My mother and father were both raised as nominal Christians. When they married, they mainly attended Baptist churches but had no real church affiliation. When my mother gave birth to her third child in three years, she lost copious amounts of blood and almost died. She suffered a nervous breakdown and was bedridden for six months recovering from this difficult birth. My father worked two and three jobs, trying to support his growing family, and my mother became increasingly depressed in her isolation.
One day during this time, a Jehovah’s Witness (JWs) named Angie Jones came to her door. Angie began making regular return visits to my mother and always brought an “extra” Jehovah’ s Witness “sister” with her to tend to the three babies while she talked with my mother. Eventually, Mother began an in-home Bible study with Angie. Mother had another baby two years later, her fourth, and was finally baptized in the Jehovah’s Witness organization one year to the day before I was born.
I was her fifth child. Although my older siblings remember Christmas trees and holiday celebrations, all of that ceased before my birth. Being a Jehovah’s Witness was all I knew. During the early years, my father was not completely opposed to the Witnesses and their influence on my mother. When he was a child, he and his siblings had to live in an orphanage for a little over a year. The orphanage was run by Methodist missionaries and the memories of their cruelty have weighed heavily on my father these past 60 odd years. Unfortunately, his experiences with the Methodists caused him to become embittered toward both Mainstream Christianity and God. So, when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came along preaching that they were a “pure” alternative to Mainstream Christianity, it caught my father’s ear. Initially he studied with them and during the early years of my childhood the weekly book study was held in our home. However, over time my father became more and more disgusted with the JWs’ and eventually became opposed to their teachings. Unfortunately, although he railed loudly against the Watchtower Society, he never taught his children any other kind of Christianity or encouraged us to seek answers to our spiritual questions outside of the Watchtower Organization. In effect, he acquiesced to Mom raising all six of us as JWs.
We moved a lot when I was young. During one of our moves, we lived in a subdivision with lots of children. On our block was the O’Donnell family, a Catholic family with eight children. They were the only Catholics I had known up to that point. I really enjoyed playing with their little girl who was my age and she gave me my first exposure to Catholicism. I was nine years old. After we sold our house in that neighborhood, we bought a small farm (about 30 acres) and moved. Not long after moving, the O’Donnell’s came out to visit us on the farm. Their daughter accidentally left her little green purse behind, hanging over the footboard of my bed. My mother said she would mail it back to her but she never got around to doing it. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I looked through the “papist’s” purse to see what was in it. As I suspected, she had “Catholic stuff” in there. She had a prayer card of St. Patrick in it with the well-known Irish Blessing printed on the back and a little prayer book. I looked at those items over and over again and kept them hidden under my mattress where my mother would not find them. I knew she would not’t approve of my reading Catholic materials and would throw them away but, for some reason, I was really drawn to them and wanted to keep them. Thus began my interest in Catholicism. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I gravitated toward novels that were written with Catholic heroines and had Catholic themes, although I am not sure I was conscious that I was doing that.
As I grew older, I began having serious problems. The year 1975 was fast approaching and the Watchtower Society had prophesied that the end of the world would come in the fall of 1975. At my mother’s urging, I kept a small bag packed with sturdy, serviceable clothes so that if we should have to leave the house in a hurry, running for our lives during the Battle of Armageddon, I would be able to survive living outdoors in fields and wooded areas.
I was becoming increasingly alarmed as Armageddon surely approached because the Watchtower Society taught that only JWs in good standing would survive Armageddon. I knew that my father was going to be killed by God because he would not go to the Kingdom Hall. I loved my father and had great difficulty with this. I saw other men, my friends’ fathers, who attended meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses but were not nearly as good to their families as my father was to us, yet Jehovah was going to spare them. I became very despondent. In the past, I had been such a good student in school that I had taken second and third grade in the same school year and completed some of my fourth grade work before that school year was completed. For the first time in my life, in the eighth grade, I was failing school. The worries of the impending doom were overshadowing everything else in my life.
