Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
New Catholics share reflections on their faith journey
by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the May 21, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)
This Easter, in the parishes of the Diocese of Spokane about 150 people were either baptized as Catholics or – if previously baptized in a Protestant church – received into full communion with the Catholic Church and given the sacrament of Confirmation. A few of these new Catholics spoke with the Inland Register about their experience of becoming Catholics and of their thoughts and feelings about their new faith.
Father José Hernandez, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Cheney, baptizes Emily Waters during the 2009 Easter Vigil. (IR file photo)
Emily Waters, 22, was baptized at the Easter Vigil liturgy at St. Rose of Lima Parish, in Cheney. Apart from attending Protestant Sunday school classes with friends as a child, she had no previous religious connections. Emily was attracted to Catholicism, she said, by “what great Catholics my husband, Tom, and my in-laws are, and how fulfilled they are by living in faith. They are so spiritual and content with their lives and being a part of that is truly a blessing. What I also like about the Catholic Church, above other churches I have attended, is how traditional everything is. It just makes so much sense to me.”
Rob Young, 26, of Spokane’s St. Anthony Parish, came into the Catholic Church after growing up Lutheran in Arlington, Wash., and Spokane. “When I was younger I was always curious about all the heritage that the Catholic Church has,” Young said. “The saints and things like that were a draw for me, and the rosary, and I just wanted to pursue it and learn more about it. And the more I did that the more interested I became in converting to Catholicism. My wife, Alicia, is Catholic too, and we have been married for less than a year.”
Jana and Chester Hoberg – they describe themselves as “40-something” – were received into the Catholic Church and received the sacrament of Confirmation at St. Joseph Parish in Otis Orchards. Joining them were four of their five children: Julianne (12), Stephen (10), Stephanie (10), and Lochlyn (7). Chester and Jana grew up in evangelical Protestant churches and both attended Protestant church-related schools from grade school through college.
“Raising our children,” Chester said, “we attended community churches which were generic versions of Christianity embracing the tenets of the faith but without any real tradition…. As we grew in our lives as Christians we felt emptiness with respect to our knowledge of the traditional roots of our faith as well as a feeling that we were missing out on the fullness of our faith tradition.”
The Hobergs began listening to the Spokane-area Catholic radio station (Sacred Heart Radio, 970 AM) and watching programming from the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) on television. “Our neighbors let us borrow a book about the rationale of being Catholic,” Chester continued. “We began watching The Journey Home on EWTN, which highlighted believers that came home to the Catholic Church after having a faith tradition elsewhere in the Protestant tradition…. We began to fully understand that the one church for the first 1,500 years after Christ was the church built on Peter. Our journey to the Catholic Church included the belief that God did not intend for Christians to be split into (thousands of) sub-churches.”
Karen Domini (left), 49, was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Spokane’s Assumption Parish. “I was baptized at 15 years old in the Presbyterian church,” Domini said. “My parents came from different Protestant faiths, and when they got married they attended various churches until they found the Presbyterian Church. They raised my two sisters and me in that faith. We went every Sunday we were at home, and if camping (we worshiped outside) with church groups in the Rocky Mountains. Very beautiful and serene. My parents were both involved in various church activities, and I eventually became a deacon and lector at Manito Presbyterian Church.”
Karen said that her husband of 24 years, Steve, is Catholic, as are their close friends. She had conversations with her husband, and with Redemptorist Father Joseph Curalli, a close friend of the family who often visits Spokane. “Steve recommended some CDs, and Father Curalli answered questions. But I really started considering conversion when I listened to Scott Hahn’s conversion story, since he had been a Presbyterian minister. In the fall of 2007, Steve and I took a trip to Italy and Greece, and seeing the Vatican and Corinth really spoke to me.” Steve attended Mass at St. Peter Basilica, Rome, while Karen observed in quiet. “I came to find I wanted the entire Christian experience, not just the piece sliced out by Protestants,” she said. “I still hesitated to actually ask about RCIA, though, until May 2008, when my father died. His death was sudden, but he was in the hospital for a day, and while we were at his bedside, Steve prayed the Divine Chaplet and the rosary repeatedly. It was very comforting at a very distressing time. I used to think the rosary was just repetitious, but I now love the meditation of it….”
