June 2, 2023

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

The Langdon family prepare to receive the sacrament of confirmation during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg on April 8. They are, from left, Steven, Stephanie, Will, Maria, Julie and Alex. (Submitted photo by L.J. Stange)

The Langdon family prepare to receive the sacrament of confirmation during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg on April 8. They are, from left, Steven, Stephanie, Will, Maria, Julie and Alex. (Submitted photo by L.J. Stange)

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles -- see part two here -- chronicling the journey of two individuals and two families who were received into the full communion of the Church between Easter 2022 and the Easter Vigil on April 8. A second article appears here)

By Natalie Hoefer

LAWRENCEBURG—Alex, Julie, Marie and Will Langdon listened as their parents, Steve and Stephanie, delivered the news: They felt God was calling their family to become Catholic.

The only faith the children had practiced was Presbyterianism. It was Steve’s faith since birth, and Stephanie’s since the couple started dating before they were wed 28 years ago.

And the Langdon family didn’t just go to Presbyterian services. They were highly involved in the churches they belonged to—Steven had earned the role of elder, Stephanie was at their current church “at least four or five times a week,” and the four children were active in various ministries.

So, imagine the response of the siblings, then ages 12-19, when their parents told them a year ago they felt God was calling the family to the Catholic Church. Surprise? Confusion? Anger?

On the contrary.

“All of them affirmed that God was leading us down a new path,” Steve recalls.

All six of them reaffirmed that path when they shared about their journey with The Criterion one month after they were welcomed into the full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 8 at St. Lawrence Church in Lawrenceburg. (Related: Welcome, new Catholics)

The path to that Mass was “a gradual progression for about 18 years,” says Steve, a family doctor at St. Elizabeth Dearborn Hospital in Lawrenceburg.

He calls the journey from Presbyterianism to Catholicism one of continuity, like “walking in a corridor that was getting ever wider. And then walking through this threshold and looking around and seeing that God and the Church are so much bigger, and the opportunity of receiving God’s graces is so much more merciful, and he’s more gracious than I ever thought before.”

Seeing ‘a bigger view of the church’

That corridor started widening nearly 20 years ago when a friend of Steve’s “with a strong faith background” began doubting his beliefs.

Through that friendship and an effort to refocus his own faith life after the busyness of starting his medical career, “I started reading a lot, the Church fathers in particular,” says Steve. “And a slow incorporation of how they thought about things began to just trickle into my mind and life.”

That trickle increased through the years. Teaching church history to adults at his family’s church, Steve “began to see a bigger view of the Church than was held in Presbyterianism. I was learning to read Church history from Christ forward rather than the Reformation backward.”

Later, the loss of “a very godly man who had a significant impact on my life” helped him come to believe in the prayers of the communion of saints.

Ironically, another shift came as Steve prepared to become an elder in his church. When it came to professing a belief in “sola scriptura”—the idea that the Bible is the sole source of authority for Christian faith and practice—he told his pastor, “It’s just not something that I believe can exist. Ultimately, there needs to be a living authority.”

He was still nominated as an elder. Yet as he developed a friendship with the congregation’s new associate pastor, says Steve, “He realized my thinking was becoming more and more Catholic.”

But having extended family and “tons of friends” among the congregation kept the Langdons committed to their church. Steve says he and Stephanie decided, “Until God releases us from this, we will pursue this path.”

That release came in the winter and spring of 2022 when, among other signs, the couple’s associate pastor and friend told Steve, “It’s time for you to go.”

‘I felt like I could suddenly let go’

During those 18 years, Stephanie had been busy homeschooling their children using a classical education curriculum and creating “a liturgy of the home” that included Scripture and singing hymns.

Plus, their flexible schedule allowed time for Stephanie and the children to be active in church ministries.

“It was kind of our whole life for at least five years,” she says.

Meanwhile, Steve had been “shifting more,” asking if it was time for the family to start going to Mass and become Catholic.

“I was really, really dragging my feet because I was very invested in my church community, and our families [were] there as well,” says Stephanie. “So that was definitely, I think, holding him back to a certain extent, because we were walking this road together.”

Then her father became sick in 2016. As his health declined, she found it “very difficult to know how to pray.”

One night, she “was just led to look up the rosary online,” says Stephanie. She started praying the prayer, and “slowly that became more and more central for me in my day-to-day life,” even after her father died in 2018.

Another nudge came when their associate pastor and his family announced they were moving out of state. They were close friends of the Langdon family.