The year 1975 came and went but Armageddon did not come. Of course, I did not blame the Watchtower Society for this. I blamed myself. The Watchtower Society informed all JWs that, due to our anxious desire to see this wicked system end, we lay people had “read into” the literature things that were not there regarding predictions of the timing of Armageddon and the end of the world. Thus, I felt really stupid and even more worthless and had to somehow start to make a life for myself in a world that I believed God should have been destroyed. I did not really care about making a future for myself in “this system of things” and never really got over that disappointment for many years. My lingering unease from still being in this system of things never left me.
For most of my life, my father worked second shift. He went to work while I was at school and came home well after I had gone to bed. I did not really know him that well. Then, when I turned 15, he finally got a day shift position. He was home every day by 4 p.m. My three oldest siblings had already grown up and left home and my next closest-in-age brother was 17 and worked after school, so he was not home very much. This left me in the position of spending a lot of time with my mom and dad and my baby brother. I loved it. I grew to know my dad really well and to appreciate his many talents.
Unfortunately, there was a nasty side effect to all this time with my dad. Once again, I sank into a deep depression because of knowing I was going to lose my father at Armageddon. I became close to being suicidal and would have bouts of uncontrollable crying. I would be at school and be so depressed that I could not stay. I would call my mother from a pay phone and she would come and get me. She would drive my completed school assignments to the school for me in the mornings and let me stay home. During my senior year I missed about two months of school due to full-blown agoraphobia. I never received any kind of medical treatment for my mental illness.
I graduated high school when I was 16 years old, thanks to taking second and third grades together. My parents cruelly allowed me to take all college prep courses while I was in high school and then followed the Jehovah’s Witness party line and would not allow me to go to college. The Watchtower Society taught against going to college, equating it with “polishing the brass on a sinking ship.” What was I to do? As a good JW girl, I got a part-time job and began regularly auxiliary pioneering.
When I was 17, I met a JW “brother” from another congregation who was a regular auxiliary pioneer and a ministerial servant. He was about eight years older than me. We began dating and then he began pushing me to marry him. I really did not want to marry him because I did not love him. I was not even sure I liked him. However, the Watchtower Society instructed youths that, when choosing a marriage mate, the primary consideration should be the spirituality of that mate. So, even though I was not crazy about him, I agreed to marry him. I remember telling my mother that he was much fonder of me than I was of him but she told me that I was doing the right thing because he was such a “fine brother.” Besides, since I was not allowed to marry outside of the faith, there was a very small pool of eligible brothers from whom to choose a mate. He seemed like the most suitable pick of the bunch.
About three months before our wedding was scheduled to take place, we attended the wedding of close friends. Afterward, we were feeling rather romantic and engaged in heavy petting. Much to my shock, I suddenly found him on top of me. He was penetrating me sexually. I was absolutely shocked. It took a few seconds for me to realize what was happening. I was completely stunned and did not expect that to happen. Afterward, he drove me home and I called off the wedding. I never told anybody what had happened. Because I did not follow the Watchtower Society’s admonition that all rape victims had to scream or else they were guilty of sexual immorality. I knew that if I told the elders what he had done to me, I would be disfellowshipped for fornication. My mother became very angry at me, saying I was having cold feet and that I was being very childish. She felt it was a mistake for me to let him “get away.” She allowed him to move into my sister’s empty bedroom in our house and told him to stick around, that I would get over my “mad spell.” Eventually I realized that the only way to get him to leave was to reinstate our engagement. I also knew that, if I did not marry him and if I married another brother sometime down the road, on our wedding night that other brother would discover I was no longer a virgin and I would be disfellowshipped then for my previous “sin.” Rather than tell anyone what had happened, as I primarily blamed myself, I just married him. I figured that, since he was such a “good brother” that I would just make the best of it. It never dawned on me that it was statutory rape and that I had rights. It never dawned on me that it was not my fault.
