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Posts Tagged ‘Methodist to Catholic’

The Miraculous Journey Home by Gail Buckley

In 12 Converts on 2015/04/17 at 12:00 AM

gail-presents-to-pope-1I was raised in the Methodist faith in a small town in North Carolina. The only Catholic Church in town was a block away from my house and a large brick home which served as a convent was just around the corner. I would often see the nuns, dressed in their habits, walking to the Catholic school which adjoined the church. Whenever I saw them, I felt a great sense of respect. I considered them to be very holy, although I knew nothing about the Catholic faith. When I was twelve years old, I heard our pastor state in a homily that in the “end days” most people would turn away from Jesus and become “worldly” — following the antichrist, who he explained was the devil. I don’t recall the devil being mentioned very often in our church and so this statement immediately got my attention. I was perplexed; I couldn’t imagine people turning away from Jesus and following the devil. This was very upsetting to me so I made a promise to God that I would never do that – no matter what everyone else did.  I pledged never to turn away from Him and certainly to never follow the antichrist! I obviously didn’t realize what it meant to become worldly and consequently just three years later at age fifteen, I was already headed in that direction. Gradually, Jesus was replaced by someone more important to me – myself.

Like most teenagers, I had become self-centered, materialistic, and absorbed in the ways of the world, i.e., worldly. It was when I was fifteen that a strong storm slammed the shores of the Outer Banks which was just an hour’s drive from us. It was reported that many houses that were on the beachfront were demolished by the high waves and strong winds and that nearby Jockey’s Ridge (the largest sand dune in the eastern United States) was littered with broken furniture and household items. I knew several families who owned property there and it so happened that the next day at school, one of those friends invited me to go with her family to their beach house the following weekend. They had gotten reports from others in the area that their house was not damaged due to the fact that it was further from the ocean but they wanted to go and check things out for themselves. I didn’t get many opportunities to spend much time at the beach and so it was with great excitement that I rushed home to ask permission that day. My mother reminded me that it was Mother’s Day weekend, but knowing how much this meant to me, she consented. It was to be the first Mother’s Day I had ever spent away from my mother and I knew that saddened her, but I was too excited to think about that; all I could think about was myself.

We decided to spend our last day at the beach, which was Mother’s Day, climbing Jockey’s Ridge and seeing for ourselves what was there. As we were trudging up the dune, our feet sinking deep into the soft sand, something shiny caught my eye. I picked it up, looked at it and although it had an inscription on it, it didn’t make any sense to me so I just put it in my pocket. It so happened that I had a new charm bracelet with very few charms on it yet, so I put this new “charm” on my bracelet even though I wasn’t sure just what it was. I’d never seen anything like it but I was intrigued by it. My mother later told me that she thought it was something Catholic, like a St. Christopher “charm”. (Many non-Catholics are only familiar with St. Christopher and/or St. Francis and then only by name).

I’ll fast forward now 30 years when I was 45 and at a point in my life when things were at their lowest. I was miserable even though we had just built a new house, thinking that might make me happy. It didn’t. I was finally realizing that material things weren’t the answer I was seeking. Unfortunately, I didn’t even realize I was seeking an answer or even what the question was. I just knew that nothing seemed to make me happy any more.

One night when I was at my lowest point, I fell on my knees and prayed for the first time in many years. It was a very short prayer. “Lord,” I said, “I can’t handle my life anymore; I want you to take over my life.” That was all I said and I went to bed.

The next morning, I awoke a brand new person. I couldn’t stop talking about Jesus. I was filled with love, peace, and joy. The first thing I did was look for my Bible. I wasn’t really familiar with the Bible, only picking it up occasionally to look for a certain verse to add in a sympathy card or some words of encouragement for a depressed friend. Unlike my Baptist cousins, I was never taught to memorize verses in Scripture nor did I ever attend a Bible study. However, it was truly the Holy Spirit Who led me to the Bible that day because I was supernaturally led to verses that spoke directly to my heart and explained what was happening to me.

The very first verse that He led me to was Ezekiel 36:26 where it says “A new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” When I read it, I started crying tears of joy, because I knew that He had done just that. I truly had a new heart.

