Friday, June 13, 2008

My testimony

My journey into the Catholic Church has been a very interesting but exciting journey. And although I am now in finally home, and in full communion with Rome, I feel that this journey is just starting. It is amazing to think, that God knows what He is going to do with us, even before we are born! And this is exactly how my story starts!

My dad and his family are Catholic and my mom and her family are Methodist. So when they got married, they couldn't find a church. Therefore, when I was born, we didn’t go to church. However, every Christmas Eve, my grandparents would take us to Mass. And throughout the rest of the year, we would either not go to church, or I would go with my friends, or family to a Baptist, Assembly of God, or Non-denominational Church.

When my mom was pregnant with me, my parents went with the rest of my dad’s side of the family to a lake (we get together every 5 years to celebrate my grandparent’s anniversary). While on this trip, the family priest (Father Heft) was talking to my dad. He asked my dad, “Are you ready to have your son?” “I am ready financially, but I just don’t know what I am going to do with him,” my dad said. Then, Father Heft said, “Don’t worry, God will know what to do with your son.”

Then when I was about 2 years old, my grandmother on my dad’s side was reading me a book. The book was about Jesus and His life. About half way through, I asked my grandma “Is there more than 1 God.” She was amazed that someone as young as I would even be capable of asking such a question.

Every Christmas Eve, when my grandparents would take us to Mass, the priest would always call the children around the alter for the homily. Well, one Christmas Eve, I went up and stood by the priest. And during the homily he was talk about the wine becoming Christ’s blood. After the homily, I went back to my seat and I asked my aunt if that was really Christ’s blood? And she sent me to my grandma, who was very surprised that someone my age would even think of that question. My grandmother has told me these stories and many more. And she always tells me that God is working on and in me. And He has been very busy even before I was born!

One day when I was about 6 years old, I went to church with my uncle (on my mom’s side) and there I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior! However, just a few short months later, I was scared of dying. My grandma (on my mom’s side) would always tell me about Jesus and Heaven, and that I don’t need to worry because everything is going to be perfect there! Well, when my grandma died, I was in the 5 grade and I turned my back on God and blamed Him for it.

The good news was I was not scared of dying anymore. Mostly because I knew that I would see my grandma again! But, I did still go through a tough time. I felt like God took my best friend. I went through a lot of depression during this time, and I even talked about killing myself. Even though I was too scared to actually go through it, I did talk about it.

All though I was going through this dark time in my life, I still wanted to go to church and find out more about this God, whom I hated. I would very rarely go, but when I did, I would go with my friends or family on my mom’s side. I went to all different types of churches. But still did not learn too much about the God whom I hated.

My freshman year of high school, I started to smoke pot, and drink beer. My best friends where doing it at the time, and I really looked up to them. So I figured, why not try it? I only smoked pot once or twice, and then realized that I did NOT want my 2 younger sisters smoking pot. So I quit. And by the grace of God, I never went back to it! But with the drinking, I was able to control that. I would only drink in the summer, but even then, it would be rare.

It was in my junior year of high school, that my woodshop teacher (Mr. Moreland) invited me to FCS (Fellowship of Christian Students). I started going every Friday morning. I went every week to learn about God, and to find that special something that I was missing in my life.

During the summer of my junior and senior year, I was asked to lead a group for the next year. I really wasn't ready to lead a group. I knew very little about Jesus and the Bible, and therefore I really didn't want to lead a group. I ended up giving in however, and helped lead a group with my friends.

Also during my senior year, I became the Student Body President of my high school. I would have to say that my senior year of high school was the most exciting time of my life (thus far)! My biggest goal as the Student Body President was to stand up and fight for what the students wanted and needed.

There was a lot that took place during my senior year of high school. But, the one thing I would say that changed my life was when I stood up and fought for 1 minute between classes. You see, usually, the president was somebody that just ran for that position so they could get into a certain school or get a certain scholarship. I however, ran for the students, and because I wanted them to know that I cared for them!

Our class schedule was a block schedule. This means that we would have 4 classes a day, for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Then in the middle of the year at the end of the semester we would change classes to 4 new classes. Between classes however, we would have 5 minutes, to go to our locker, get something to drink, talk with friends and get to class.

Well, my senior year, they took a minute away from between classes and put that minute into the classroom. It looked great on paper, but in reality it made the student body upset. And it actually took more time out of the classroom, because people would have to leave to go finish what they were doing.

This is where I stepped in. I ended up being the first Student Body President to stand up against the administration and fight for the student’s rights! I went to the school board and asked for our minute back, and gave a lot of facts and reasons of how important that 1 minute was. Well, long story short, we got our minute back! And it was the first time in school history, that the students respected student council! And because of that, I gained their trust.

Because I was able to gain their trust, they would listen to me and to what I had to say. (This is when God really grabbed hold of my heart)! Since I was the president I had to give speeches at assemblies. I gave many different speeches, and in every speech I gave, I made sure it had something to do with Jesus! I felt like God was truly using me as an evangelist to the students of West Carrollton High School.