I had been manifesting symptoms of some kind of physical ailment for years. My mother had first taken me to the doctor for symptoms when I was 11 years-old and the doctor said I had rheumatoid arthritis (RA). When I was 17, my symptoms became inconsistent with RA and I went to see a specialist who diagnosed me with Lupus. My life expectancy was set at 40 years of age.
Six weeks after my 18th birthday, I wed my rapist at the Kingdom Hall in front of 300 people. With that kind of foundation, you can only imagine how miserable my marriage was. I was too young and completely unprepared for marriage. I was still reeling from my recent diagnosis of Lupus. Had I married someone I actually liked and respected, it still would have been hard, but being married to someone I despised was intolerable.
I thought that there was something wrong with me because I could not feel any love for him. All my friends were having babies so I decided that having a child might make us mesh better as a couple and become a family. Also, I wanted to be able to see my child grow up before I died at age 40 from Lupus. Eighteen months after our wedding, our son, Ashley, was born. What a delight! The day he was born was one of the happiest and saddest days of my life. I loved that little baby so much but felt so sorry for him that he drew such a pathetic lot in who his parents were.
Like a good JW who is constantly told that no matter how much she does it is not enough, I felt inadequate as a mother too. I suffered serious postpartum depression. There I was, feeling like an inadequate JW, an inadequate wife, an inadequate mother, an inadequate Human Being all around. I was very, very depressed. I continued going to meetings and out in field service. However, all of my life, my heart was never in it. I always thought that everyone else had pure motives and had real joy in their lives from being a JW. I did not have that. I kept telling myself, “fake it till you make it,” thinking that if I went through the motions long enough that eventually it would penetrate my heart. That never happened. I felt like such a hypocrite-and felt even more inadequate. As a JW, I had been taught a code of conduct and a list of rules for how to live my life but it had never penetrated into my heart; I had no love for Jehovah. For me, God became a disapproving CEO that always demanded more productivity and better profit margins.
About this time, I was laid off from my job due to no fault of my own. I had a very difficult time, looking at my life. I had done what I had been told I should do all my life and I was miserable. I made the decision to go ahead and do everything I had been told not to do. I figured I could not be any worse off. So what if I died at Armageddon? I reasoned that Jehovah could read hearts and knew I was not sincere, so I was going to die anyway. Besides, dying and ceasing to exist did not seem so bad to me. At least then I would not be suffering anymore. (Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that hell is merely being dead in the grave, a complete lack of consciousness and lack of existence. The punishment associated with hell, if you could call it that, is losing one’s life forever and being cut off from Jehovah God.)
I had quit attending most meetings and my husband had quit completely. We discovered that the only thing we had in common and the only thing upon which we had based our marriage was our mutual standing as Jehovah’s Witnesses. With that gone, we were left with only lightly veiled contempt for each other. I worked an opposite shift from my husband. It was the only way I could tolerate staying married to him, i.e., by being away from him as much as possible.
Let me clarify something here: I did not quit attending meetings, etc., because I doubted the teachings of the Watchtower Society. I quit being a JW because I felt that I simply was not good enough or pure enough to uphold all their teachings and standards and that there was “something wrong” with me because I could not engage in their activities “wholeheartedly.” I left because I thought I was not good enough, plain and simple. I had heard it my whole life so it is not really a surprising conclusion. I still believed their teachings were correct. I sincerely tried to be a good JW but it just never happened. I chalked it up to my fatally flawed character.
Eventually I met and fell in love with a man who worked for the same company I did. I was finally in love! I was not defective after all, I could actually love somebody! In retrospect, I can see that I was desperately seeking a way out of my marriage and out of the JWs but just could not do it on my own. This man I fell in love with gave me the emotional support to do both things.
