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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Catholic parishes across the Diocese of Little Rock welcomed 583 new Catholics into the Church during Easter Vigil Masses Saturday, April 20, 2019. They participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process and fell into two groups: the elect and candidates. The elect had not been baptized or formed in the Christian faith and life. During the Easter Vigil, they were baptized, confirmed and receive their first Communion. Candidates were already baptized members of other Christian churches who wished to become Catholic. During the Easter Vigil, they made a profession of faith, were confirmed and received their first Communion. Nine of the new Catholics explained why they became Catholic in the April 20 issue of Arkansas Catholic. Read their stories here.
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. They were among the 544 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, March 31, 2018.
"I’m from Assembly of God. I grew up in a church, always in and out. I met a few people going to (University of Central Arkansas in Conway). When they said they were Catholic it kind of blew my mind. You hear all these things about Catholics and it’s not so good, ever. … They asked me one day if I ever considered becoming Catholic. I was like ‘No that’s never going to happen’ … (Catholic Campus Ministry Director and Deacon) Richard Papini, he opened up his door to me any time I needed him … It was just that first meeting at RCIA that confirmed I was going to do this. I’m still constantly praying if this is the right thing and I truly feel like it is for me.” — Abbigail Gonzales, Candidate, St. Joseph Church, Conway
“A few weeks after moving to the Little Rock area, my husband (a cradle Catholic) asked if we could enroll our daughter into pre-K in a Catholic school, and I thought it was a great idea. We had been looking for a church home for a few years; I was raised Presbyterian and he Catholic. And we were not finding that feeling of home anywhere we attended — that is until I came to Our Lady of the Holy Souls in Little Rock for a tour of the campus. Not even five minutes into my tour, I just knew it was home. We enrolled our daughter, my husband and I joined RCIA and before I had even attended the first meeting I knew that I would become Catholic. I knew I was on the right path.” — Samantha Minster, Candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church, Little Rock
“My family has been active in churches pretty much our whole life. But as I’ve gotten older and began to reflect on things, I began to want to know how Christianity as we practice it has evolved. What was the history, how did we form our beliefs and why are some of our traditions different even though our core beliefs as Christians are the same? My wife was born into a Catholic family, practiced Catholicism for many years … This is my third year to take RCIA classes. It looked like RCIA could answer many of my questions and after attending the classes I have decided I want the Church and its history to be part of me as I worship and live each day.” — Dr. Ron Kaler, Candidate, St. Mary Church, Hot Springs
“My wife and I have been married 35 years in June. She’s always been Catholic and I’ve attended her church. When I met my wife, we went to her church; our kids are Catholic. I retired in 2014. I just had a calling that I needed to step up to the plate to be part of a bigger and better picture to have a closer relationship with Jesus and the Lord. (God) is expecting more from me. He’s kept me alive through some bad times, he has protected me. … I can’t answer ‘Why now’ — it’s just one of those things, he spoke to me ... You could have knocked my wife over with a feather when I told her.” — Alfred “Al” Moore, Candidate, St. Peter the Fisherman Church, Mountain Home
“I grew up in a Christian family and never doubted the importance of my relationship with Christ. When I started dating my husband, one attraction I had to him was his devotion to God and his Church. During Lent of 2017, I started to feel God’s tug at my heart and began praying about becoming Catholic. For the next several months, I prayed about my decision to join the Church and talked with my husband and he was obviously supportive and excited. I’ve enjoyed furthering my faith journey and learning more about the Catholic Church through RCIA and I’m truly excited to fully celebrate Easter Vigil with my family.” — Rebecca Gaffigan, Candidate, St. Stephen Church, Bentonville
“I became a Christian in college, but I saw the sheer number of denominations, and it bothered me. I eventually became an ordained Protestant pastor, but this never stopped bothering me. I pastored churches in two other denominations, and each one had its own unique doctrines. It made no sense, so I finally decided to study the early Church. I told myself, ‘whoever the early Christians were, that’s who I’m going to be.’ I found that the early Church believed in the Real Presence, in apostolic succession, in the primacy of the Church in Rome, in Mary as the New Eve, and so much more. My first time at Mass was Palm Sunday of 2017, and I knew I was where I belong.” — Jeffrey Miller, Candidate, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. They were among the 585 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, April 15, 2017.