Soon after leading me to Scripture, the Lord starting leading me to other books – lots of books. Again, this was all supernatural; no human being ever mentioned any of these books to me nor had I ever heard of any of them. The Lord just led me to them one by one over a short period of time. I went through these books like a starving person, devouring every word, yet I never realized that all the books I was reading were Catholic, until one day while reading “Miracles Do Happen” by Sr. Briege Mckenna, I came to a chapter where she was talking about something called a miraculous medal. I was thoroughly intrigued and determined to get myself one of these amazing medals. I remembered that there was a Catholic bookstore in Charlotte, so I looked it up in the telephone book and called the store, asking if they had these and then for directions to the store. After hanging up, I was standing in the middle of my bedroom and glanced over all the books I’d recently been reading, stacked high beside my bed. All of a sudden the thought came into my head, “All these books are Catholic!” Then out loud I said, “God, I can’t believe I never realized that these books were all about the Catholic Church. Are you trying to tell me something? Do you want me to become Catholic? If that’s what you want Lord, please make it very clear to me. Have someone say to me ‘Would you like to become Catholic?’and then I’ll know for sure that’s what you want.”

Twenty minutes later, I walked into the Catholic bookstore and then realized that I had no idea what a miraculous medal looked like or how to find it, so I stopped a woman walking by. “Excuse me” I said. “I’m not Catholic and I’m looking for something called a miraculous medal, could you help me?” “Oh,” she said, “Would you be interested in the RCIA?” “What? I….” but before I could even finish speaking she was already rushing off, saying “just a minute; wait right there!” I stood there wondering what in the world had just happened and what she was talking about. “Did she say ROTC?” I wondered. Then she reappeared, handing me a piece of paper saying, “Here’s Sister Barbara’s phone number, I’m sure that….” I interrupted, “Excuse me, but I have no idea what you’re talking about. What is the R…?” “Oh,” she said, “I’m sorry. What I’m trying to say is, would you like to become Catholic?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – just twenty minutes ago I had asked the Lord, if he wanted me to be Catholic, to have someone say those exact words to me! I couldn’t get home fast enough to call the number.  Sister Barbara answered and I told her why I was calling. “Wonderful,” she said, “We start classes tomorrow night.” “My goodness, Lord, we’re not going to waste any time, are we?” I said to myself. And so I became Catholic. The day I was confirmed was one of happiest days of my life. I felt like a new bride. I cried often: before, during and after my “journey home” – tears of absolute joy, of course.

Three years after entering the Church, I was on the phone talking to a friend about my conversion when I remembered finding that Catholic “charm” on the sand dune 33 years earlier. “Hold on a minute,” I said. “I think I still have that charm bracelet here in my jewelry box. I want to look and see what that was that I found that day when I was 15.” I opened my jewelry box and there it was. I returned to the phone, tears running down my face. “I can’t believe it,” I said to my friend, “It’s a Miraculous Medal.” And it truly is a miracle. I was only 15 and I had already forgotten my promise to God, never to leave Him and I was already following the Antichrist in my selfishness, my materialistic goals, following the ways of the world. I had even forsaken my mother on Mother’s Day to pursue my own selfish interests, but my heavenly Mother had not forsaken me. I believe God sent her on that Mother’s Day and that she has been with me throughout all these years, gently guiding me back to Him. It took 30 years and many wrong turns but thanks be to God, I’m finally home!

NOTE: Gail has been a speaker at several national Catholic conferences, a guest on EWTN’s Journey Home show with Marcus Grodi, and a featured guest on many Catholic radio shows including Catholic Answers Live, Ave Maria radio: Catholic Connection with Teresa Tomeo, Al Kresta Live and others. She has also been featured in Envoy and Lay Witness magazines In 2009, Gail was invited to the Vatican for a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

In addition to overseeing CSS, Gail also serves on the board of directors of Catholics United for the Faith (CUF) as well as the Steering Committee of the Catholic Leadership Conference and the Board of Reference of PureHope, a division of the National Coalition for Protection of Children and Families.  In 2010, at the request of Saint Benedict Press, Gail compiled and edited a new Catholic study Bible which is currently in its second printing and is being sold in both Catholic and secular bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Gail authored several of the 76 supplemental pages that she added to a Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition of the Bible, making this the first Bible of this kind in this particular version which includes both the New and Old Testaments. In 2011,  Gail became the host of the national radio show, “The Bible Lady”, which airs live every Monday at 12 noon ET on Radio Maria, the world’s largest Catholic radio network which covers 62 countries. Listeners can also hear the show live on the Internet at radiomaria.us

