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Every Day Catholic - May 2012

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Becoming Catholic: Chrysteile’s Journey
By: Jamie Taylor and Chrysteile Murphy

Come and see” is an invitation to our hearts like no other.

Imagine a stranger standing alongside a riverbank and extending this invitation. Would his words resonate in your heart and prompt you to action? Jesus spoke similar life-changing words like nobody else. During the early days of his earthly ministry, Jesus extended this invitation to his disciples. In Mark 1:17 he said to Simon and Andrew: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We are called through our Baptism to do the same — to be heralds of the glory of God.

Florida resident Chrysteile Murphy chose to act on such an invitation. In her own way, she is doing what Jesus asked each of us to do: to be a disciple. Five years ago she was a wanderer who had murmurings in her heart about God. They never went away.

Our faith journeys can be as unique as we are. This is how Chrysteile’s journey to the Catholic Church began.

Chrysteile’s parents grew up in the early 1960s, free spirits who felt their daughter should make up her own mind about God. In her quest to discover who God was, she explored many different faiths — those within the established churches of today and ancient one that had been practiced for centuries. None of them, however, answered her questions about God. Most left many questions unanswered or added to her confusion.

Chrysteile’s initial exposure to the Catholic faith wasn’t a positive one. An acquaintance had an ill-advised understanding of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the way Catholic Christians should live their lives. His concept of “you can do anything you want to and go to Confession” didn’t sit well with her. She was still filled with many questions — all of which would be answered when she walked through the doors of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Tampa, Fla., a 150-year-old church served by the Franciscans.

Chrysteile had a deep yearning to learn everything she could about God and Jesus Christ. As she began her journey, something about this beautiful church, the welcoming priests and loving parishioners drew her in. What she experienced at the parish was different from anything she’d ever been told about Christianity. Yet she craved more.

Dirty Hair/Clean Soul
One Sunday during Mass, it was announced that the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) would be starting soon. It was with sweet anticipation that Chrysteile came each week to hear the topic of discussion and be enriched by it.

The RCIA process at Sacred Heart was an awakening for Chrysteile. Her fellow candidates and catechumens were taken on a journey of the history of the Catholic Church, its origins  and the richness of the sacraments. At the Easter Vigil, Chrysteile experienced the greatest joy in her spiritual life: She was baptized.

Chrysteile can still remember the immense anticipation and, all at once, a great peace. The water was cold, but that didn’t matter. God’s redemptive love flowed over her and she was washed clean of sin.
“When Father George anointed us with the chrism oil, confirmed us and we were all sealed with the Holy Spirit, it was a humbling moment,” Chrysteile recalls. “No words can describe the emotions that assail you during this entire process.”

Chrysteile didn’t wash her hair for four days: The fragrance of the chrism oil was a reminder of this experience, and she held onto it as long as she could. Being a member of the Catholic Church was an important choice for Chrysteile. Her faith in God and Jesus Christ took root and flourished there.

“There is nothing like coming together as ‘one body in Christ’ at Mass on Sunday and to experience the great love that is the Eucharist,” she says.

After the RCIA process, Chrysteile began discerning whether to enter religious life. However, God had other plans for her. Soon after this experience, she met Ryan, her future husband.

‘Come and See’
Like other parishes across the country, there are service activities in Chrysteile’s parish. Currently, Chrysteile is a eucharistic minister, and a member of the Young Adults Group. She also helps lead the “Lost and Found Ministry” for feeding the homeless in the Tampa Bay area.

The priests at her parish always stress the importance of using one’s time and talents for bringing about the kingdom of God. Chrysteile loves to cook, and she has found a very special way to use this gift by helping to feed those who are hungry. Every other Saturday, a group of parishioners come together to prepare a hot meal for more than 150 people.

Through all of this, Chrysteile has found herself and discovered who she really is: a servant who was unexpectedly and extravagantly blessed by God. It started with accepting a simple invitation.

“Everything that God has promised to us is present in the Eucharist: God’s most precious gift,” Chrysteile says. “Coming to the Catholic Church and   this glorious faith has been the most humbling, rewarding and life-changing thing you could ever do for yourself.”

Chrysteile believes that, for those who are curious about the faith, if you are willing to open your heart, you will find what she has found in abundance.

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Imprimatur: Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Dec. 14, 2011

Jamie Taylor is a legal assistant and freelance writer who converted to Catholicism four years ago. Chrysteile is a clinical research recruiter and lives in Tampa Bay, Fla.

Making Connections

■ In what ways have you experienced a conversion?

How have you offered emotional support to somebody wrestling with a change of heart?

How can you be a welcoming presence to those who want to become Catholic?

Movie Moments

By: Frank Frost

Once upon a time, when a wandering mother and her daughter are blown into a rural French village by a “clever north wind,” we know things are about to change. This delightful fable is, on the surface, about the healing properties of chocolate. But underneath it is about openness, acceptance and community.