“My husband, Joe, and I were having church problems. The people were not living their lives the way they professed to in our Protestant church. We were in college in Moscow, Idaho, and a friend there invited us to some informal Catholic functions. The people and priest were very sweet and loving. I didn’t look into the Catholic faith much, though, until we moved to New Boston, Texas, and searched for a church. St. Mary Catholic Church was near our house. I visited it and it was beautiful. And my friend in Idaho mailed us some Lighthouse Media lectures. I started listening and studying and was intrigued. I was feeding this information to Joe and I kept talking about it. We moved to Texarkana, Ark., and we started RCIA at St. Edward on Feb. 11. The Eucharist is what drew me and is very important to me. We are excited about becoming Catholic.” — Arika Pratt, Candidate, St. Edward Church, Texarkana.
“I’ve always been interested in religious studies and religious history, but it wasn’t until I really started studying the history of Christianity that I decided to start looking into Catholicism. Once I did I basically never turned back. I felt like I should’ve been a lifelong Catholic now that I’ve studied Catholicism. Also I’m very impressed with the pope, he played a role in helping me convert. I believe just being inclusive, the way he has really acted in accordance with Matthew 25. I like the structure (of the Mass). To me Catholicism also brings accountability to my (spiritual) walk, and I find that helpful both personally and spiritually.” — Steve Harrelson, Candidate, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
“It’s kind of getting my husband to go into a church. We’ve been married 16 years come May. So it was like a 14-year battle of getting him into a church … so he finally picked and said, ‘I want to go to the Catholic Church,’ and I said, ‘OK we’ll go’ … I love the community here at St. Joe. It’s a really loving community. I actually had a lady come in the store and say, ‘I saw you at church, I know you’re joining at Easter.' She hugged me and it was like ‘Aww’ … I like that (the Mass and homily) are to the point … You can actually go and find it in a Bible, you can relate it to something. It’s not, ‘This is how we feel this Sunday.’” — Decloma Morrisey, Elect St. Joseph Church, Conway
“I was Muslim. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to leave Islam because it can be a dangerous thing. I was taken one night (when I lived in a different state). I really thought that death was coming for me. I was like, ‘God, if you help me get out of this, I know definitely this isn’t where you want me.’ I remember praying the rosary and there was such peace. I knew God wasn’t going to let them kill me. There were guys that came in there to hit me. The one guy that was causing all of the trouble was like: ‘Just let her go.’ That is how I knew, from that one night.” — Sarah Rodriguez, Elect, Holy Redeemer Church, El Dorado
“I grew up in the Baptist faith but began attending the Catholic Church when I started dating my wife, Kendra. We attended (marriage) preparation classes, and I knew we would raise our children as Catholics, but my work as a state trooper involves switching between day and night shifts, making it hard for me to attend RCIA classes. We celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary in April and our son Wesley is 2 years old. I knew I’d been putting it off too long, and although it was a struggle getting to RCIA, I made it my top priority.” — Eric Wold, Candidate, Christ the King Church, Fort Smith
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. They were among the nearly 670 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, March 26, 2016.
“I surrendered. I was a fervent atheist, a product of a communist Soviet regime and fought for more than half a century the mere idea of God’s existence. God employed logic and reason to irrevocably change my intellectual mind to the point where denying his existence became simply illogical and unreasonable. Then as an ethnic Jew I kept turning away from the love of the Son, Jesus. He used my wife (even without her knowledge) as a beacon and a gateway to him. I know not where this road leads, and I experience trepidation about my ability to meet Jesus’ expectations. I take courage in knowing that he is ever with me, and he will never leave me to face my perils alone.” — Dr. Dmitry Fomin, Elect, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
“My husband and I grew up as Protestants. Our son went to Catholic High and we became interested in the Catholic Church. For myself, I observed my dear friends and my aunt and I noticed their compassion toward others — that’s a testament to their Catholic faith. We attended Mass and received a blessing from Father and we knew Catholicism was for us.” — Karen Latch, Candidate, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
“When we went to the first Mass and walked out Karen said, ‘This is for me.’ We both knew that after going that is what we need to do … RCIA is great; it’s been wonderful for us and our spirituality, we’ve grown in that. Susan (David, RCIA coordinator) has been wonderful. We know we’re at the right place. I think our kids were a little surprised (we have three grown kids), but they were supportive. We’re thrilled about it.” — Mark Latch, Candidate, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
“In the last two years I've learned that becoming Catholic is not just a culture or a way of life, it's much more beyond that. Learning about God is something I hope everyone gets to do. I didn't know much about about God or the Bible, but when I started learning about him, I realized what I've been missing out on. Now I know so much every time I go to Mass and listen to the Scriptures. It just brings me joy. Knowing that Jesus sacrificed his life for where I'm at now is such a blessing. I now know that he will always be by my side through thick and thin. When I pray, I know he is listening and in my heart. Revelation 22:21 'The grace of the lord Jesus be with all.' Becoming Catholic is something I will always cherish every day. I admire it with all my heart and soul.” — Angelica Reconnu, 16, Elect, St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers
“The Holy Spirit has called me home. I started because I was asked by a friend of mine to go to his church and he was going to the Church of Christ in Harrison. I wasn’t doing it for Scripture study or anything; I was doing it for a friend … I always asked them questions and they said, ‘It’s best if you read the Bible at home’ … Nobody ever wanted to do Bible study and it frustrated me. Long story short, I just found St. Peter’s. I was raised in and out of the Catholic Church as a child in foster care. I was going through a very depressing time, and I decided I wanted to go to confession. At the Church of Christ confession is public and I didn’t want that. I googled Catholic churches and found Father Norbert (Rappold, pastor). I came in for a 20-minute session (of confession) and three hours later I was leaving. I went and sat in the church for a little while and said this is where I belong.” — Chyyna K. Lamar, Candidate, St. Peter the Fisherman Church, Mountain Home
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process. They were among the 579 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, April 4, 2015.
