Accompaniment key to converts’ faith journeys
April 18, 2019
Tom Stubby almost didn’t get to begin classes to join the Catholic Church, but not because of schedule conflicts or second thoughts. He was lying in a hospital bed for 12 days.
On Aug. 30, while riding his bicycle on Big Papio Trail in Omaha, he was severely injured after hitting a large branch lying across the trail and crashing.
But with the help of technology, and fellow RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) participant Erik Taylor, Stubby started classes on time. They and four others will enter the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil at St. Pius X Parish in Omaha.
The six are among 316 catechumens (those receiving the sacraments of baptism, first Communion and confirmation) and candidates (those receiving first Communion and confirmation) becoming Catholic throughout the archdiocese.
Stubby, who broke his left collarbone, left hip and nine ribs, spent weeks of recovery time mostly confined to the lower level of his home, having to participate in the first two RCIA classes via video chat, he said.
And Taylor stepped up to help, bringing class materials to him, stopping to discuss what they had learned and driving him to classes once he was able to leave his house.
The two men, whose families were already good friends, grew even closer accompanying each other along their journey to the faith.
The camaraderie that developed made it easier to talk about faith, Taylor said. “We could talk about what we learned. If something didn’t make sense, we could bounce it off each other.”
Being accompanied by someone close can smooth the way for candidates and catechumens as they proceed toward full communion with the church.
For sisters-in-law Elizabeth and Heather Hansen – married to two brothers – the shared journey was an important factor.
Attending RCIA classes together at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Tilden created a sense of ease, Elizabeth said.
“I always felt I needed to do this with somebody I knew and felt comfortable with,” she said. “We can lean on each other; we know what each other is going through.”
The women, who were already close, had planned for some time to go through formation together, Heather said.
“We hold each other accountable, and we can talk about our experiences,” she said. “It’s a little easier coming into a different faith having someone there for support.”
Father Patrick Nields, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Neligh, who led the Hansens’ RCIA classes, said the faith is easier to embrace when you have someone to support you.
“Faith is a very personal thing, especially when getting into areas that might be a little uncomfortable and areas you’re not as familiar with,” he said. “It helps to have that support.”
Elizabeth, who was raised Methodist, said she and her husband, Mark, decided before they married that they wanted to raise their children in one faith. They now have three children.
“We thought it would be better for the kids to have one solid faith in the household,” she said. “It’s important for consistency.”
And Heather, who was raised Baptist, said she and her husband, Ed, who are expecting their first child, also wanted a one-faith family.
Family unity also was important to Stubby.
Although he attended Mass with his wife and son for years, he looks forward to sharing the same faith with them, being able to receive the Eucharist together and being a part of the larger church.
Stubby, who was raised Lutheran but drifted away, said that before he married his wife, Julie, a cradle Catholic, they agreed that he would eventually become Catholic. “It took 28 years, but I’m finally getting there,” he said.
With conversion always in the back of his mind, he said it was finally the right time, since his 12-year-old son is set to be confirmed next year.
Taylor, who was raised in a nondenominational Christian family, also was encouraged by his wife, Monica, to become Catholic to share the faith with their three children.
So together the two men took up the challenge. “I said, ‘If you’ll do it, I’ll do it,’” Taylor said.
Although it was hard to open up at first, the six members of the RCIA group at St. Pius X became a close-knit group as the weeks progressed, Stubby said.
He said the classes also helped him heal, both physically and spiritually. “It gave me something to focus on, and hearing other people’s stories helped me realize I wasn’t alone doing this. It meant a lot more going through this process after the accident.”
And he said he’s made connections with people he can talk to about his faith journey. “It’s a good group of people to share my thoughts with.”
“RCIA has opened up a world I didn’t have before and helped me put God back in the center of my life. I missed that and I didn’t even realize it,” Stubby said. “Life has gotten better the more I’ve opened myself to God.”