My Journey Home To Rome

My conversion story is anything but typical, and in it's original form is quite long, but I am
going to explain it the best I can in the amount of words that I am allowed.  To start off let
me introduce myself to you, my name is Annie Chester and I live in a small town in Eastern West
Virginia, with my husband, two kids and 4 dogs.  I grew up, married and raised my kids the
biggest part of their lives in a small Freewill Baptist Church just down the road from my home,
it was all that I knew my life revolved around the Church. I pictured myself staying in that
small Church for the rest of my life, but God had a different plan for me and it would take a
very long journey for me to discover what that plan was.

This journey began when my son was hospitalized for 4 months at Children's Hospital in Columbus
Ohio, it was there that I would meet someone that would end up having a profound impact on my
Spiritual life.  Seeing as how I was about 4 hours away from my home, there was no way that I
could attend my home Church, and I was missing it so much that one day I took my son for a walk
around the hospital and ended up going and sitting in the hospital chapel for a few minutes.
As we were preparing to leave and return to his room, we met a Catholic hospital Chaplin who
came and introduced himself and started talking.  He ask about my son, and then proceeded to
invite us to attend Mass that they held in the chapel.  Now being completely ignorant of
Catholic beliefs, and coming from a Church that really did not speak well of Catholics I
simply replied thanks but I can't I am a Baptist.

The Father smiled and said well, I have never been to Heaven, but I don't think that there are
gates that say Baptist enter here, and Catholics enter over there.  Well needless to say after
that I was rather embarrassed and thanked and told him that I would think about it. Finally
Sunday rolled around and I thought to myself why not go and check it out, I mean if they do
something really strange I can always leave, so I cleaned up and took my son, along with his IV
pole and we headed down to the chapel where I was going to experience my first Catholic Mass.

Once the service was over the Father walked over to me and ask what I thought, and I could
not contain my excitement at what I had witnessed, I told him that it was nothing like I
pictured in my head, here I was a devout Freewill Baptist attending a Catholic Mass, I knew if
word of this got back to my home church that the members would be disappointed so I figured I
would just keep it between the Priest and myself.  A few days later I ran into the Father again
and he told me that he had some literature that he wanted to give me, and I gladly accepted it,
we spoke and then I went on my way.  Once back to the room however I dove into what he had
given me and started reading.

The more I read, the more I wanted to learn, and so I went and hunted the Father down, and ask
him for more information, the following Sunday rolled around and believe it or not there we
were back for another Mass, this same cycle went on weekly till my son was released from the
hospital and we went back home.  Sunday rolled around and it was time for me to head back to my
home Church, even though I was so happy to be back and see all my friends and church family, I
still felt so out of place.  I missed the music, the prayers, the sitting, kneeling and
standing that I grown use to, but I figured with time, things would feel right again.  But they
didn't, every Sunday I was going through all the motions, but heart wasn't truly in it

I explained how I was feeling to my husband, and it was he who told me that maybe just maybe God was trying to tell me something, maybe it was time for me to leave and seek out the Catholic Church in my area, and so I did.  I wrote a letter to my pastor and one to the church thanking them for allowing me to be a member there, but I felt that God was calling me elsewhere, and
then I ask them to remove my name from the membership book.  That was one of the hardest things
that I have ever had to do, but I was sure that I was following God and I had to seek this out.
I got the phone book, and searched for the closest Catholic Church to me, and made an
appointment to speak with the Parish Priest there.  He took me on a tour of the Church and then
we sat down and proceeded to talk.  I told him where I had come from, I told him about the
Father at the hospital and all that he had taught me, and I told him that I was almost positive
that I was being lead to the Catholic Church.  He then told me that I should start taking RCIA
classes so that I could learn more about the Church teachings.  This turned out to be about a 2
year event for me, because I was getting so much discouragement from my friends and family that
I would go to a few classes and then I would quite, trying to make them happy.  During the times in between I visited other denominations in hopes that I would find one that I could agree with that would make everyone happy.

During my search I visited the Pentecostal, Methodist, Church of Christ, Church of God,
Jehovah's Witness, and all sorts of Baptist denominations, nothing felt right.  Everything in
me was leading me back to Catholic Church.  Oh but I couldn't go there because to all my family
and friends they had been taught that the Catholic Church was the whore of Babylon as spoken of
in Revelations, the Pope was the anti-Christ, and that all Catholics did not worship Jesus,
they worshipped Mary.  Even though I knew the truth, it still hurt so much at thought of
disappointing them.  Then my husband, my wise husband sat me down and told me that I needed to
quite worrying about what other people thought and I needed to listen to and follow my heart.
So after much prayer, I took his advice and made yet another appointment to start taking
RCIA classes again.

I am not going to lie, it was hard, I did loose quite a few friends, and several of my family
members turned their back on me, but in their heart they truly felt that they were right and I
was wrong, and I guess they thought that if they gave me tough love I would come to my senses
and return back to the Baptist faith.  I pressed on with my classes and the following Spring I came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  I was so excited, and I knew that I was just where God wanted me to be and for the first year things were great.  But things in the community where I lived and things with my family got worse.

After awhile all of the tension started getting to me so bad, that I gave into it and told my husband that I would just return to the Baptist Church that I had grown up in so that everyone would be happy and stop using me as their discussion piece. I contacted the Pastor of the church, a man that I have known all my life and told him that I would like to return to the church and he said something to me that shocked me so much that I did not know what to think or say at the time. He told me that before I could come back to the church and take membership I would have to stand before the deacons and trustees and he himself and ask them if it was OK, and see if they thought that since I was a member of the Catholic Church that I could be a Baptist again. At first after the shock wore off I became very angry, but then as I prayed about it, I started to come to the realization that maybe God was using this to show me that I am were I truly need to be, where He wanted me to be, and to try and leave the church would be going against His will for me. I contacted the minister back and said that I had changed my mind and that I was no longer interested in returning and went back to the Catholic Church with a renewed since of where I was meant to be.

It is still very hard on me at times, especially when I will see a member of my former church in the super market, or walking down the side walk and rather than passing me, they will turn and walk the other way to avoid me. These same people that once hugged my neck will now pretend like I no longer exist, and it is those times that I begin to feel that loneliness again, but it is also during those times that I fall on my knees and pray and ask God to help me through this hard time and make me stronger so that I can deal with situations like this, and you know He has never let me down. Being the only Catholic living around allot of Protestants can be hard at times to bare, but you know it is during times like that I am so thankful that I am in the Catholic Church, because you never have to worry about the Catholic Church turning its back on you, it will always be there for whatever you need.

No comments:

Post a Comment