"I'd have to say there was a feeling that something was missing from our spiritual lives. We were both lifelong conservative evangelicals. As the years went by, we began to notice a definite movement away from what we considered biblical and theological truth. Then when studying history, we began to realize that the early Church, the original Church, was so very Catholic. At that point, it was the true beginning. As a couple, our decision to become Catholics was definitely mutual, but we came at it from different directions. Mine was a conviction from reading history. Sue's was from a set of experiences in visiting her sister in southern Louisiana, a very Catholic place. She realized how special and holy the faith really was," Charles Lewis said. "We are both very excited about our new life in the Church. Coming into the Church is not the end of our journey, but a new beginning. Neither of us has ever felt so close to the Lord. He is truly leading us by the hand," Sue Lewis said. — Johnnie "Sue" and Charles Lewis, Candidates, Christ the King Church, Little Rock
"My husband, Wade, grew up Catholic. When I met him he really wasn't going to church, but after college he started going back to church and started to get more involved. I never grew up going to church at all, so I was kind of separated from him doing that. The more I got involved going to Mass and doing things occasionally, I started to see there was some kind of emptiness inside of me that I couldn't explain. I started to realize it was a relationship with God that I was missing. I tried joining RCIA a couple of times, but we moved around so much it never worked out timing-wise. We came back to Little Rock last May and it felt like this was time to do it. Starting RCIA, I've become more sure what I'm doing is what I am supposed to be doing." — Lindsay Wolfenbarger, Elect, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church, Little Rock
"My reason for becoming a Catholic is to be part of an organization that promotes love, family, diversity and, most of all, a dedication for Christ to be first in all aspects of our lives. Over the years I have felt Christ calling me to be a part of something bigger and the first time I visited St. Vincent de Paul Church I felt the presence of God and a calling to be part of the parish. St. Vincent de Paul Parish does so much for the northwest Arkansas community: supporting those in need both spiritually and financially, as well as providing basic needs to those individuals that are less fortunate in life and need support in their rough spots. My commitment to God and St. Vincent de Paul Parish is to give back to the community and my parish as I continue my spiritual journey as a new Catholic leading a life that my God has ordained for me." — Joey Mixon, Candidate, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
"I am becoming Catholic because my wife and children are Catholic. I have two young daughters, my wife teaches Bible school at the church ... I felt I wanted continuity in my household; I wanted to be the religious head of household for my children and myself. It means a lot to my wife because she was raised Catholic ... We were married at St. Peter's in 1999. I was baptized Lutheran, but I've always attended the Catholic Church since we were married. I thought it was time we provided a united front as far as raising our children. I was interested in RCIA and finding a deeper truth in the Catholic faith through education. With the early Church beginnings and the tradition, it felt like it was the right choice for me. My kids love it. They're old enough to question, 'Dad why don't you go up to Communion?' I tried to explain it to them but if I expect them to be a member I should also be part of the Church." — Irvin DeAtley, Candidate, St. Peter the Fisherman Church, Mountain Home
"For years I had been going on and off to the Catholic Church with my husband, even before we were married. I felt as though I was just going through the motions and not really knowing why certain things were being done. Recently, I started attending RCIA. You could almost say that I was blind and now I see. This class has opened my eyes to a whole new world, a whole new Catholic world. One thing I find really intriguing is that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ. Also, all the questions I had, coming from a Protestant background, were answered without judgment and were followed up with supporting Scripture. I know that God has taken me from the darkness and shown me the light. I plan to continue to live my life in the light." — Casey Jones, Candidate, St. Edward Church, Texarkana
"I was born and raised Episcopalian. I married a Catholic; I'm just very comfortable in the Catholic Church. When you have a question, you have the history of the Church that can answer any question you have, it's not just one person making an opinion on it. The spiritual growth has been incredible through the RCIA program that I never expected it to be. I started doing it for my son who is 1 now, and it turned into a very personal journey that was kind of unexpected and kind of glorious. I'm looking forward to getting to participate more than anything. That's one of the things I was worried about because at the Episcopal church it's open communion. I was a little edgy about that at first, I wished the Catholic Church would have open Communion, but going through the class I understand the importance of it ... I look forward to being able to participate in the Eucharist. It's an incredible honor." — Siri Briggler, Candidate, St. Joseph Church, Conway
