
the local congregation.  My brother eventually went to Bethel and I would make trips to Brooklyn,
New York to visit him.  This is where I met my future husband, it was like at first site.  We had an
instant friendship.  It was as if we had always known each other.  This is unusual in that I do not
usually have this type of reaction to most people. We started a courtship and within a year we got
married.  

Our first year of marriage was very difficult.  I moved from Pittsburgh to New Orleans.  This was a
major culture shock for me.  I had difficulty finding a job in New Orleans and the job that my husband
had paid so poorly that we had to move in with my in-laws so we could make ends meet.  At the
same time, my husband, who had just returned from Bethel was having major doubts about the
JWs.  

Over the next 7 years, I lived with my husband as he went through a very tumultuous time with the
JWs.  He had been raised a JW and it was really the only belief system he had ever known.  I
watched as he struggled with the fact that most everything he had been taught was a lie.  I watched
this very gentle and kind person become very angry and depressed due to the deception of the
JWs.    I was watching these things happen to my husband and there was really nothing I could do
for him.  

Even though, my husband had demonstrated to me the lies and deceptions of the JWs, I was not
disappointed as badly as he was.  This is because I had not been raised in the organization.  I had
faith in God, I knew that God existed, and I always knew God loved me (at least from a distance)
both before during and after the JWs.  I just realized that I had “knocked on the wrong door” when I
became a JW during my search for God.  I felt helpless in that I could not assist my own husband to
get through this very emotional and trying time for him.  Eventually, I realized that I was watching my
husband lose his faith in God and this really scared me.

One day while driving to work, I poured out my heart to God in prayer.  I begged God with all my
heart that morning to bring my husband home to Him and to give my husband back his faith.  I told
God that if the JWs were not teaching the truth about Him that was fine but then I begged God to
lead my husband home to Him and that I would follow.

Over the next 7 years, my husband and I went on a spiritual odyssey.  It was very dark and scary at
times.  During this time my husband started doing lots of research into Christianity and the Bible
and would share his findings with me.   

Eventually, after my husband finished his undergraduate degree, we moved to Arkansas where my
husband began graduate school.  While in Arkansas my husband and I decided to make a complete
break from the JWs and since my husband had relatives who were Lutheran we joined the local
Lutheran Church.  By the time, my husband had completed his Doctorate; he was hired to teach at a
Lutheran liberal arts college in Nebraska.

While my husband was teaching at the Lutheran college in Nebraska, he became interested in the
history of the early church.  He began to read the Early Church Fathers and would share what he
was discovering with me.  During the summer of 2002, my husband spent the summer doing
research at the University of Arkansas and when he came back to Nebraska he told me that if he
was going to be intellectually, spiritually, and academically honest with me and with everyone else
he was going to have to become Catholic.

My response to him was “Why!!! I have been there and done that and God is not there!!” But
instantly the Holy Spirit reminded me of my prayer that if God lead my husband to Him, I would
follow.  This meant that I had to discover what it was that was drawing my husband to the Catholic
Church.  So, my husband and I joined an RCIA program at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in
Lincoln, NE.  

During this time my husband gave me a Rosary and I would not touch it.  However, one day I saw the
Divine Mercy Chaplet on EWTN and asked my husband about it.  He told me that it was a prayer
asking for God’s Divine Mercy and then he showed me how to recite it using the Rosary that he had
given me.  After this I would watch the people saying the Divine Mercy Chaplet on Television and I
would just cry and sing it with them.

Christmas of 2002 was coming soon and I asked my husband what he wanted for Christmas.  He said
that he wanted the Diary of St. Faustina entitled Divine Mercy in My Soul.  I asked him who this St.
Faustina was.  He told me that she was a Polish nun who had private revelations about the Divine
Mercy of Jesus and that she wrote about this in her Diary.  I ordered the book and on Christmas Day
I gave it to him.  But I was so curious that when he was not looking I began to read it.  My husband
eventually figured out that I had been reading the Diary and we agreed that we would read it
together in the evening before going to bed.

While reading the Diary, we discovered that the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy was part of these
private revelations.  I knew now why the Chaplet had affected me so much.  It was because it was
speaking about the mercy of God and I realized for the first time in my life that God’s mercy also
applied to me.  For decades I believed that God could forgive and show mercy to others but not to
me.  After all, I was the one who had killed her own child (a gift from God) and then lost my second
child to a miscarriage.   

This was the first time I realized that the Lord was not just waiting to destroy me for my sins but was
really waiting for me to accept His Divine Love, Unfathomable Mercy and Forgiveness.  This brought
me to my knees both literally and figuratively.  For the first time in decades, I realized that I could
have an intimate relationship with God and that the Lord really wanted me to spend eternity with
Him in heaven looking upon Him face to face.

Even though, I had learned about God’s Divine Mercy through the private revelations of a Catholic
nun, I was still unsure about becoming Catholic.  My husband was ready to become Catholic
yesterday and I still had many fears and doubts about the Catholic Church.  I was still viewing
Catholicism to a large degree based on my poorly catechized Catholic upbringing.  I was also afraid
that the Catholic Church might create a division between me and my husband that could destroy our
marriage.  

So, I went and prayed to God before the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Cathedral of the Risen Christ
and I poured out my heart to the Lord.  I begged God to reveal to me the truths of the Catholic
Church.  I told Him that if He was in the Catholic Church, He would have to show me.  I was
surrounded by walls of doubt and fear that I could not climb over nor get around without Him
removing those walls.  God had to show me that the Catholic Church was my final destination.  While
praying, I realized that I had to totally rely on the Lord’s providence in leading me to the Catholic
Church and not on my own reasoning because my own reasoning had been so tainted.  Once I
submitted completely to the Lord’s will the walls of fear and doubt came tumbling down and I was
finally able to accept the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Once it became clear that the Catholic Church was now my home, I spoke with our priest and made
arrangements to be reconciled to the Church.  So, I went to confession for the first time in 25 years.  
At least this time, I did not have to worry about coming up with only three sins.  I had plenty of sins
including mortal sins to share with the priest.  However, this still did not remove the fear and stress
of confession for me particularly since I was going to finally confess my sin of murder.  After hearing
the words of absolution and hearing that I had been forgiven by God, I felt such relief that it is
difficult to describe.  It was like a weight that I had been carrying all alone for the past 25 years was
suddenly removed. The Lord had given me Divine Mercy in MY soul and I accepted it.  This
experience was so liberating and with great joy I was welcomed back home to the Catholic Church
on Easter Vigil 2003.  
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Divine Mercy for My Soul-The Conversion Story of Kathy
Schwehm