June 9, 2023

New Catholic at St. Michael Parish in Charlestown finds ‘purpose in life’

Father Jeyaseelan Sengolraj, administrator of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown, baptizes Haley Cady during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Michael Church on April 8. (Submitted photos by Jennie Lathem)

Father Jeyaseelan Sengolraj, administrator of St. Michael Parish in Charlestown, baptizes Haley Cady during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Michael Church on April 8. (Submitted photos by Jennie Lathem)

By Natalie Hoefer

Haley Cady was in high school when the COVID-19 global pandemic caused schools to close its doors and move to an online format.

“It wasn’t working out for me,” says Cady, 19. “I didn’t talk to my friends. I left high school, and I just started watching videos online.”

They weren’t just any videos—they were videos about Christianity. Cady, an atheist, felt called to search for meaning in life.

“I looked at [other faiths] a little,” she says. “But once I found out about the Catholic faith, it didn’t make sense to look at others because they weren’t the one Christ founded.”

Her search led her to the Catholic faith and to St. Michael Parish in Charlestown. On April 8, she was welcomed into the full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass at St. Michael Church.

“I’m a very shy person,” Cady admits.

But God gave her the grace to start her search alone, and the blessing of help along the way.

‘I just knew I was home’

Cady says her virtual search did not last long before she found and believed in the Catholic faith.

“Everything about it made sense—it was the first time things made sense,” she says.

But Cady encountered some hurdles in her desire to become Catholic.

“I didn’t know anyone who was Catholic, and I wasn’t sure where to start,” she says. “I just knew this was what I was being called to do, so I would just have to figure it out somehow.”

She went to a Christian church close to her home for a while before she signed up for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Michael.

“Getting there was a challenge because I didn’t have my driver’s license,” says Cady. She gives credit to her parents who, despite their own lack of belief in God, faithfully drove her daughter to RCIA classes and Mass at the parish.

Cady admits to being nervous at first about worshipping at Mass, “especially the standing and kneeling.”

But, she adds, “I just knew I was home. … Everyone was just really nice. I didn’t have that at the church by my house.”

One person in particular helped Cady feel at home—St. Michael’s pastoral associate Jessica Sarver, who became Cady’s sponsor.

“The day we first met for coffee, I was expecting Haley to have a lot of questions,” she says. “Instead, she had already found the answers to most of her questions on her own. She knew she wanted to become Catholic and was willing to do whatever was required of her.”

Though it wasn’t required, Cady took Sarver’s suggestion of getting involved in the parish by helping with Sunday school for fourth- and fifth-grade students.

“I have one older brother, so I’ve never been around kids,” she says. “I always wanted a big family, so it was great to be there and help”—a volunteer effort she plans to continue now that she’s obtained her driver’s license.

But Cady also listened to the children’s lessons. There was “a little overlap” with what she was learning in RCIA, she says, “but most of what I heard was new.”

One important lesson she learned through RCIA was a better “understanding of human nature.”

“Why we are the way we are and why the world is how it is, is all the result of the fall,” says Cady. “There’s a reason why we’re here. That opened my eyes to the fact that there’s purpose in life.”

‘The rest of my life to learn and grow’

Cady’s desire to become Catholic was fulfilled during St. Michael’s Easter Vigil Mass on April 8, when she received the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist.

“I was really nervous, but trying not to let that get in the way of understanding what was actually happening,” she says.

What “actually happened” goes much deeper than the physical acts of receiving her sacraments of initiation.

“Becoming Catholic has changed me and how I am, my outlook on life,” she says. “Before I came to the faith, I had a hard time understanding what the purpose of life was, and whether there was any meaning in it.

“After entering into the faith, my whole outlook on the world changed. I’m now able to see the significance life has in a way I hadn’t before. Even more so on the individual level, that everyone was made for something, that they have their own vocation, and that we’re all part of a story bigger than ourselves.”

Cady admits she has “more room to grow in my faith. But with how much I’ve changed, I’m excited to see how much more I can change.”

And she’s excited about how much time she has to continue changing.

“I’m really grateful to start this journey so young,” Cady says. “When I was hearing peoples’ testimonies in RCIA, when they started, they were already married and had kids. It’s nice to start this journey now, so I have the rest of my life to learn and grow.”

In a bulletin piece introducing Cady to the parish prior to Easter weekend, she shared about her journey, including these closing lines:

“Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not the most outgoing of persons. I’m about as shy as a person can be, so this process hasn’t always been the easiest for me, which is why I am so grateful for everyone who has helped me on this journey. I don’t know how I could have done this without them.

“This process has changed me so much, it’s beyond words. It is truly by God’s grace that I am where I am today, and for that I’m eternally grateful.” †


Related story: Catholic schools serve as stepping stones to Catholicism for Indianapolis family of four

Local site Links: