Pat LaRose’s Faith Journey

In 09 Faith Journey on 2012/03/19 at 9:11 AM

I grew up on a small farm in a rural area of Jacksonville, NC.   We lived next door to my grandparents and were very close to them as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.  My grandmother was a “Primitive Baptist” and was what we called “a God fearing woman.”  She is the one that I most remember teaching us hymns and about God and Jesus.  Even though my parents didn’t attend church on a regular basis when we were young, they did teach us Christian morals and saw that we went to Sunday School and church on a somewhat regular basis.   At the age of 13, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was baptized into the Christian faith.  It wasn’t too long after that that my father experienced a conversion and became very active in the small Baptist Church in our community.   At that point, our whole family began attending church together.   While my brothers and sister did not totally embrace the Baptist faith, I became very active in the church and youth group.   It was not unusual for a few of us to go to homes in the community to witness our Christian faith to others – adults as well as youth.  In addition, I spoke of my faith and love of Jesus at youth rallies and to congregations.  My Baptist church family was the center of my faith and social activity.

It was at that church and through the social functions of the youth group that I met a young marine who started attending our church through the invitation of the chaplain of his platoon.  He was a small town boy from Mississippi – quiet, reserved, and a good Christian.  Three years later that young marine, Bob, became my husband.

I attended Gardner Webb Baptist Junior College my freshman and sophomore years and continued to be active in the Baptist church on campus and at home.   Bob left for Vietnam during my sophomore year where he served for 12 months.  I transferred to East Carolina College my junior year.  It was while there that I started to move away from the church.  I experienced going to a bar for the first time, drank my first beer (I had trouble understanding how everyone thought that was so great!) and hung around other students that never attended church (at least not while away from home).

When Bob got back from Vietnam and was discharged from the military, we got married and moved to Florida – away from both of our families.  We attended a few different churches in the area but didn’t find one we liked, so we quit trying.   During the next 40 years, we concentrated on our careers and ourselves.  Weekends were spent doing household chores or things of leisure.  We decided that our careers were more important than having children.  The only friends we had were those that we made at work. During those 40 years of “wandering in the desert,” we never lost our belief in God and Jesus.  We just didn’t think that it was important to attend a formal church or to do anything to practice our faith other than being kind to others, not cheating or stealing, being faithful to each other and basically living what we considered to be a Christian life.  We believed in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and that was enough.

The one thing that we did realize during those years and commented on from time to time was that we would find our true friends in church.

When Bob retired in 2001, we decided it was time to start going back to church.  Bob is a research person, so he set out on his quest to find the church that would be right for us.   We attended several different denominations and thought we had found one that might be a “good fit” – a United Methodist church.  We particularly liked one of the 3 ministers at that church and the congregation seemed friendly and welcoming.  In order to join their church, we had to attend a 2 hour session to learn about them (and we assumed about the Methodist denomination).  At the end of the 2 hours, we still did not know much more about the Methodists than before we went there.  So we put off making our decision.

In the meantime, Bob was doing his usual channel surfing on TV.  He had been watching the Christian channel, when he flipped to the channel next to it – EWTN.  Marcus Grodi and “Journey Home” was on.   He was intrigued and began watching it a little more.  One Saturday, he commented – “Maybe we should check out the Catholic church.  I saw a big one near Stonecrest.  Let’s go see what that’s like.”

Neither of us knew anything about the Catholic faith.  We were never really exposed to it and if any of the children we attended school with were Catholic, we weren’t aware of it.   Having said this, my first reaction when Bob suggested the Catholic church was that I would never become a Catholic.  I had been a Protestant all my life and couldn’t imagine changing that.  But, I did agree to go.  It might be interesting to see what it was all about.

The first Mass we attended we didn’t have a clue what was going on – everyone was standing and kneeling and reciting things and singing songs that were nowhere in the bulletin (which by the way also didn’t give us the schedule of the service like our Baptist church did – so again, we had no idea what do to and when).   But by the same token, we could tell that something holy was happening in that sanctuary.

At the end of the second service that we attended, we saw a notice in the bulletin inviting folks to attend a pre-RCIA session if interested in learning more about the Catholic faith.   Here’s where the Holy Spirit really began to guide us.  Bob went up to the information desk to ask about the session.   A man standing there noticed Bob and they started chatting about the pre-RCIA class and our interest in learning more about the Catholic faith.   His name was also Bob, his deceased wife had been a Baptist so he understood our background and he was extremely nice and helpful.  He immediately offered to sponsor my husband and he accepted (he had no idea why a sponsor was needed or what it mean, but apparently we needed one to learn more about the faith).

We went to the pre-RCIA class and found out that in order to become Catholic we would have to go to class for NINE MONTHS! What happened to the 2 hour session like the Methodists required? Of course, the Baptists just require that you answer the “alter call” and you are in.   I remember sitting in the pre-RCIA session with my arms crossed, thinking “There is no way I will ever become Catholic, but Bob is enthusiastic about learning more, so I will at least go to the first few sessions.”   This was in August.   The classes began in September.  During the few weeks before the classes began, we went back and forth between St. Matthew Catholic Church and the Methodist church.   We began to feel more and more comfortable with Mass and began to become less interested in the Methodist church.   I was intrigued by how almost everyone knelt down and prayed before Mass began.  There was one priest in particular that seemed so holy and reverent.  We felt that we had indeed been in God’s Holy House.

We finally cut all ties with the Methodist church the Sunday in which part of the service included a film featuring a skit performed by the 3 ministers dressed up as motorcycle dudes trying to teach us some moral lesson, I’m sure – although I have no idea what.  We were not going to church to be entertained!

As we attended RCIA, I realized that Catholics actually have the same basic Christian beliefs that I have – in fact they seemed to be more in line with what I believed than did the Baptist or Methodist.  Not only that, but they have the 7 sacraments.  This is something I never heard of as a Baptist.   The more I learned about the Catholic faith, the more I wanted to know.  I remember that Fr. Reid blessed us at the end of one session.  This was the first blessing I had ever received and I felt the warmth of it flowing through me.  I think it was at that point that I truly began to be serious about converting to the Catholic faith.  By about January, I began to cross myself and began to yearn to receive our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist.

The Holy Spirit once again stepped in to present me with a sponsor.   It was January and since I still didn’t have a sponsor, one of the RCIA team members sent Richard over to speak with me.  It turned out that Richard and Angela also lived in Waxhaw.  I gladly accepted him as a sponsor.  We had many great conversations as the four of us road together to and from RCIA on Monday nights.  What a blessing that was and it contributed so much to our journey as they shared their wealth of information and love of our Lord with us.

April, 2007, Bob and I were confirmed into the Catholic church.  It was a long and wonderful journey but we quickly realized it was just the beginning.  God blessed us with a wonderful couple that introduced us to daily mass and befriended us.  They suggested that we start getting together every 2 weeks to recite the rosary with them.   That quickly developed into a weekly event and grew from the 4 of us to 15.   We now have the dear friends we knew we would find in church.   By surrounding myself with Catholic friends, participating and volunteering in Catholic organizations and spending time daily with our Lord, I, by the grace of God, continue to grow in my love of Jesus Christ and love of my faith.

I thank God for the years of faith formation during my youth.  It saw me through those years in which I did not practice my faith.  However, I found the fullness and richness of Christianity that can only be received through the Catholic Church and the sacraments it gives us.  Thanks be to God Bob and I were willing to listen to the Holy Spirit as He guided us into this most wonderful holy church.

As Fr. Courtney says, “I LOVE BEING CATHOLIC!”

Pat LaRose


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