June 2, 2023

New Catholic in Bloomington says Eucharist ‘healed my soul’

Father Pio hears the confession of a penitent in the film Padre Pio. (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

Olivia Smith, right, hugs her sponsor Lizz White in St. Paul Catholic Center after being received into the full communion of the Church during a special Mass on Feb. 8. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Olivia Smith admits she was in a “rough spot” a few years ago.

“My dad died my freshman year of high school,” recalls the 23-year-old. “I got into a series of horrible relationships and bad friendships. It got to the point I didn’t want to be alive. I was in a rough spot.”

Her mom suggested praying, and Smith took the advice to heart.

“I prayed that I would meet good friends and get myself in a good place,” says Smith, who at the time was a college junior at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Not long after, she met Lizz White, a Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) missionary ministering on the campus—and an answer to Smith’s prayer.

On Feb. 8, White served as her sponsor as Smith was received into the full communion of the Catholic Church at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington. (Related: Welcome, new Catholics)

Smith says her journey to the faith has been a healing process, and that “trading pain for peace and glory is everything.”

‘I was rescued’

Although she was baptized into the Baptist faith at the age of 10, Smith truly had a varied religious background.

“Both of my grandparents were non-denominational Christians, so I’d been to literally every church in Bloomington,” she says.

Every church except the Catholic ones, that is.

“My grandparents at one point told me to join any other church but the Catholic Church,” says Smith.

She had also dated a Protestant man who, along with his family, were “very against the Catholic Church.”

“I was always very stubborn, so I thought, ‘I’m going to really dive into this Church. There’s got to be a reason why people resist it.’ I find it to be where there’s the most truth, there’s the most resistance,” says Smith.

She “lived in limbo for a while,” probing deep questions about faith.

And then she crossed paths with White.

“The first thing that drew me into the [Catholic] faith was the kindness of Lizz,” Smith recalls. “I had never met anyone as loving as her. She would just show up for me. She walked beside me in really dark places in my life. She was really patient with me.”

White invited Smith to events at St. Paul Catholic Center in Bloomington, which ministers in a special way to the students of Indiana University.

“We went on outings, went camping,” she says. “Once she introduced me to her friends, I was like, ‘There’s something different about you guys.’ I realized the Holy Spirit was really in the Church.”

Smith became more involved with St. Paul Catholic Center and FOCUS. She participated in Bible studies, and she joined on mission trips to Lima, Peru, and San Jose, Costa Rica—where “the locals called me ‘happy Olivia,’ ” she says.

She started developing a relationship with Christ—but there was still a disconnect.

“I’d say the first year of my conversion, I had so much head knowledge—notecards on the Bible, listening to podcasts,” says Smith. “But it didn’t make its way into my heart.”

Then sitting in adoration one day, “I had a very tangible experience of love racing through my soul,” she recalls. “I was rescued. My heart was in a prison, and the Holy Spirit released that. I knew that the Eucharist was God, and that was enough.”

‘I felt my soul being healed’

Smith was welcomed into the full communion of the Church in a special Mass on Feb. 8. She received the three sacraments of initiation, including “conditional” baptism, since no records could be found of the baptism she received at the age of 10.

“It was so wonderful to be baptized,” she says. “This time I knew the significance of it and understood it beyond what I understood as a child.”

But receiving her first Eucharist was “the most beautiful thing,” says Smith.

“I actually felt it heal my soul. I felt the Holy Spirit in my soul. I felt I was in my deepest bond with the Lord, and I felt my soul being healed.

“That’s why I go to Mass every day. [Jesus] wants to heal us. Inviting Jesus into memories is the only way to heal that pain.”

As for a confirmation saint, Smith did not choose one—rather, one chose her.

After spending a night dealing with anxiety, she walked the next morning to St. Charles Borromeo Church in Bloomington, not far from where she lives. Sitting on a side table in the church was the Diary of St. Faustina Kowalska.

“It had never been there before,” says Smith.

“I opened it up and read about the time when the Lord took away all of her peace as a way to deepen her faith. It just humbled me and helped me. She’s helping me see the beauty in suffering. I’m losing my concept of self-sufficiency—just throw that out the window. God’s sufficiency is so much better.”

Smith is now working on her bachelor’s degree in elementary education through Western Governors University online. Although she still lives in Bloomington, she chose to get an online degree “so I could spend more time focusing on God.”

Much of that time has been spent involved with Encounter Ministries. This Catholic-based organization seeks “to teach, equip and activate disciples to demonstrate the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit in their sphere of influence,” according to its website.

She learned about the ministry through Collette Zumbrun—whom she calls “a friend and spiritual mother.”

“The way [Encounter Ministries] understands the Holy Spirit rocked my world,” Smith says enthusiastically.

“I see other charismatic Christians, and I admire them. But the structure the catechism provides with how to understand the Holy Spirit—that’s been really huge for me.

“When you get more anointed with the Holy Spirit, it can work you into higher forms of spirituality.”

Through the ministry, she now lives her life with the new understanding she’s learned of the phrase “thy kingdom come” in the Our Father.

“It’s finding the fire within me to be able to pass it on to others and let his kingdom come here.” †


Related story: Lawrenceburg family finds ‘continuity, fulfillment’ in journey to Catholic faith

Local site Links: