May 15, 2015

Newly baptized adults share stories of their journey to embrace the Catholic faith

Father Johnathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, baptizes Evan Fischer during the parish’s Easter Vigil Mass at St. Martin Church in Yorkville on April 4, while Holly Lattire, Evan’s sponsor, places her hand on his shoulder. (Submitted photo)

Father Johnathan Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, baptizes Evan Fischer during the parish’s Easter Vigil Mass at St. Martin Church in Yorkville on April 4, while Holly Lattire, Evan’s sponsor, places her hand on his shoulder. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

As the Church marks the resurrection of Christ at Easter, it also welcomes new members who enter into their own new life as Catholics.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis welcomed 1,052 souls into full communion with the Church on Easter weekend through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in parishes throughout central and southern Indiana. (Related: See a list of all new Catholics in the archdiocese)

Each new member brings a rich story of their call to Catholicism. Each bears the touch of God calling them closer to him in union with the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church founded by Christ.

Here are four of those special stories.

‘I knew that everything would change’

When Evan Fischer started having late-night religious discussions with his best friend—a Catholic—the summer before his freshman year in high school, he never imagined he would profess the Catholic faith before he headed off to college.

“I was filled with all the stereotypes about Catholics, that they were strict, traditional and even hateful,” said Evan, 17, the son of Christian parents.

The discussions continued throughout his high school years at East Central High School in St. Leon. Then during the summer before Evan’s senior year, the same friend invited him to attend a eucharistic conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio.

“I knew that after that trip, everything would change—I just had this gut feeling,” he said.

He was right.

His first change of heart and mind during the conference involved the truth of the sacrament of reconciliation.

“They taught us that the priest is interceding for God, that you’re speaking to God. I thought, ‘That makes so much sense.’ My stereotypical views started to change because I started learning.”

The next change came during the second night of the conference, during eucharistic adoration.

“I was exposed to the Eucharist for the first time,” Evan recalled. “I cannot even explain it now. When they carried the monstrance by me, I was in tears.”

He started attending religious education classes at St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County.

“They started teaching me about the Catholic Church, and about how to have a personal connection with God,” said Evan. “I never saw the Catholic Church as supporting a personal relationship with God. But when you look at it, confession, baptism, the Eucharist—they’re all about you and God.”

Before long, Evan started going to RCIA at All Saints Parish in Dearborn County, with his best friend serving as his sponsor.

“I wanted to learn more, and Father [Jonathan] Meyer rocked it,” Evan said.

Evan said participating in RCIA and becoming Catholic “changed my life forever.”

“My baptism to me personally was me being born again in the most spiritual way possible,” he explained of the first of three sacraments of initiation he received at All Saints Church during the Easter Vigil on April 4. “It was like a breath of fresh air. It felt like anything I ever worried about was gone. I buried my face in my towel when I got back to the pew. It was so emotional.”

As for the best friend who was with him throughout the journey, they’ve been dating for a year now.

“Holly [Lattire] was a big inspiration,” Evan admits. “But I didn’t join the Church for her.

“I learned that God has to be at the center of your life. He wants you to experience the life he has planned for you, because he has so many great things planned.

“I’m a new person. Being Catholic is my entire life now.”

93-year-old learns it’s never too late for baptism

In July of 2014, John T. Newlin lost his wife of 72 years.

“We had a perfect marriage,” said Newlin. “Marjorie had been a good mother and a wonderful wife.”

She had also been a good Catholic, he said.

Newlin, whose parents were not churchgoers, supported his wife’s faith.

“We raised our children Catholic,” he said. “I was a scout master at St. Patrick [Parish in Terre Haute].

“I didn’t go [with them to church] on a regular basis, but I would go on holidays or if we were on vacation. Marjorie, bless her heart, never got on me to join.”

But after Marjorie died last year, Newlin decided to enroll in RCIA at St. Patrick.

“I felt like I would be better if I joined,” he said. “I felt like it was something I probably needed. I didn’t want to lose connection with the only Church I’d known all through my whole married life.”

Professing the Catholic faith was not a stretch for Newlin.

“The principles of the Church conform to the principles I’ve always had about trying to help other people and to not be selfish. That’s how we raised our children,” said the father of three and grandfather of five.

While Newlin had been to Mass before, he was struck by the Easter Vigil.

“I was impressed with the tradition it involved, and the dedication of everyone involved,” he said. “And I’ve been impressed with how welcoming they’ve been. It was a pleasure to see the joy of my friends and acquaintances that have been in the Church for so long.”

After 72 years of being exposed to Church teaching, the biggest change for Newlin was simply going to Mass every Sunday. His son, Tom, has been taking him, and even served as his sponsor.

The irony is not lost on Newlin.

“I never thought my own son would be my godfather,” he said.

A ‘feeling of community and friendship’

When Karen married Stephen West, a practicing Catholic, she never dreamed she would one day join him in his faith. A self-proclaimed “scientific-minded” obstetrician gynecologist, Karen was not sure God existed.