I really had to give God all thanks and praises for me even becoming the Student Body President. It was something I wanted since I was a freshman, mostly because I wanted to give a speech at graduation. And not only did God grant me that, but He really did change my heart!

Also, since I was a freshman, my goal was to get into the US Naval Academy. And I remember applying the fall of my senior year to the Naval Academy and to some Christian schools. During this time, I started going to a Baptist Church every Sunday with my neighbor (who was the pastor). And I was baptized on March 13, 2005! It was great to have all of my family and friends there for this important day! But the thing that made it so great was that my neighbor, the one I knew my whole life was the one that baptized me!

But, I remember laying in bed the last night of spring break praying to God, “Do you want me to go into the military, or into the ministry? And just give me a clear sign.” The next day (Monday), I came home from school and got the mail. I got 2 letters in the mail; One being a rejection letter from the Naval Academy, and the other being a full tuition scholarship to Central Christian College of the Bible. I figured that was a clear sign for me! I then went up to my pastor and asked him, "What is it like to preach?" He then instead of telling me what it was like told me that he was going on vacation in a few weeks and wanted me to preach! From then on, I preached at least once a month. I also ended up taking over the youth ministry at the church, and after doing that for about 3, I also started helping out a Methodist youth group.

After graduation, I went to a community college in Dayton, OH for 1 year. While attending this school, I would frequently make trips to New Hope, KY and stay with my great aunt at the St. Martin de Porres Dominican Community (they had the biggest impact on my conversion)! While I was down there, I made many new friends right away! A lot of them where my age, and the thing that really won me over, was they knew more about Catholicism and the Baptist religion than I knew. They were able to answer every question I through at them, and they would answer right back.

I was actually a little upset with some of the answers I got back. Mostly because, I believed what they were saying (thanks to my grandma), but I didn’t want to admit it. Since I was going to a Baptist church, I was learning that the Catholic religion was wrong. But when I went down to KY, I would always come back on fire for God, and believing more and more of the Catholic faith! I found this happening more and more I would go down.

I remember them asking me, “Are you ready to become Catholic yet?” And I would always respond with, “No, I believe everything you have taught me, but I want to get married and become a preacher. So I definitely do NOT want to become a priest!”

Well, as a Baptist, I was taught to believe the Bible and only the Bible. So one day I get this cassette tape from my great aunt! It was the conversion story of Scott Hahn! I remember sitting in my car and listening to it. And after listening to Scott Hahn talk about John 6, I turned off my car, ran inside my house and grabbed a Bible. I read John 6, and was never the same. How could I believe that communion is just a symbol? Jesus Himself says it’s His body! That was the turning point for me!

In the summer, the community my aunt lives with, puts on a youth conference, called “Ignite Your Torch!” I ended up going, and WOW!!! IT WAS LIFE CHANGING!!! I met great friends there! But I would say more importantly, I was able to hang out with Br. Ignatius (studying for the priesthood in the Dominican Order). I would ask him every question possible. And not only was he able to answer all of my questions, but he also explained it in a way that a little child could understand.

After this conference I was really torn. My family wanted me to become Catholic, but my friends wanted me to stay Baptist. I really felt as if I was choosing between my family and friends (even though, they didn’t want it to seem like that). So I ended up asking pastor where I should go to school to become a preacher, and he said Liberty University.

I ended up meeting with Dr. Jerry Falwell, and told him, that I couldn’t afford LU, but I wanted to go into the ministry! He was generous enough to give me a scholarship to LU. After being at LU for just 3 months, I knew there was something missing. I knew I couldn't become a Baptist preacher, and preach something I didn't fully believe. This is when I started talking to my aunt who worked for the Richmond Diocese (Patrice Schwermer) and got into RCIA at Holy Cross.

It was great! I didn’t have the pressure of choosing my family or friends. I made this choice on my own! And it was/is the best choice I have ever made! I was received into the Catholic Church Easter of 2007. But the big miracle is that since then, I have been feeling the call to the priesthood!

Right now, I am still a student at Liberty, and taking advantage of what God has given me! There are Catholics here at Liberty, and I feel that it is my job to minister to them. We have created a facebook group and now are all in contact together. And the one thing I keep hearing from them is, “I thought I was the only Catholic at LU.”

The other ministry here at Liberty is apologetics! I am trying to be a witness to non-Catholics, to let them know that Catholicism is not bad. There are just misinterpretations that people have, and I am trying to clear some of that up. The one thing I keep telling myself is, “I am the Catholic Church at Liberty University! I represent over 1 BILLION people, so I better not screw up!”

There are many other ministries I take part in, and help out. And they are just as important! For example: 9 grade religious ed, Catholic Campus Ministry, and youth ministries. Although this is a very busy time in my life, and sometimes I feel like giving up, I know that my God is with me! And I am doing it for His glory, honor and praise!!!

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