"(I am becoming Catholic) because it is answering a lot of my questions and doubts I have about Christianity. I have always been agnostic, leaning toward atheism because I did not understand. I am one of those people I have to understand to believe. I have been going to churches, and I did not understand. I am now understanding." — Joy Anderson, Elect, Blessed Sacrament Church, Jonesboro
"My journey to Catholicism began in 2003 when I was faced with the reality of a divorce. In 2004, I was introduced to a group of ladies at St. Scholastica Monastery who offered me support and spiritual guidance. I spent many lunch dates there praying, meditating and seeking God's direction in my journey. Whenever I ran across Deacon John Burns, he offered me a smile, a prayer and a hug with the sign of the cross on my back, giving me strength, courage and love. In 2008, my son, Lane, was born, and in recognizing that I'm responsible for my children's knowledge of God I knew immediately that my journey would take me to St. Boniface, where he attends school. I know that every day when I take him to school his day begins and ends in prayer. The staff of St. Boniface treats my son with loving care, discipline and a passion for teaching our children about Christ. Today I get the awesome experience of learning along with my son and of becoming a Catholic at the Easter Vigil Mass." — Suzanne White, Elect, St. Boniface Church, Fort Smith
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is the process for adults to enter the Catholic Church. They were among the estimated 510 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses in the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, April 19, 2014.
"My spiritual journey as a convert has been a very exciting and rewarding journey. I have had the opportunity to attend RCIA with both my husband and daughter and have had the opportunity to grow in faith with both of them. We have had the opportunity to learn from each other and have had many wonderful conversations about our faith and reasons for our journey. I am blessed to have the support of both family and friends during this wonderfully peaceful journey and am looking forward to a life full of faith and happiness." — JeanAnn Edwards, Elect, Christ the King Church, Fort Smith
"I always loved the beauty of the Catholic Church — the statues, imagery and the churches — but what pulled me in most is the history and longevity of the Church. Every church claims they began with Jesus, but there is always about 1,500 years missing in their history. When I began reading about the early Church and the Fathers of the Church, that's when I said, 'Here is the rest of my family. This is the family tree I have been looking for.' After reading more I realized there is a lot of truth I was missing out on and knowing the reasons we do certain things during Mass makes me feel more connected to the Church than I have ever felt. It is just beautiful. I love the Catholic Church." — Derik Hill, Candidate, St. Stephen Church, Bentonville
"I was introduced to the Catholic faith when I began attending Mass with my fiancé. As we continued to go and decided to get married I decided that it was time for me to officially join the faith. We wanted to get married and start our lives of the same faith. Throughout my time in the RCIA class I have had the opportunity to have questions answered and fully understand what I have always believed. I am extremely excited to join the faith on Easter." — Kyle Martin, Elect, Blessed Sacrament Church, Jonesboro
"I was taking an "Intro to Religion" class at the University of Central Arkansas, and we had to go to another church we didn't know anything about, and my roommate was Catholic. I said, 'Hey I'll go to Mass with you for this class, I really want to check it out.' I was really nervous about it, I didn't know what to expect having heard all the rumors I'd been told, that it was all about Mary. I walked in and I can't explain it, I felt at home. During the liturgy I didn't know any of the responses or understand it, but the Liturgy of the Eucharist got me. It was just a beautiful thing. I just felt something. I took that and ran with that. But I said I'm not going to jump into it because of emotional reasons — I'm going to study it and see if this is where God wants me to go. I studied it for a year before RCIA. I prayed the whole time, 'God, if this is where you want me, lead me home, but if not, lead me wherever it is.' I believe he led me home to the Catholic Church." — Branson Shaffer, St. Joseph Church, Conway
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is the process for adults to enter the Catholic Church. They were among the nearly 500 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses across the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, March 30, 2013. To see a complete list of those who entered the Church in Arkansas, read Arkansas Catholic.
