Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Former pastor shares conversion story at St. Charles
Story and photo by Jami LeBrun, Inland Register staff
(From the Sept. 9, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
Alex Jones shared the story of his conversion experience during a presentation at St. Charles Parish, Spokane, last month. (IR photo)
“I love being Catholic!” Alex C. Jones shouted to applause and several responding “Amens.”
Jones, a Roman Catholic convert who entered the Church at the Easter Vigil in 2001, shared his story of conversion with an eager audience of 200 at St. Charles Parish Saturday, Aug. 28.
Jones grew up in Detroit, Mich. His mother was a devout Pentecostal who attended the Church of God in Christ and brought her children along with her. Jones was baptized at age nine and became really excited about his faith.
However, the teen years were rough. Like others his age, Jones felt there were too many rules that went along with church. He hated going, and by the age of 15, he hated church.
“But,” said Jones, “I had a mother that was very devout, and she had strong arms.”
One August night several years later, Jones had an intimate and “indescribable” encounter with God. Thus began his conversion and a series of “yeses” that led him to where he is today.
For the 25 years after his conversion, Jones pastored consecutively two congregations, the first Pentecostal and the second Evangelical. Jones described to a rapt audience in St. Charles the miracles that occurred while he was pastoring those parishes – the souls brought to Christ, the exuberantly joyful worship of his congregations, the movement of the Holy Spirit. “Yes,” he said, “I was leading the good life. Those were the best years of my life.”
“So why am I here in a Catholic Church?” he asked. “Sometimes I wonder that, too.”
In 1998 he uncovered the treasures of the Church Fathers while preparing for a Bible lesson on 1 Timothy 2:1-15. Jones decided to read the Church fathers in order to start an “Apostolic Bible study.” In the course of his studies, he discovered three things. He discovered that the Church was always organized, not simply spontaneous. He discovered that the Church has always been liturgical, as well as charismatic, and that the two really go together. And he discovered that the Church was always hierarchical. Jones began to question his own ties as a pastor (“and bishop and cardinal and pope”) of his own parish to apostolic ministry. What entitled him to preach the Word of God?
Little by little, as he studied more and more, Jones began making changes to his own church services. The more he changed, the more the services began to resemble Catholic Masses, and the more his parishioners became worried.
“Pastor,” they would ask, “are you becoming Catholic?”
“No, of course not!” Jones would exclaim. “Why would I want to be Catholic? I’m simply being apostolic.”
But after a while, Jones could no longer deny the changes taking place. After intense study of Scripture and the Church fathers, Jones could no longer deny the central place the Eucharist had always had in Christian worship. After looking everywhere but the Catholic Church for the Truth, Jones decided once again to say yes to God. He and his wife made the decision to convert to Catholicism.
“I knew it would cost me everything,” said Jones. “I gave up everything, my livelihood, my church, my family and friends.”
Jones discovered through his studies that the Catholic Church has both biblical and historical support for its claim of originality and apostolicity. He shared this knowledge with his congregation and as a result, 54 members of his church voted to enter the Catholic Church with him.
Jones spent the second half of his talk explaining the details of his conversion and what saying “yes” to God actually means.
“What the world and society are looking for today are witnesses,” he said. “All conversion should lead to one point. Conversion is not completed until it filters outside the Church and into the community.”
Jones explained that a major reason there is so much anti-Catholicism is because there are many misconceptions about the Church. He challenged the audience to learn about their faith, to be able to answer questions when they come up.
“Don’t try to convert people,” said Jones. “Explain. Explain the faith to them. Answer their questions when they ask them and if you don’t know the answers, find out.”
“His talk was really inspiring,” said Katie Thomason, a St. Charles parishioner who attended Jones’s two-and-a-half-hour talk. “It was a good reminder to love our Protestant brothers. He has a true love of Christ and he embraces his Protestant past; he’s not bitter about it at all.”
Jones’ talk was sponsored by Jason Hartman, a St. Charles parishioner. A free will offering was gathered at the talk to help offset the cost.
(For more information about Alex C. Jones, visit the Saint Joseph Communications website at www.saintjoe.com.)