With this man’s help, I left my husband. It was my original intent to take my son with me, marry this man, and get reinstated as a JW later. However, my mother and an elder who sat on my disfellowshipping committee, Joe, strongly lectured me on the importance of leaving my son with his father. Although his father was a horrible husband who had been physically, psychologically, and emotionally abusive of me, as soon as I left he went running back to the Kingdom Hall and once again became a “super JW.” He threw himself into meeting attendance and field service and was quickly the darling of the congregation. At this time the Watchtower Society taught that when Armageddon came (and it was coming any day) the status of an unbaptized minor child was determined by the status of the parent with whom the child lived. If a child was living with a disfellowshipped parent, which is what I now was, he would be killed at Armageddon. I remember a brother on my committee telling me that “little roaches grow into big roaches” and so God assumes the child will turn out to be like the parent with whom he lives. Since I was a “big roach,” my son’s chances of survival were nil if he stayed with me. Even though my husband was a horrible man in my eyes, he was a JW in good standing and leaving my son with him would give my son a fighting chance of surviving Armageddon. I had known when I chose to leave the JWs that I was choosing death for myself because they teach that all unapproved persons will be killed at Armageddon. I just could not bring myself to choose death for my son also. I decided to let his father have custody of him. I was completely and totally convinced that keeping my son with me would cost him his life. This must sound absurd to a non-JW, but at that time this is what the Watchtower Society taught. This was the most horrible, gut-wrenching decision of my life. I thought I would die right then. You have no idea how much I loved and adored that little boy. I had clung to him during the tumultuous years of my marriage and lavished on him all the love I could not give to my husband. Now I was giving him up. This is my one regret in life.
When I finally told my mother of my decision, she said, “Oh, good!” with a big sigh. It looked like a 1,000 pound weight had fallen off her shoulders. When I told Joe, my elder friend who sat on my committee, that I had decided to leave Ashley in the care of his JW father, he assured me that it was a very loving thing to do. I think he knew how much I loved my son.
At this point, all of my siblings and my mother were shunning me. This continued for several years.
Remember, however, that my father is not a JW. Initially when I would call or go over to their home, I would do it while Mom was gone. She had asked me to do this. One day, about 18 months after I was disfellowshipped, I went over to visit Dad and my mother was in the kitchen cooking lunch. After Dad left the room I asked her, “Okay, what’s up? Why are you here?” She never looked up from the vegetables she was slicing but she said, “Your father said this is his house and you are his daughter and if you want to come home you can and if I do not like it, I can leave.” I will always, always love my father and honor him for standing up for me the way he did that day. From that time on, I did see my mother, against her will, I suppose, but if she was home when I went to visit Dad, I did not turn around and leave. Although our interaction was very limited and chilled, at least I did see her a little bit.
I did finally marry the man I worked with. At first we were very secular. When we put up our first Christmas tree together, we made sure there were no decorations on it that had any religious significance. We even had a Santa tree topper! After about three years of marriage to him and living a fairly hedonistic life, I began to notice that there was not a lot of joy in this life. I would cook big holiday meals, which I had always longed to do, but, without any kind of real meaning behind them, they became just “days off work when I had to work”! All the planning, shopping, cleaning, cooking, and clean-up became drudgery. The Rockwellian holidays I had so longed for were beautiful but hollow.
Some of my coworkers, who had never said a thing against the JWs while I was one, immediately upon my leaving the Witnesses began to tell me all the things about the organization that disturbed them. For the first time, I had doubts about “the Truth,” as the JWs call their organization colloquially. After several years out in “the World,” I no longer had illusions that the JWs had the sole, single source of religious truth. However, although I was abandoning my previous belief system, I had never replaced it with anything more than consumerism, feminism, and secularism. I began to notice that there was something missing. It dawned on me one day that I actually wanted to go to church.
But where was I to go? I had no idea what went on in churches or what to expect. For the first time in many, many years, I prayed to God and asked him to guide me to the right church. I went to several churches in my town. Finally, one Sunday, I walked into the Episcopal Church and felt immediately at home. I loved it! Coming from the oppressed background of the JWs, I was overjoyed to discover there were women priests and Sunday schools and lots of mission work, real mission work, serving human needs. Not just preaching door-to-door about God’s kingdom but actually building houses with Habitat for Humanity, collecting clothing to distribute among the migrant workers in our area, etc. And there was a choir! I loved it! I could not sign up fast enough! Something in me loved the liturgy and no one does liturgy better than the Episcopal Church. Also, the Episcopal Church believes it is still in apostolic succession and that meant a lot to me.
