By Carrie Rosolino
My conversion to the Catholic Faith, to any outsider, looks simple. I grew up Lutheran, married a Catholic, and that’s that. My experience, however, encompassed so much more than these simple facts; my journey was filled with signs and symbols and the assurance that the Catholic Church was the right place for me.
I met my husband while we were both students at Rhodes College in Memphis TN. I was only 30 minutes from home and my Lutheran church home, where I received my First Communion and was confirmed in 8th grade. My parents were weekly church attendees and had held various positions on the church council while I grew up.
It was natural for me to bring my college boyfriend to church with me, and I went to Mass with him sometimes too. But when we got engaged, I wanted to be married in my home church. We had to complete marriage preparation in both the Lutheran and the Catholic Churches, as we had a close family friend, a deacon, concelebrate our Lutheran wedding. Still- I never thought I would be Catholic.
I became pregnant with our first child in our second year of marriage. This baby was planned and loved, and we knew we wanted to raise our children in a church, but the question of which one now became more pressing. Since we had been married, we had attended both Lutheran and Catholic Churches in the small college town where we lived, but the Catholic Church was full of young college students and professors, while the Lutheran Church was full of people my parents’ and grandparents’ age. My husband was never going to become Lutheran, and so I began to consider converting.
One Wednesday during Lent, at about four months pregnant, I stopped by the Catholic Church, St. Boniface, for a Lenten service. I intended to tell the priest that I wanted to become Catholic after the short Mass, where only about seven people were in attendance. During the consecration, Father Jim, a former tax collector from Massachusetts, invited the small congregation to circle the altar. I didn’t join as I wasn’t going to receive the Eucharist, but Father Jim looked at me and invited me to the circle, saying “You are God’s child too.” Although I had already decided to join the church, this direct invitation seemed like a message that the church wanted me and welcomed me and my baby. It was the sign I hadn’t asked for, assuring me that I was making the right decision.
I went through a shortened RCIA program and was confirmed a Catholic at the Easter Vigil mass that year. My husband was my sponsor, and my parents were very supportive, wanting their grandchildren to have a solid church home like I did growing up. My mother and father-in-law attended my confirmation and were pleased by my decision. My mother-in-law had joined a convent at 13 and lived there until she took time to get her masters degree at Notre Dame at 30, and my father-in-law had been a Catholic Brother until meeting his future wife while getting his masters degree at Notre Dame. Their faith is still strong and sure, and they have been inspirational to me while raising my children in the church.
My journey isn’t over, but it’s been filled with signs that I’m on the right path. My husband has always felt called to serve the Church, so together we explored diaconate formation together when our two children were quite young. I was worried about leaving my children at home for one weekend a month, as wives are required to participate in the formation of their husbands.
I prayed, and finally, frustrated, I asked God for a sign. There was a Bible sitting next to me on the couch, and I opened it and pointed to a verse: Isaiah 61:5. This verse states, “They shall rebuild the ancient ruins, the former wastes they shall raise up and restore the desolate cities, devastations of generation upon generation. Strangers shall stand ready to pasture your flocks, foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers. You yourselves shall be called ‘Priests of the LORD.’”
My husband is now a deacon, ordained in 2015.
My conversion has given me job opportunities as well. When I was let go from a job in 2011, I decided to return to full time teaching, and our deacon connections during formation secured a position for me teaching middle school religion at a local Catholic school. That job led to a youth ministry position at my own parish, and I am currently teaching English at a Catholic High school. None of this would have been possible without that first gentle invitation from Father Jim, indicating that this was where I belonged.
Looking back, I see the work of the Holy Spirit in my life from the beginning of my relationship with my husband; I see the gentle prodding that led me down the path to my conversion. While my faith in God was never in question, how I practice my faith has changed drastically since becoming Catholic. I have learned to appreciate sacrament, especially the Eucharist, and I am brought to tears at every baptism, confirmation, and wedding that I attend. I take those tears as signs of God’s presence in my life, and I will always cherish my Catholic faith.