On Saturday, March 26th, Easter Vigil, I was confirmed in the Catholic Church and received my First Communion. Last August I began a class through my local parish called the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). Each week we met for a time of reading the Word, praying, sharing, and learning and discussing a different topic about the Catholic faith. Those evenings were my favorite time of the week. It was a time when I was able to leave my busy school/work life behind and quiet myself before the Lord. The RCIA team was made up of a group of people, some cradle Catholics, some converts themselves. All of them with a heart willing and ready to serve the Lord. Mid-year, each candidate (a person going through confirmation, or RCIA, desiring to be confirmed one day) chose a sponsor to walk the journey with them. I chose Samantha, Jacob’s sister, to be my sponsor.
The service began outside, around a campfire. Father Harry introduced each one of the candidates to the congregation. One by one we stood up and shared our story. This is my story that I told around the campfire, with my sponsor Samantha standing beside me:
I have never looked forward to Easter more than I have this year. In fact, I don’t think I have ever looked forward to any day more than I have looked forward to this day.
This is my testimony, my story of faith. God has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I was raised in a strong evangelical home. My parents taught me about God and Jesus, and shared the gospel with me, both in words and by example. My Grandpa, and two of my uncles are ministers of different denominations. My life has been one saturated in the word of God and spiritual things, with Bible reading, Bible study, and Bible memorization.
Growing up, I didn’t know much at all about Catholics and what they believed. The few experiences I had with Catholics, sadly, were people who did not know what they believed nor why they believed it, and oh dear they worshiped Mary and think they have to earn their way to heaven. In my mind, it was: Those poor Catholics are bound by superstition and guilt and idolatry, they don’t know their Bibles, because if they would only read the Bible they would leave the Catholic faith in a hot minute for a Protestant church.
Then I met a guy named Jacob Zaepfel. He said he was Catholic but he didn’t act like one. He read the Bible. He prayed like any Evangelical I knew, you know, praying as if Jesus is really here with us. I kept “forgetting” Jacob was Catholic because he carried his Bible around with him literally EVERYWHERE! In my mind, that was so not Catholic.
This guy, Jacob, turned my world upside down, in lots of ways. Naturally, we started dating. For the first 6 months of our relationship I was passive about our spiritual differences and I never had any intention of converting. Then, at the beginning of last summer my dad and I had a conversation about where I was spiritually, and he said, “Abbey, if you are going to convert, you need to do it whole heartedly and want the rest of your family to convert as well.”
That’s when I started doing my own active learning; reading and studying on my own of what the Catholic Church teaches. I realized that if the Catholic Church teaches a falsehood, I’d be able to find it in my study. I knew I’d be able to point to hard evidence and say, this is where the Catholic Church is wrong, therefore I am not converting. However, if through my study I found that the Catholic Church teaches the truth, I should believe it. I wanted to believe the truth, no matter the name of church.
Over the next 6 weeks or so I found teaching after teaching of the Catholic Church was true, backed by scripture and history and tradition as well as just plain common sense. I experienced my Protestant foundation crumbling beneath me. It was not an easy time for me. I continually felt like I was falling, and scrambling to find a familiar foot hold. My mind tried to find the loop holes, but I found none.
For a time, I was okay with changing my views on different topics. But the thing that made me decide, I want to be a Catholic, was the Eucharist. It had previously been one of the things I had struggled with the most. I remember the day that I finally understood it intellectually to be true. But then after a couple days I grasped it emotionally. I yearned to receive communion with every ounce of my body. It was one of the hardest things to want something so amazing, so good, so awesome, yet be denied.
That’s when everything fell into place. There was only one thing for me to do. Go through RCIA. And this is why I have looked forward to this day, more than I have looked forward to any day in my entire life.
And here I am!
People of St Pius, since meeting Jacob, I have met many of you who are like him. Catholics who read their Bibles. You know what you believe and why you believe it. You guys are on fire Catholics. You guys are Evangelical Catholics. You guys are awesome. Thank you for being amazing examples to me. Remember, there are a lot of the old me still out there who have a wrong idea of what a Catholic is. Keep on being amazing!
One last thing. My dad told me that if I were to convert I should want the rest of my family to convert. My parents are here today as well as my sister and brother-in-law, and my Grandma and Aunt are here. Family, thank you so much for coming tonight and supporting me in this part of my journey. It means a lot to me. More than you know. I say this next part with all my heart: I hope that one day, I will come to Easter Vigil, and see you standing here, where I am standing today.
The campfire service lasted about 1 hour, then everyone moved into a large room where a re-telling of creation happened, with songs and scripture readings. The last, and third hour, of Easter Vigil took place in the chapel, and this was where two of the candidates were baptized who had never been baptized before. The rest of us had previously been baptized, and the Catholic church recognizes the baptisms of other denominations. During this service I was confirmed and given First Communion, along with all the other candidates.
This is not the end of my journey, but rather the very beginning. Thank you for reading my story.