"The Catholic Church gives us the opportunity to worship God through Jesus Christ in a more personal manner. We can experience the literal presence of Christ through the Eucharist and be in the face-to-face presence of Jesus through adoration. We are more aware of his loving influence in our day-to-day walk of faith. Since we have studied and come to know the truth about Catholicism we have found a deeper connection to Christ. We are discovering the multifaceted forms of prayer that are effective in our spiritual growth. The Church not only helps us in our spiritual growth but offers us a chance to put our faith into action." — David (candidate) and Brenda (elect) Perry, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
"My main reason for wanting to become Catholic is that I have been away from any Church for a really long time, and I had a strong desire to come back to Christ. I used to be really, really involved in my faith, but some time ago I went through some personal problems and found myself not in a good place. I felt judged in the church I came from, but I don't feel that anyone is looking down on me here in the Catholic Church. Another thing that stands out to me is how Catholics are not afraid to show their faith in public. Something as simple as saying a blessing before a meal, even in a restaurant, makes an impression. You shouldn't be ashamed to show your faith and to let people see you pray and I see that in the Catholics I know." — Charleen "Charlie" Van Nostrand, candidate, Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
"I was baptized Catholic but not raised in the Catholic Church, and I always had questions in the back of my mind of the difference between the Catholic Church and Protestant religions. When our children started attending Holy Souls School, Felicia and I asked if we could audit some RCIA classes just so we could understand what the kids would be learning. After four or five meetings, we started talking about how we thought we were being called to join the Church. I think what has been the most powerful for us is the opportunity to be in regular communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus. Learning about our new faith has definitely brought us closer together as a family." — Jef Shields, candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church, Little Rock (with wife, Felicia, and children Paxton, 9, and Rilan, 7, who also entered the Church)
"I was Methodist. I have tried megachurches where the pastors were personalities, and even an Internet church. Once a guest speaker, a priest from Ireland, said, 'You can't keep going from church to church because there is no perfect church.' That truth spoke to me. I visited Mass. When I saw the people praying, it was so authentic to me. RCIA — and a visiting friar — have guided me to study and find truth. For 22 years I had created a false reality in advertising and film making that was transactional. At St. Edward, the priest is more a shepherd of the flock guiding his people. As a Catholic, I have a family with unconditional love. I am starting to be deep in prayer." — John Vutech, candidate, St. Edward Church, Texarkana
"As a strictly raised Baptist attending the Presbyterian Church as an adult, the Catholic faith and Mass were not things with which I had any experience. So, when a friend invited me to visit her parish last year, I was curious and excited for the chance to attend. It was lovely. Soon after, I was moved to attend Mass by myself one evening at Christ the King. Nervous about sitting alone, I prayed in my car that Jesus would sit beside me. I think he did, and more than that, when Mass was over, with perfect clarity I heard in my heart, 'This is where you need to be.' I began attending Mass every week after that, as well as reading everything I could, and I joined the RCIA class last August. Every step I've taken on this path has reaffirmed God's love and direction for me. My road has been winding, but he hasn't lost me yet. It has been a joyful and incredibly blessed journey, and I have learned so much from all the teachers and leaders who have guided and walked with me, especially my wonderful sponsor. I am very much looking forward to my confirmation and being able to finally participate in the Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. I'm so grateful that God has led me to the Catholic Church, to this parish, and to the family and friends I've made here." — Kandace Floyd, candidate, Christ the King Church, Fort Smith
"The RCIA journey has given me a newfound faith and confidence about things that I cannot always see. The ongoing learning and practical life application have brought me closer to my family and close friends and reminded me of the importance of leading a faith-centered life. Balancing career, health, community, friends and the precious time with my beautiful loving wife and two baby girls is a constant challenge. RCIA has provided clarity and direction to what is truly most important. It has been a devoted period of reflection, prayer, instruction, discernment and formation to which I am truly blessed." — Taylor Smith, candidate, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
"Basically to have the right relationship with God. I was brought up in Protestant tradition and it's never been a complete, full relationship for me. I always felt like there was something lacking there. My biological father was anti-Catholic actually, and it had a lot of influence on me. As I got older and learned more, I think the Catholic faith is the proper approach to have a relationship with God. (Blessed Pope) John Paul had a very big influence on me when he was pope, Pope Benedict also. I've tried three or four times to go through the (RCIA) program and I've had employment conflicts, scheduling conflicts and this, that and the other. Fortunately, I'm in a situation where I'll be able to complete it and that's a blessing in itself." — Kent Noyes, candidate, St. Jude Church, Jacksonville