“I realized that God can sustain relationships outside of us always having to be together every week,” says Stephanie. “And so, I really felt like I suddenly could let go of having to be part of this church.”

The turning point came while the Langdons were vacationing in Florida a year ago. Rather than seek out a Presbyterian church, the couple chose to take their family to Mass.

“They were [playing] music that we had just sung at our service the week prior,” Stephanie recalls. “So, it just felt very natural. … It was a worship experience that I felt like just touched Steven’s and my hearts very deeply.”

That night, the couple told their children about their friends moving—and that they felt God was calling their own family to Catholicism.

Feeling ‘at home’ in the Catholic Church

“It took a while to sink in,” admits Maria, 18. “But once we started going to Mass, it felt more like, ‘This is where you’re supposed to be.’ ”

She says her faith “was shaped a lot” by reading works of Church fathers as part of their classical education, “so when we went to Mass and then we started talking about it more, it felt like things were coming together.”

Her siblings concur.

“I feel the whole history of the Church, with all the saints and everything, helped bring it in and feel more right,” says 13-year-old Alex.

Julie, 16, agrees, adding she finds it “very important that the Catholic Church was the early Church.”

Twenty-year-old Will recalls homeschool discussions about whether one must feel worshipful for their worship to be authentic. The way the Mass is structured, he says, “It doesn’t matter how you feel or that you’re worshiping in the ‘correct’ way.”

It’s a sense he says is enhanced by the universality of the Church.

“It’s neat to be able to visit different churches all over the city, all over the states and different countries, and know that you’re at home,” he says.

Maria believes that “at home” sense comes from the Eucharist being the center of the Mass, a way of worship she says “felt right, especially with the true presence and believing [that] if Jesus is truly there, then this is the most important thing.”

The siblings embraced their new path, including the saints. Each put deep thought into choosing their confirmation saint: Alex—St. Maximilian Kolbe, for his “selflessness” in “dying for another man;” Julie—St. Irene of Rome, because “she gives hope where there’s hopelessness;” Maria—St. Joseph, for his “his humility, his purity and his desire to bring souls to Jesus;” and Will—St. Thomas Aquinas as a nod to his classical education, saying his own journey to Catholicism “started there.”

The ‘huge help and blessing’ of friendship

Friendships have played a role in each of the Langdon’s faith journey, both as Presbyterians and as Catholics.

Alex was welcomed and encouraged by neighborhood friends who noticed him at Mass. Maria, an incoming sophomore at the University of Cincinnati (UC), says God “brought into my life some awesome people, especially through UC and [Catholic] campus ministry.” And Will will live his junior year at UC in one of the ministry’s men’s faith formation houses on campus.

Friendship also played a critical role for Steve and Stephanie in becoming members of their new parish.

“That very first time we walked into St. Lawrence, we had a young couple at the end of Mass introduce themselves in a way that they welcomed us,” Stephanie recalls. “They live in our neighborhood, and we’ve become very good friends with them. They sponsored two of our kids.

“I can’t stress enough how [impactful it was] having someone listen to us and then just be a familiar face when we walk through those doors, to say, ‘You aren’t a complete stranger here.’ That has been a huge help and blessing.”

And despite Stephanie’s earlier fear, the Langdons have maintained their Presbyterian friendships.

“We cannot emphasize enough our gratitude and affection for our friends and our family and pastors and shepherds in the past,” says Steve. “Sometimes there is a perception that [changing faiths] is a severing of ties. That is not how we see it at all.”

‘Called to be bridge builders’

In fact, the couple feel a call within their call to become Catholic.

“The thing that God made clearer and clearer to us is we feel called to be bridge builders between the Protestant and Catholic world,” Steve says.

“There is such a cultural divide in the way we speak about faith, in the language, that it can be confusing. … Our Christian worldviews [are] just tuned differently to see different things, to focus on different things.”

Take the importance of Mary in the Catholic tradition, for example.

“That’s the one that’s really been pressed the most in conversation” with her Presbyterian friends, says Stephanie.

“But what’s been neat is to be able to just gently articulate the beauty of her love. … There is something beautiful and welcoming in that [message] that I think has been a good conversation starter.”

As with his image of walking down a widening corridor into a great hall, Steve says in the transition from Presbyterianism to Catholicism there’s been “this great sense of continuity, not of discontinuity, not of pushing aside something.”

Through the foundation of faith passed on from family and pastors, says Steve, all he learned and experienced in becoming Catholic “never felt like a first time of anything—it feels like a fulfillment.” †


Related story: New Catholic in Bloomington says Eucharist ‘healed my soul’

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