[There was a Catholic Church in our town but, because of my anti-Catholic indoctrination while I was still a JW, I did not’t even consider attending it.]
One of the things I found out upon attending the Episcopal Church was that I did not have a valid baptism because the JWs are Non-Trinitarian. I was finally baptized as a Christian in the Episcopal Church in September of 1991. I was very, very happy!
At this time, I was excited to find out that I had been misdiagnosed with Lupus. What I really had was rheumatoid arthritis and a bad case of fibromyalgia. No picnic but not fatal!
My second husband did attend church with me initially but was never really comfortable with the liturgy. Eventually he quit accompanying me to church and then began to outright oppose me. This caused a real wrinkle in the marriage.
Another problem in the marriage was that I had begun taking college courses. This did not sit well with him. He was convinced that I was going to meet “some professor” and run off with him. I assured him that was not the case but he was not satisfied. I eventually dropped courses because of the tyranny under which I lived at home.
Our marriage did not work out. We were together for about five years, from beginning to end. He left me for another woman, although I did not know that at the time. He was an emotional batterer but I would have stayed with him till death do us part because I took our marriage vow so seriously. Unfortunately, he did not have the same view.
My separation from my son had been absolutely horrible. Not having him living with me was a nightmare. I missed him so much. I did have visitation with him but it was not the same. When this husband, whom I loved more than any man I had ever met, left me, I was reeling. Then, just a few short months later, my mother was diagnosed with a serious brain tumor. It was a kind of tumor that is normally not fatal if caught early but hers had been there for a very long time. The doctors said that if she did not have the tumor removed she would die. However, if she did have it removed there was only a 5% chance she would survive the surgery and then it would be as if she had had a massive stroke. She had to have the surgery.
A month or so before her surgery was scheduled to take place; she experienced symptoms of a heart attack and went to the hospital. When I arrived at the hospital, I went to the appropriate waiting room and there was one of my brothers. He did not speak. Then another one of my brothers showed up and did not speak. I went up to him and stood next to him and he did not utter a word. Then my son came down the hall and called out to me. My brother looked at me with complete shock on his face. He had not recognized me! That really took me aback, to think that it had been so long since he had seen me that he could stand two feet from me and not know me. This was very upsetting for me.
Eventually all of my siblings showed up and sat around, talking to each other and ignoring me. One of the things about it that upset me so much was that I had a niece and a nephew born to two of my siblings and I had never seen them. I did not even know for sure when they had been born. I did not know their birth weights or their full names. This seemed so absurd and it really upset me.
About three weeks before my mother’s brain tumor was scheduled to be surgically removed, my ex-husband (second husband) contacted me. He told me that he had left me for another woman and had married her just four months after our divorce was finalized. Now, just about four months later than that, he realized what a “mistake” he had made and that he wanted to get back together with me. However, he was not prepared to divorce her. Rather, he wanted me to “wait for him” and be his mistress on the side! Obviously, I declined his offer.
The knowledge that he had cheated on me while we were married and then married another woman just about killed me. I felt so much anguish about the imminent possibility that my mother was going to die without our having been reconciled. I felt so much anguish knowing that I would have to sit in a waiting room at the hospital with siblings who would not even acknowledge me while my mother was dying in another room. I felt so much anguish over being separated from my son for all those years. The knowledge that I had been cheated on by the only man I had ever loved broke me. I had a complete and total nervous breakdown and spent 15 days in the hospital.
I was in a Seventh Day Adventist hospital. Every morning on my breakfast tray there would be a card with a scripture verse printed on it and an uplifting comment printed on the other side. After a few days, I asked if a chaplain could speak with me. They sent up a Catholic nun! We talked for about 45 minutes and then she prayed with me. I was determined not to let anything like that happen to me ever again.
