My journey here began believe it or not at a baseball game. For years I knew this family through baseball and for some reason wondered why they seemed so different than everyone else. A year ago I got my answer.
My sponsor's son plays baseball with my son and one day at a home game I saw her. I thought WOW she never comes I should go talk to her. As I began to walk towards her she was leaving, but later I found out something told her to turn around and come talk to me. We met up and started talking about random things. Towards the end of the conversation she explained to me that the following day was Holy Thursday and I should come with her. I agreed to go, I didn't know what told me to talk to her or why I agreed to go to Church with her, but I did.
Growing up as a Jehovah's Witness it was very different from anything I had ever experienced. She told me that Sunday she was going to Easter Mass and I should come to this wonderful little Church she attends in Upper Marlboro. I had recently been through the most traumatic time in my life and it was literally killing me. I was angry, sad, hurt and would ask God daily why I had been chosen to carry the black cloud of darkness for what seemed to be my entire life. Nothing had ever been simple.
Sunday came and I was not having a good day. Literally the world had crashed around me. I was standing on our front porch crying and I saw her car pull up. She began talking to me while I steady cried. She didn't ask any questions, she just kept talking. I asked her how you forgive someone when they have hurt you so bad it has consumed your entire life. She said Jesus forgives everyone regardless of their sin if you ask him so who are we not to forgive?
Then she had an enthronement in her home and Father White and Bishop Olivea were there. I had many questions. I made an appointment with Father White for the following Sunday and began meeting with him regularly. He gave me a Catechism book and told me he hoped I wouldn't be insulted because it was written at a 7th grade level. We made another appointment and I went on my way. At the following appointment I had so many sticky notes on my book that I think even Father White was afraid he hadn't scheduled enough time for me. This went on for awhile and then my husband began coming to my regular meetings with Father White.
I told him I wanted to get baptized, so he helped me start the process. My first task was to go before the Tribunal. After I did that my husband and I needed to re new our vows in the Church, so Father White agreed to perform the ceremony. Then I began weekly RCIA classes.
What started as a room full of strangers ended in a room full of 6 friends I now call family. We would talk, share stories, laugh and unfortunately for Vernon and Charlie they were often in a room with three women that either one or all of us was crying about something, which I can say was usually me.
It seemed as though as soon as I made the commitment to become baptized, when I didn't think my life could possibly get any worse, everything around me began to crumble. I didn't understand it. I asked my sponsor why if I was trying to become closer to God why would my life get harder. She explained to me that before Satan had my soul and since I had decided to make a change he now had to worry about pulling me back with him. The harder I fought the harder he pulled.
I got to the point where I began to question what I was doing. My life was already horrible did I really need the extra stress of it all. My mother a Jehovah's Witness would disown me if she knew; but I pushed myself using anything I could think of to get me to class so I could live a better life, but most of all a life with salvation. I fought harder and harder and I prayed so much I just knew Jesus was praying I would stop.
I prayed that Jesus would talk to me and tell me what I was doing was the right thing to do. One night at RCIA Father Foley was teaching us about confession and I was nominated to be the Father and he was the confessor. He began a fake confession about how he was asking for forgiveness because he hadn't spoken to his brother in seven years. I almost lost it. I couldn't believe of all the random examples he could have used he used that one. Although until this very moment I'm sure Father Foley had no idea what was racing through my head but I am the last of 8 children and one of my sisters and I had not spoken in 15 years. Although I for once showed no emotion to his words, my mind immediately went back to the words of my sponsor that Easter day. "Who are we not to forgive?"
A few days later I wrote my sister a long email explaining to her that Jesus forgave everyone regardless of their sin and who was I not to forgive her. I explained to her over email that I felt that turning my back on her was the same as turning my back on Christ and that this hate would be a barrier between Christ and I.
As the road to Easter Vigil drew close my desire to become baptized grew stronger and stronger. Many more tribulations happened but the less and less they pulled me down. I knew that what made this family seem so different was their love of God and desire to change the lives of everyone around them.
On the day of baptism I was uneasy. I wondered if I was really worthy of taking communion and really understanding that it was so much more than just bread and wine but truly was the body and blood of the one who gave his life for me. Was I the one who had walked in the shadow of this black cloud my entire life going to bring rain or sunshine to the ones among me today?
The thought of being washed clean and renew my soul from all prior sin was unfathomable to me. After the baptism we were all celebrating and I began to talk to this young man who I had noticed through many Mass attendance seemed to know every word being said. Week after week I would watch him recite quietly the words being said. I spoke to him and asked him if he planned on becoming a Priest, he said to me "Please pray for me".
People say Please pray for me or my prayers are with you, but most of the time they are only words that are said. At that moment I realized I was part of your family and my prayers matter.
As I stand here today I will tell you this journey was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but definitely the most rewarding. I now have a family in you. People whom I can ask to pray for me and my family and believe that you will, people who want me to pray for them and I will.
I hope that one day I can be somewhere as simple as a baseball game and change someones life as mine was.