Student Stories: A Story of Conversion
I grew up in a loving Protestant family, raised by parents who modeled Christ’s love to my sisters and I daily, taught me to love Jesus and to value my relationship with him, all while surrounded by a supportive church community. My experience in the Protestant church has been great and was a major part in my faith formation and spiritual growth.
However, in the past year or two the Protestant church has not been fulfilling some of the longings and desires that have been forming in my heart. I am a religion major at Hope, with a focus in Theology and Church History. Through the wise and patient guidance of Dr. Jared Ortiz, I began to study the traditions and history of the faith, and I began to fall in love with the Saints and the ways of the early Church Fathers. My heart burned to encounter God in the ways that holy people like Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Augustine, and Saint Theresa of Avila experienced our Savior. I wanted, and needed, a faith community that valued the teachings and wisdom that is stored in the bountiful treasury of the Christian tradition.
Throughout this process I was meeting weekly with Carly McShane, who displayed the spirituality of the Catholic faith to me in a way that I had never encountered it before, and she showed me how much that Catholic Church valued the traditions and Saints that I had been falling in love with. The more I learned about the Catholic Church, through Carly’s patient answering of my sometimes aggressive and defensive questioning, and the further I journeyed into my studies in Christian theology, the more I felt myself drawn to the beauty of the Tradition of the Church. But I was still very apprehensive on the teaching of the Eucharist - representation or re-presentation? All of the beautiful Saints that I adored valued the Eucharist above all else, why couldn’t I? That question kept me up at night.
These thoughts and feelings all came to a head when I attended Adoration for a class assignment, assigned by a Protestant professor. I sat in the presence of our Savior, and asked Him to reveal Himself to me, if this truly was Him fully, bodily present, if this was the way He wanted me to seek and worship Him. As soon as that prayer left my heart silent tears began to fall down my face and continued for the rest of Adoration. The Lord was faithful and after two years of wrestling I was assured in what was right and true. Afterwards I stayed and explained to Carly what I had experienced, and we hugged, cried, and rejoiced together.
Since then my journey into the Church has been so supported and surrounded by love, especially from Carly, Dr. Ortiz, Fr. Nick, and fellow Hope Catholics, along with the many campus activities run by the Saint Benedict Institute. Spending a week with Benedictine monks on the trip to Saint Meinrad’s Archabbey solidified my love for the Tradition and teachings of the Catholic Church. I am so thankful for the wonderful community of Catholics that has taken root at Hope College, and I can’t wait to spend another year learning and growing in my faith, surrounded by my peers and incredible mentors.
- Abby Nickles, 20’