I did go into psychotherapy for an extended period of time and finally got treatment for the agoraphobia and major depression under which I had been laboring for so long. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and received treatment for that.
After a while, my son began having difficulty with our visitation because of pressure from his father and stepmother. His father was an elder and his stepmother was a regular pioneer. They did not want him exposed to his disfellowshipped mother. His living situation was becoming intolerable to him. At this same time, my sister finally got pregnant with her one and only child. She had been married several years and had stepchildren but had never been able to conceive a child of her own. I knew that this baby would be like all the rest of my nieces and nephews, out of my sight and out of my life. It seemed ridiculous for me to allow religion to ruin our family. I made a decision to go back to the Kingdom Hall and try to be reinstated. This would make life immensely easier for my son. I decided to view it as an anthropological experiment, living “among” the JWs without actually being one of them. It would also ease tensions in the family and allow me to be involved with all these beautiful nieces and nephews I had never been privileged to know. So, that’s what I did. Sounds mercenary but I had to do what I could for my son and my sanity.
Anthropological theory met reality and it was not a pretty sight. I thought that I knew the teaching of the JWs and that I could compartmentalize that part of my life. I would sit at meetings and listen to elders give talks, relaying information from the Watchtower Society that was so incredibly unscriptural and ludicrous that I finally reached a point where meeting attendance made me physically ill. I wanted to jump up and down during meetings and scream at people to wake up and realize how absurd these teachings were. I tried to go out in field service but I felt like such a hypocrite that I could not open my mouth at the doors. How could I offer someone a magazine that I believed was full of poison? My memory of the teachings of the Watchtower Society was flawed. I could not go along with what they were teaching now. After awhile, the sheer stupidity of the doctrines being taught annoyed me so much that I could not bear to drive by a Kingdom Hall, let alone go inside one. I moved to another town and became quietly inactive without ever telling anybody why.
Once I was in a new city, I began to attend the Episcopal Church there. However, this was nothing like the church in which I had become a Christian. When I asked the bishop whether or not the bread and wine became Christ’s body and blood, she said that the church left it up to the individual to decide what they believed about that. Also, there was a homosexual couple in our parish and she was sponsoring them to go to seminary to become priests. They were leading a Lenten Bible study series I attended and discussed ecumenism. When I asked about how far we would go in our relationship with Islam (a huge mosque had been built not far away), they responded that it was “ethnocentric” to believe that Christianity was The Way. They began having joint services, inviting Muslims to come and preach in our church. Our priest retired and the call committee hired a practicing homosexual to be the new parish priest. I had wanted a church that was not oppressive, as the JWs had been, but this was just too much. Although I loved the liturgy, it was not enough anymore. I just could not take communion from a practicing homosexual priest. I checked out a lot of books from the church library to read through church teachings, as I was considering finding another Episcopal congregation to attend. After reading their books that stated what their beliefs were, I just could not remain Episcopalian.
I did not know what to do at that time so I stopped going to church all together. I went down to my local library and checked out every book they had on or by C. S. Lewis, my personal hero. I was seeking the Episcopal Church I had fallen in love with. I realized that the church of Lewis’ day did not even remotely resemble the church of today. The church of Lewis’ day was much more Catholic.
At this time, I began dating the man who is now my husband. He had become a Christian in his early twenties in a Charismatic church. However, their theology is “a mile wide and an inch deep” and he became very dissatisfied with it and stopped attending. He and I decided to find a new church together.
The Episcopal Church had just entered into something they called the “call to common mission” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Essentially, it means there is full communion between the two denominations. We started attending an ELCA church near my home. This was a wonderful choice because their pastor was a very well-educated, deeply spiritual, closet Catholic! He loved the Church and was struggling with his own desire to come home to the Church. His positive attitude toward the Catholic Church helped me to accept my own attraction to the Church.