The Power of Example: Lynn Efird’s Faith Journey

In 12 Converts on 2014/12/26 at 12:00 AM

Until Easter 2010, I was a Methodist. My parents were two of the twelve people who started Providence United Methodist Church here in Charlotte and I grew up there – always going to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and later I was active in the Methodist Youth Fellowship. My husband, George, joined Providence when we were married and we raised both of our sons in the church. Through the years, we were very involved in PUMC and I was fortunate to participate in many of the ministries and committees. I was very happy there, and PUMC was a significant part of my life for nearly 30 years. We moved to Lake Norman in 1998 and, although it was hard to leave PUMC, we joined Davidson United Methodist Church and soon I became very involved there as well.

For several reasons, in 2005, George and I decided to move back to Charlotte and again it was hard to leave “my church”. Of course, Providence Methodist was the first place I visited, but after so many years of being away, it seemed different. I didn’t feel a connection and began visiting other churches. Nothing seemed to feel “right” and I visited church after church for a long time. After a while, I ran out of places to try – never even considered visiting a Catholic church. Growing up in Charlotte, I really wasn’t exposed to Catholicism other than the few times when the youth group at PUMC would share in projects with the kids at St. Gabriel’s across the street. As my faith has always been so important to me, I felt lost without a church home, and after months of feeling nothing in a church here, I stopped going. I didn’t even go on Easter as I felt I had nowhere to go. That was very difficult and, although I continued reading the Bible, etc., there was a spiritual emptiness.

My next-door neighbor, a cradle Catholic, and I had become close friends. She often shared her faith and her spirituality with me in a very special and personal way. Feeling particularly depressed on a Friday late in March of 2008, my friend asked me to have lunch, which I did. She listened as I said over and over, “I wish I had what you do”. We had talked a long time, and it was beginning to get late. As we were leaving, she asked me to “go somewhere with her”. I agreed not knowing exactly where we were going when she said she was taking me to Adoration. I had no idea what Adoration was. We were in separate cars and on the way to St. Matthew at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon (!), and as she was driving, she called friends asking them to pray for me at that moment. My friend led me into the church and she immediately knelt, and told me later that she said, “I brought her here. Now she’s Yours.” As I write this, the incredible emotions come back – the feeling I had when I first saw the Blessed Sacrament. I once read, “When life is more than you can stand, kneel.” Life itself was not more than I could stand, but the fact that I had no church home and no spiritual family, came close. I knelt. Tears came, I truly knew Jesus was there, in that room, and I felt He was there just for me. We stayed almost 2 hours.

Throughout the years at the Methodist church, especially at retreats and mission projects in Appalachia, etc., I had “mountain top experiences” – those warm and fuzzy times when you feel especially close to God, times when you know you are exactly where you should be, and times when you really know He’s there. I will always be grateful to Him for giving me those opportunities to serve, and to love Him at both Methodist Churches.

On that Friday afternoon, I asked my friend if she would take me to Mass, and again, I had no idea what that was either. She and her husband took me to daily mass for several weeks. People were incredibly welcoming, helpful and supportive and I will always remember being invited to join Catholic Scripture Study that summer. When I said I could not because I was a Methodist, our facilitator, said it didn’t matter. Come anyway.

I am now in my third year of CSS and it has meant so much, both in my faith journey as well as in enjoying beautiful friendships. Those people who prayed for me that Friday afternoon have become some of the most special people in my life.

Soon, I asked to visit on Sunday and my husband came also. We both signed up for RCIA right away. We saw too many blessings along the way during those months to list here, but I know in my heart that God led both of us in different ways to His Church.

This has been an incredible and life-changing journey for both of us. Last year, we renewed our vows for our 40th anniversary in the Chapel with Monsignor along with close friends and our family. Our marriage has changed and our lives have changed.

It feels strange to say I am a Catholic after so many active years in the Methodist church, but it feels right. I know it’s right.