"When I was growing up, I really didn't have a connection to any kind of religion. When my children started attending Immaculate Conception School in North Little Rock, I noticed my youngest kept coming home saying her favorite classes were Mass and religion. That made me want to explore the faith and the more I've learned, the more I feel like this is the right place to be. I am happy to be on this journey and I am particularly excited about entering the Church together with my children." — Patricia Mobley, elect, Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
"I grew up in the Presbyterian faith of my parents. Something was missing. I explored other religions to no avail. My first clue there was something for me was when I met my future wife, Marti. She was Catholic. I occasionally went to Mass with her but not very often. It wasn't until after we were married in the Catholic Church and moved back to Fayetteville that I started attending Mass on a regular basis. I also started attending Bible study classes. The more I studied the Bible and understood the Catholic faith, it became obvious I needed to be a member of the Catholic Church. So, this Easter I will officially join the Catholic Church. And with a new pope, it will be an exciting journey indeed." — David Genge, candidate, St. Joseph Church, Fayetteville
"I desire to be a Catholic because I can no longer deny Christ's Body and Blood, which he offers to me each week at Mass. I hunger and thirst for the most intimate unity with him and unity with my fellow choir members, congregation members, Catholics throughout the world, my mom and son who have gone before me into heaven and the saints. My heart aches for this taste of eternity and for the forgiveness, strengthening and Communion (in every sense of the word) that it offers. Ultimately, I want to become Catholic because this is what Jesus is asking for me." — Hope Sharp, candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church, Little Rock
"I want to be a Catholic because I share the faith with my extended family. Four years ago, I married a Catholic and I started attending Mass with her and her whole family. That's how I first got interested. Ever since that time, I felt that God has been speaking to me and leading me to where I believe he wants me to be, a member of the Catholic Church and I believe that is where I belong." — Anthony Bartlett, candidate, Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is the process for adults to enter the Catholic Church. They were among the 560 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses across the Diocese of Little Rock on Holy Saturday, April 7, 2012. To see the complete list of those who entered the Church in Arkansas, read Arkansas Catholic.
"I started last fall to attend RCIA classes here at St. Vincent's. Luis and I are engaged to be married. When we started to discuss marriage, I wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith. We want to bring up the children in the faith too. When I met Luis, I was not involved in a church. I had never been baptized so coming into the Church is very important to me. I am looking forward to my baptism, and I want to continue to learn more about my faith in the future. Luis has been a big help as well as his family who are all Catholic too. His brother, Juan, is studying to be a priest and will be ordained in May. One thing I am excited about is that Luis and I will be able to take the sacraments together when we go to Mass in the future." — Bronzetta Parsons (with her fiancé Luis Manjarrez), elect, St. Vincent de Paul Church, Rogers
"My wife and I have been married for 37 years and she is a cradle Catholic. I've always supported the Catholic Church through her. As I traveled through the world as a military child and member, I saw all these other different religions that seemed to do OK for those people. Not too long ago I saw a nun telling a story. She was drawing a line on a blackboard. She mentioned that Catholic was the one religion that could be traced all the way down to the roots of Jesus. For me that was a wake-up light. What finally drew me back to Catholicism was that this was the one religion that dates back to the beginning of Christianity. I guess I had to travel the world and study until I figured out this was where I want to be." — Gregory Deen, candidate, St. Jude Church, Jacksonville
"I grew up in a Protestant home. My parents were missionaries in Japan. We were very devout. I was taught Catholics have it totally wrong and were not Christians with the exception of Martin Luther and the reformers, so I was very skeptical. While studying church history at Wheaton College Graduate School, we read an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. I was struck by the beauty and truth of his words. It opened my heart to delve deeper into what Catholicism is. I met my husband at Wheaton and he was asking the same questions … It's been an ongoing journey of discovering the beauty of the Church and having our questions answered. It is an exciting journey and an overwhelming sense of the grace of God to bring us to this point." — Maria Copas, candidate, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
"When my husband and I were engaged I read a book about Catholicism. It made me want to learn more. The RCIA process is a great platform for that. We want to raise our future children in the Catholic faith with both of us being their teachers. Having a stable, united household is a top priority." — Lauren Pianalto (with her husband Zac), elect, St. Edward Church, Texarkana
"I'm becoming Catholic because after attending the church for a couple of years. I've found a sense of acceptance from the community and involvement. Also I just felt like it was a more personal experience there because it's more ritualistic. I feel like I'm a deeper part of it because of that. Because that's what they did a long time ago, I feel I have a deeper connection with God and the Church." — Paul Jones, elect, St. Joseph Church, Conway