But when their son, Nicholas, had a relapse of leukemia at age 10 after a two-and-a-half year remission, Karen prayed.

“I started feeling like God was really present and really listening to my prayers,” she recalled. “Even after the chaplain came and said there was nothing [the doctors] could do, I prayed and felt calm, like everything would be OK.”

She also felt buoyed by the support she and her family received from the students, teachers and members of their parish, Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in Indianapolis, where the West’s children also attended grade school.

Nicholas did rebound, and the family of four took a trip to Italy to celebrate.

“We toured the Vatican,” Karen recalled. “It was overwhelming for me to see my children and husband and his parents with their faith, and I wanted that.”

Karen did attend Mass at Nativity with her family at times, saying she “always felt comfortable and welcomed there.” But she admitted there were times when she would claim to be too busy with work or too tired from being on call.

Then two things happened in the fall of 2014 that solidified her path to the Church. The first was an encounter with some Nativity parishioners at a wedding.

“They said, ‘We miss you,’ and this one guy said, ‘Just go to Mass,’ ” she recalled. “I had this feeling like, ‘I need to do this.’

“I listened to the guy and went to church. Father Pat [Doyle, pastor of Nativity Parish] said something in his sermon that grabbed me about needing to be baptized.”

By October, Karen was enrolled in RCIA at Nativity.

“Once I got involved, it just fit,” she said. “I just felt comfortable. There was a feeling of community and friendship and belonging.”

Karen, who is 50 and an obstetrician gynecologist at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis, said the Easter Vigil at Nativity Church on April 4, during which she was baptized, confirmed and received Holy Communion, was “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life.

“The whole service, the Scripture, going through the Litany of the Saints, hearing St. Raphael [her confirmation saint] mentioned—it really felt like God was right there,” she said.

During the course of the RCIA sessions, Karen said she changed.

“I’m not as worried about little things anymore,” she said. “I make time for church, I can give up control of patients to other doctors, I take time for myself and my spirituality. People have already commented at work that I seem like a different person.

“I’ve always witnessed Mass and the faith from a distance,” she added. “Partaking in it now is very special.”

‘I feel like a real member now’

Gilles Noumsi’s journey to the faith was gradual, spanning four decades and two continents.

Growing up in Cameroon in Africa, he was not one to frequent church.

“My mother passed away when I was pretty young, and my father was not a churchgoer,” he recalled. “My extended family were Catholic. I would go to Mass at Christmas and on Easter Day, but that was it.”

And that was fine with Noumsi, until his mid-20s.

“I started noticing that all the girls I was attracted to, they were very, very into the Church,” he said. “It felt like maybe God was telling me something. I decided maybe I need to look in that direction, and started going to Mass.”

Noumsi liked what he found there.

“I’ve been to different churches out of curiosity,” he said. “To me, the progression of the Catholic Mass compels me, the way it is conducted, and also the way the priest conveys the Gospel message.

“In other churches, I felt like the message was more about making you feel good about yourself. But here the message guides you toward understanding the Scripture and how to apply it toward your life.”

But the two years of classes it would take to become a Catholic in Cameroon?

“I wasn’t interested in doing that,” he said with a chuckle. “But I kept going to Mass.”

Eventually, the desire to be received into full communion of the Church and to receive the sacraments trumped the “lack of interest” in two years of study, and Noumsi started the course of study at his parish.

But before he could finish, he moved to New York City. Between working weekends and going to school, he had little time to go to Mass, let alone enroll in RCIA.

Again, just as he prepared to begin RCIA at a church in Harlem, life took him elsewhere, and he found himself with a new job in risk management in Indianapolis two years ago.

With his weekends free, Noumsi started attending Mass again, and enrolled in RCIA at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis last fall.

“St. Monica is a great community,” he said. “When I started coming here, I felt like I was home.”

Finally, after almost 20 years of wanting to partake of the sacraments, he was baptized, confirmed and received Communion on April 4 during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Monica.

“It was really emotional,” said Noumsi, 41, of the Mass and receiving the sacraments. “After Communion, I sat in the pew and I felt something. I just started crying. It’s hard for me to cry, but it happened. I felt that power.

“I used to come to Church but wasn’t [receiving] Communion, so I felt like I wasn’t really participating. Now I feel like a real member, really participating and understanding more about Jesus and the Catholic faith.”

Noumsi also enjoys worshipping in his native language at the French-speaking Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis, held the second Sunday of each month.

And there, in addition to receiving the sacraments, he has started doing something else he “always wanted to do.”

“I started singing in their Gospel choir,” he said with an exuberant smile. “There’s something about Gospel singing. I just feel a peace inside me.”

Wherever he worships, Noumsi feels he is home at last with the Catholic Church.

“I believe in the Catholic teaching,” he said. “I’m in the right place, and I hope God continues to guide me.” †

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