Looking back on her nine months in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program, Waters is enthusiastic. “The RCIA teacher, our deacon, and a wonderful married couple came to the course to contribute their input and support,” she said.
Young describes his RCIA experience as “very insightful; a lot of questions were answered. It brought me closer to God, it helped me understand more about God, and there was not a lot of pressure. It was a very relaxed environment, which was really important for somebody who had a lot of questions.”
Domini says that in her RCIA process she “learned a tremendous amount of information on the Old Testament and how it relates to the New. We also were taught a great deal about Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and Holy Orders. I still would like to know more about Catholic theology and doctrine. I now have a stack of books recommended by my husband and others that I am working my way through. This amazes me, because I never read anything about (the) Presbyterian faith except Bible studies and classes.”
“In the beginning of my spiritual journey,” Waters said, “for me, it wasn’t just (about) adopting the Catholic faith, but also a (belief) in a divine power that I initially struggled with because I wasn’t raised religiously. The Catholic faith is also one in which you are always learning. There is so much to know, so one challenge was definitely trying to take it all in. I’ve been reading other books occasionally for the last two years, but having formal classes with lots of other opinions and ways of explaining things really helped. I don’t think this obstacle was too serious, though, and did not influence my decision at all, since I am obviously still learning!”
For his part, Young recalled that a hurdle in becoming Catholic was gaining a better understanding of the Holy Trinity. “I was helped to understand that they are essentially one, that Jesus Christ is God, because before I thought of him as a separate entity. When I realized this a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I finally got it, and it was so exciting to me that I wanted to run and tell everybody.”
“I had a hard time adjusting to statuary in the church,” Domini said, as well as the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and praying to saints. Then came the day when “I turned on the TV and it was tuned to EWTN, where a convert was speaking about how his biggest obstacle to Catholicism had been just this thing, praying to saints. And then he realized it was actually more praying with saints, just like he would if they were still physically among us. This made sense for me.…”
The Hobergs participated in the RCIA program shared by St. Joseph Parish, Otis Orchards, and St. Mary Parish in Spokane Valley. “The education was intense,” Chester recalled, “and focused on the history of the Catholic faith as it paralleled the early Christian church as well as the faith traditions and specific practices of the faith. We felt stimulated, and encouraged, and at home.”
As she looks forward to living her Catholic faith on a day-to-day basis, Waters said that she plans to focus on “just living a holy life with my husband and raising our future kids Catholic. We will be in Cheney for only another two months,” because her husband graduates from Eastern Washington University next month. “But both St. Rose and our parish back home in Stevenson, Wash. have such a great community life, with absolutely wonderful people. It’s humbling to finally be a part of something that I really enjoy.”
With a view to the future, Young said that he looks forward to “being able to raise our kids Catholic and bring them up in a strong faith, because I think that’s important to have as a child, to develop a strong faith early in life.”
Chester Hoberg explained that one obstacle he and Jana faced was that, prior to their interest in Catholicism, most of the information they had about the Catholic Church came from what they learned in the evangelical Protestant traditions in which they grew up. “For years, while Pope John Paul II led the church, we watched his life and ministry and were awed by him and by (Blessed) Mother Teresa and her ministry. Their lives and ministries did not seem to add up to the misinformation we had been taught regarding the Catholic faith. If we had not taken the initiative to find out for ourselves about the Catholic faith, we would never be in the place we are right now.”
The Hobergs find the biggest challenge they face as Catholics is “the huge learning curve that we have begun.” Even after reading The Catechism of the Catholic Church, or perhaps because of that, “we realized how much we do not know. We fully expect that we will happily spend the rest of our lives learning more about Christ and his church in this wonderful faith tradition.
“The second challenge,” Chester said, “will be imparting our faith to our children. We recognize the Holy Spirit and his role in their lives, and we have great reverence for our duties as Catholic parents, leading our children to a greater knowledge of Christ through the church. What we look forward to most … is the spiritual growth as individuals, as a family, and as a faith community that will result in obedience to Christ’s will within his church.”
Looking ahead to her life as a Catholic, Domini said, “I love that Mass is available to me every day; not just Sunday. I love the availability of daily prayers and Mass readings and meditations. These have all helped me further my own prayer life. There is so much you can do to further your own faith and that of others. I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can.”