"There are probably as many reasons people choose to become Catholic as there are RCIA candidates; however, I think my situation is one which many can relate. It begins simply with my husband being Catholic. It has always been important to me that we attend church as a family, and I insisted we try lots of different churches. We found St. Boniface and both of us agreed for the first time in almost 10 years that we liked the same church. We were both thrilled, so I began the RCIA process and am very excited for Easter Sunday." — Darcy Wollscheid, candidate, St. Boniface Church, Fort Smith
"I was mainly drawn to the Catholic Church because it offered a sort of wholeness and completeness, an intellectual and emotional solid ground for my faith and my relationship with God which I had never had before. I always wanted to really love God and serve him, but I could never figure out how until I came to the Catholic Church. And, one and a half years later, I'm finally ready to come home." — Stephen Granderson, candidate, St. Mark Church, Monticello
"The reason I am becoming Catholic is relatively simple. I grew up with my mom's side of the family being Baptist, and my dad's side of the family being Catholic. I was brought up around both religions and attended both types of services many times as a kid. After I joined the Air Force in 1999, I decided that I wanted to go through the full confirmation process, but because of deployments, moving to new bases, returning back to college, I never really had the stability in one place to go through the full RCIA experience. Thankfully, I have had relative stability and two very supportive friends, Kenny and Dave, who have acted as my sponsors while I go through the confirmation process. Overall, I would say that I have always felt the calling to join the Catholic community; however, this year happened to be the time that God picked for me to be able to enjoy the full RCIA process to be confirmed in the Church." — Leonard "Lenny" Spigiel II, candidate, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock
"I decided to become a Catholic because I love and care about (my fiancé). If everything works out, we will be married here. I wanted to be married in the Catholic Church. When I came here for the first time, I felt welcome here. For the first time in my whole life, these people welcomed me into the Church. Her mom is Catholic and she had a big influence on me becoming a Catholic too. I went to her mom's church and I felt welcomed there also."
— John Jones, candidate, St. Jude the Apostle Church, Jacksonville
"I used to think that as long as I attended church with my family, it didn't really matter if I was Catholic or not. All it took was a little encouragement from Father (Gregory) Hart and the excitement of my husband and children to convince me that it did matter. I didn't want to be a bystander anymore. I wanted to participate fully and feel like a true member of the church family that I had grown to know so well." — Christy Pianalto, elect, St. Joseph Church, Tontitown
"We were part of a nondenominational church and sometimes the Lord just tells you your time there is done. That's how we felt, we were not sure of where we were going. We tried a couple of churches in the area and it just didn't feel right. We needed to get on our knees and pray about it and let the Lord lead us to where we needed to go … We just fell in love with the church and the people and the unity, the strength of the community there. That's what our hearts were searching for." — Marisa Mize, husband Mark Mize and 15-year-old daughter Celina Mize, candidates, St. Joseph Church, Conway
The following people participated in their parish's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which is the process for adults to enter the Catholic Church. They were among the 511 people who received the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist at Easter Vigil Masses across Arkansas on Holy Saturday, April 23, 2011.
"Daniel and I got engaged and he's Catholic. I wanted to be the same denomination as him when we got married, so that would be another thing we had in common. That's what it started out as. When I came here, I realized it was really good for me too. It's been good going through all this and learning more about the Church. I've been going to Mass with him ever since we've been dating. It feels right. It feels like the thing I need to do. He's not making me. This is my idea, and it's been good for me and for us. It's definitely brought us closer together and both of us closer to God." — Andrea Smith, candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Little Rock
"My husband was brought up Catholic. I saw how devout he was in his religion and how he stayed true to it. I've been to various Baptist and Methodist churches and just didn't feel like I'd found my religion. I've been going to church where I found my religion, because it is something that doesn't fall through and doesn't change. It is the religion and any other religion has broken off from this. It is the faith that I see at church and through other Catholics. It is nonfaltering and sincere. You're being held accountable for your actions here on earth and you live your life to get to heaven and be more God-like. You're not just saved. You're continuing on to be a better person and make it to heaven. My daughter, Jordan, is doing this with me, and another daughter is making her confirmation and first Communion. We're all celebrating. For all three of us to do this, it is a real special time." — Kelly Simmons, candidate, Our Lady of the Holy Souls, Little Rock
"A lot of my family was Catholic when I was growing up, so I always had an interest in the Catholic Church. I started watching EWTN and reading people like Scott Hahn. Just all of it together, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to do it. It was an intellectual curiosity at first, and then I felt I was led by the Spirit to do it. My next door neighbor is a Catholic and a member of Immaculate Conception.
