Going Catholic, part 1

More than a few of you have asked, so I thought I would take a few weeks here to explain. This is my story—no one else’s. The people I know who have left the Catholic church have very good reasons for doing so. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind.

The first time I ever walked into St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg was for Katie Stevens’ funeral. It was January 2010. I would go to my grandfather’s funeral that next week, and my mother’s that March.

Katie was 15 when she died in a car accident on the way home from an ACTS Bible study. The student who was driving was not drunk, just reckless. This was the second funeral for a teenager from St. Mary’s that school year. In September, 13-year-old Quinn Kott died following a football game.

The sanctuary holds about 750, and it was packed an hour before the funeral started. They opened up the St. Mary’s School gym across the street and broadcast the funeral to a standing-room only crowd.

Steve Wiggins gave up his seat for my daughter and I to attend Katie’s funeral. My daughter wanted to go because she knew Katie’s younger sister. I’d been to a Catholic wedding before but never to a Catholic funeral.

While we waited for things to begin, I just looked around. There’s a lot to look at. Maybe that’s why all the kids weren’t too noisy.

St. Mary’s is one of the painted churches in Central Texas, built by German (or, in some cases, Czech) immigrants and intricately painted. The main colors are salmon, sage, forest and sienna. There are the stained-glass windows, most of which feature Mary. Plus, there are lots of statues. There’s a painting of Jesus breaking the bread at Emmaus and another one of Melchizedek blessing Abraham while Lot looks on.

I’d never heard the priest, Father Enda McKenna, and I couldn’t be sure of his accent. I’ve since learned he came from Ireland. He’s spent his 50-year career mostly on the south side of San Antonio and in northern Mexico. His accent is Irish-Mexican-Texan.

The service was in a slightly different order from what I grew up with in the Episcopal church, but it wasn’t exactly foreign. I knew the “Hail Mary” prayer—no idea where I picked that up. I knew not to go forward during Communion.

My daughter was shocked that I seemed to know my way around the service.

“Are you Catholic?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

Two years and three months later, I would be.

Comments

  1. Oh!
    I want to see a picture of the painted church.
    I want to hear the priest’s voice.
    I want to hear the rest of this story and will be a patient waiter.

  2. I’m so glad you’re writing this.

  3. I am glad you are telling this story, Megan. And I look forward to all its pieces. I have a painted church at the corner of my street – and my granddaughter goes to the school there. Someday soon, I’ll take some pictures there. We have a moderately famous school of photography in our town called The Brooks Institute and their first year students regularly come around to photograph this place – so maybe I ought to get with it. It’s only been sixteen years since I moved in.

  4. Thank you for doing this Megan. I am so interested. There are many things that draw me. I want to understand a bit better.

  5. Jack drummond says:

    And your uncle jack loves you.

  6. a story with parts! yea!

  7. I think you mentioned this already, but I like that you are doing this, so I’ve decided to join you in explaining the journey from my perspective. I love you.

    http://johnwillome.wordpress.com

  8. Megan I am so very glad you are sharing your journey with us! I’ve longed to know and haven’t wanted to ask (it felt pushy and technically I don’t really know you even if I feel like I do…) Thank you!

    ps – I’m going to follow along from your husbands perspective as well…

  9. Kathi Herzog says:

    I love hearing people’s stories and though our journey’s are different, we both joined the Catholic Church at about the same time.
    I think tea is a must for us! Thanks for sharing!
    Kathi

  10. A sad place to begin a journey, but many find a start in sadness.

  11. I went to the site. It looks like a wonderful place. It surprised me that the exterior looked a bit like the Gothic style Methodist church we go to now, complete with doors that look red, but I guess are wooden. The interior is beautiful.

    The interior of ours has been restored with colors in pink and blue and green, wall stenciling. It’s got lots of stained glass windows and a big wall painting of Jesus and the children.

    I’ve been to a Catholic funeral–for a fellow nurse I worked with in the health department who died much too young from lung cancer. And did I tell you my sister is the communications director for a Catholic diocese? I’ll be interested in learning more. I think I’ve told you my great-aunt was a nun.

  12. I can’t believe it’s taking me this long to get over here and read your stories … Love you, (((sister))).

  13. Welcome home from a fellow convert [and former ordained Protestant clergy of 18 years]. God bless you

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