He loaned me lots of books to read about Martin Luther. They were fascinating. However, after reading them, I came to the conclusion that the problems in the Church in Luther’s day had been remedied. Therefore, why follow Martin Luther? After all, he had never set out to start his own denomination. He had merely been trying to reform the Catholic Church. Now that the Church was reformed, why not become Catholic? Is not that really what Martin Luther wanted?
My boyfriend and I were married by this pastor in the Lutheran Church. It was a wonderful experience. We were married during the Sunday morning 10:30 mass. Coffee hour was our reception. It was glorious! We really wanted God in our marriage and could think of no better way to achieve that than to be married during mass with our entire church family present. I have never attended another wedding as meaningful as mine. Not long afterward, Mary answered my prayers for more children and his two children by his first wife came to live with us.
My husband was very, very happy in the Lutheran Church. We had his two sons baptized there. However, I had only come there as an extension of my being an Episcopalian. I was not a dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran, which is what my husband had become. I had been asked to chair the Religious Education Board in our church and my husband was on the Properties Board. We both accepted our responsibilities with gratitude-and a little trepidation!
The problem with chairing the Religious Education Board is that you have to read through a lot of materials searching for Sunday school curriculum, etc. I also felt it important to learn as much theology as possible because I knew people would be asking me questions. For me, all this reading fomented discontent with Lutheranism and Protestantism and stirred up a desire to find out more about the Catholic Church. I began to watch programs on The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). I would say that, intellectually, I had this big cloud of loosely formed questions hovering over me for years. Listening to EWTN programs, those questions finally took form and were getting answers. Real answers, satisfactory answers! This led me into even more trouble. I was in so much turmoil because I felt an obligation to my Lutheran church because of my role as Religious Ed chair but, the more I watched EWTN, the more I felt pulled to the Church. My husband kept telling me, “EWTN is not the Church, you know. People out in the local parishes don’t really believe all this stuff.” I finally broke down and began attending the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program at the local Catholic Church. I decided that I was going to find out what the Catholic Church really taught and, assuming my husband was right, I would finally get Catholicism out of my system once and for all.
Wrong. The priest who ran the RCIA program was and is an absolutely exceptional teacher and an exceptional person. Every week I would come home from RCIA, bubbling over with excitement from all the new things I was learning. I went to RCIA alone and did not know anybody, so a man I had never met before offered to be my sponsor. His name is Dave and he is the most faithful Catholic ever born. He and his wife have been daily communicants at Mass all their lives and have eight children. Their lives revolve around the Church. I could not have had a better sponsor. He recommended I read Rome, Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. I did and it was amazing! Rather than get Catholicism out of my system, I knew that I was finally home.
I had finally found The Truth.
My time in the RCIA program was the most incredible time period of my life. Scott Hahn came and spoke at our parish about Mary, which was fascinating and answered many of my objections. (Ex-JW that I was, I was the only one besides Scott who brought a Bible!) Rosalind Moss came to our parish also and spoke to us about the wonderful Jewish roots of the Church. I came into the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2003. I have never regretted it.
When I finally told my Lutheran pastor that I was becoming Catholic and resigning from the Religious Education Board, his response was, “All true Lutherans are homesick.”
My husband came into the Church at Easter Vigil 2005, two years after I did. I will let him tell his own story, though. Suffice it to say I am thrilled he is Catholic and it has brought us a unity and closeness as a family that we had never experienced before.
Naturally, becoming Catholic has pretty much severed the ties with my family of origin. They do not acknowledge my Catholicism and they are very cold toward me. I thought this would devastate me but, one day, I was having a problem with one of my children. Normally, I would have called my mother on the telephone to discuss this. Instead, I said, “Mother Mary, what am I going to do about this?” My next thought was, “Who said that?” I thought, "Me, talking to Mary?!" I have found that Mary is my greatest confidant now and I do not know how I got along without her for so many years.
My only concern about being in the Catholic Church is that, with 2,000 years of history behind it, I will die before I have had a chance to learn everything she has to teach me. ;)