He suggested that I come to the RCIA classes. At the time, I wasn't committed yet, but I had an intellectual curiosity about it. I came up here and what Father (James) West told us made a lot of sense. He answered a lot of the questions that I had and it all started to fit together. My wife and I have been married 35 years and this has been something we could share together. It makes it incredibly special to do this with her." — Leslie Denison, candidate, Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
"It's kind of by accident. Leslie was the one who was interested in Catholicism. I didn't even know a Catholic until I went to college. Everybody I knew was Baptist and Methodist. Leslie and I have been married for 35 years, both raised Baptist and were practicing Methodists as adults. For him it was never a good fit. There were so many questions. He was the one who had all the questions and wanted to go to the classes. Leslie asked me to go. I said, 'Yea, I'll go with you, but I'm not going to convert.' I was resistant to it at first, only because it was foreign to me. As the months have gone on and the more in-depth we've gotten, the more it felt right to me. I feel comfort that I've come to this decision and I can share this with Leslie. I want to belong to the same church. It draws us closer together. It is very special that we can do this together." — Shelley Denison, candidate, Immaculate Conception Church, North Little Rock
"My intentions were to check it out and then work on converting (my husband Anthony) to becoming a Baptist.But the more I went to classes, the more I realized the teachings matched much of what I already believed, and the more I realized the Lord was not just calling my husband, but also calling me." — Joann Baca, candidate, St. Louis, Camden
"There are two main reasons that I chose to become Catholic. The first one would be that I married into a wonderful Catholic family. My wife was born and raised Catholic and I feel that it is extremely important for us to see eye-to-eye with our religious beliefs. The second one is simply that I needed the structure of the Catholic Church to help me stay strong in my faith. I have always been a Christian, but I found that as I got older I needed to be more accountable for my actions and the Catholic Church helps me to walk along the right path." — Buckley Blew, elect, St. Joseph, Fayetteville
"I was raised Baptist and didn't know (the whole picture) about Catholicism. I didn't know much about the saints or the rosary. I'd heard about Catholic weddings and always wanted to have one. When we got engaged, I came here with an open mind and an open heart. Now, my fiance, Wesley Northey, and I pray the rosary every night. While living in Zambia for five months, we worshipped at a Catholic church with (the locals). Maybe God was getting me ready for this. (My fiance) and I have had a great experience and we want to come back to RCIA next year." — Lauren Boozman, candidate, St. Joseph, Fayetteville
"I had romanticized feelings about the Catholic religion. It was something I could share with (my father, who died when I was 8). I read as much as I could. I was in love with the Virgin Mary and I wanted a rosary. ... I became Anglican, as close to Catholicism as possible and my son was baptized Anglican. ... I married a Roman Catholic and when our daughter was born and christened, I realized she was going to be Catholic just like that ... and why didn't our family match? My son and I have been attending RCIA classes and at the Easter Vigil, we will make first Communion together." — Maryeileen Hutchcraft, candidate, St. Joseph, Fayetteville
"I grew up attending an Assembly of God church and didn't attend church regularly during my first marriage. When I married Melvin, a lifelong Catholic, we tried to find a church where we both felt at home. He wasn't happy at different churches, and I knew that we both needed to be happy. After moving from Natchitoches, La., to Van Buren, we began attending Immaculate Conception Church. I started understanding Catholicism more, and it felt right. I received an annulment and joined RCIA. My oldest daughter, Leslie, had become a Catholic when she married three years ago. She and my mother-in-law, Mary, are my biggest support system, and she is encouraging my other children to become Catholic too." — Liz Moreau, candidate, Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith
"It really started when Connor (my 10-year-old son) received his first Communion here at St. Vincent's last year. When his dad and I walked up with him for his first Communion, I had to cross my hands and not receive holy Communion. It hit me then that I wanted to share this with him." After her first RCIA class last fall, Connor asked Austin if she was becoming a Catholic. She replied, "Yes, I want to share this journey with you." Connor said, "I'll teach you what you don't know." — Meredith Austin, candidate, St. Vincent de Paul, Rogers
"I always had a longing to become Catholic. My mother was raised Catholic, but left the Church when she married Dad. I was raised Presbyterian. I would occasionally visit the Catholic church with my mom's siblings and my friends, and I was really attracted to it. I love the sacredness of the Eucharist and worship. Worshiping in a Catholic church is like a prelude to heaven. I also admire and respect the Church's teaching on not giving in to worldly ideas and concepts. My mom was Agatha after St. Agatha (born Feb. 5), and Agatha will be my confirmation name in honor of my mom." — Betty Johnson, candidate, St. Edward, Texarkana