Even before the newcomer, Vianne (Juliette Binoche), opens her chocolate shop for business — during Lent — the town’s mayor, Count de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), comes to invite her to worship with the townsfolk at Mass. You’d think an invitation to join the community would be welcomed, but Vianne has a sense that, for the count, the invitation to come to church is more about control than welcoming arms.

The count declares Vianne an enemy of the good and seeks to turn the villagers against her. While many ostracize her, others accept her invitation to sample her chocolates, which reveal magical properties. They can restore intimacy, give courage and lead people to value freedom. Her shop becomes a sort of confessional in which oppressive secrets are revealed.

Vianne has a gift of listening and the intuition to offer just the remedy each one needs. In the process, she builds a community. But she, too, has a weakness that surfaces when river gypsies come into town and she experiences love.

In the end everyone finds transformation through acceptance of others. The moral is quite explicit in the young curate’s sermon at the movie’s end: “We can't go around measuring our goodness by what we resist and who we exclude. We’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create and who we include.”

Next time you watch Chocolat, ASK YOURSELF:

■ Which characters are most transformed in the movie? In what ways do they change?

At the beginning, what is the role of tradition, peer pressure and fear in community worship and moral behavior?

How does this differ at the end?

Putting Shoes on the Gospel

Dan Hawkins
By: Christopher Heffron

Change is hard. Changing jobs, changing homes, changing lanes: It can be stressful even for the stalwart. But changing religions is something that digs much deeper. Going from one faith to another, or transitioning from a skeptic to a believer is the type of change that stirs the soul.

Indiana resident Dan Hawkins, 62, has seen these changes up close for more than 20 years. A convert himself, Hawkins first became acquainted with RCIA when he was married in 1984. His formal conversion happened through classes with a small group, private sessions with a priest and then the full RCIA program. After his formal conversion was completed, however, a deeper one took root.

“During a particularly difficult year, the peace I found during Mass got me through the crisis,” he says. “The next year I started working with RCIA and explored the diaconate, which in turn took me to the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program. That conversion continues through my work with RCIA. Conversion is a journey, a process. It continues throughout one’s entire life.”
In working with catechumens, Hawkins walks them through the process in stages.

“I like to meet with them and discuss their background, goals and reasons for exploring Catholicism. We then progress through the four phases of RCIA” (Inquiry, Catechumenate, Enlightenment and Purifications and Mystagogy).

Hawkins’ work involves taking them through the ABCs of the Mass and the meaning of the Eucharist before delving into deeper theological issues. Always, though, he falls back on his own conversion experience when working with people.

“Sometimes, my experience as a convert surfaces in small things, like being aware of the words that might not be familiar to non-Catholics,” he says. “I recognize that, although we all want to become nearer to Christ, we start in different places and travel different paths. I try and show them the fullness of the Catholic faith without ever denigrating other faiths.”

To those who are curious about becoming Catholic, Hawkins invites them to sit in on an RCIA meeting — no strings attached.

“RCIA is not about pressuring anyone to join. It is a welcoming place populated by people who care about their religion and are thrilled to answer questions,” he says. “It is an opportunity to correct misinformation about Catholics that is ‘common knowledge’ in our society. It is a program that prepares willing participants intellectually, spiritually, liturgically and socially for entry into the Roman Catholic Church.”

Two decades of shepherding the curious into the church have provided Hawkins with many fond memories. So what are some of his most unforgettable moments?

“There are so many, from the ‘aha’ look when an explanation hits the mark to watching someone’s faith blossoming. But my favorite memory is one that happens every year. It’s standing off to the side during the Easter Vigil and watching the joy with which people experience the sacraments. These people were strangers just months before, but, at that moment, I’m as proud of them as if they were my own children.”

Passing On the Faith

All Are Welcome
By: Jeanne Hunt

Q. I want to join the Catholic Church. How do I begin the process?

A. Find a parish that seems friendly and comfortable. Next, make an appointment to see the pastor. Tell him your story and why you want to be Catholic. Be honest and tell the pastor about anything in your background that might be a problem (previous marriages, concerns about Catholic beliefs, etc.). Once you have made that initial contact, the pastor will guide you in the initiation process. You need to know up front, however, that this process takes at least a year and usually requires weekly meetings with others who are becoming Catholic.

Q. We are told to lead by example. How can my family be witnesses to the Catholic faith?

A. There is a saying that I love: “Do what you teach, or you are teaching something else.” What this means for practicing Catholics is that we need to take a serious look at how others see us. Rather than tell inactive family members or friends about where you worship and what it means to you, invite them to join you.
In other words: Wear your faith on the outside. Live Matthew 25 intentionally and make it a priority in your weekly schedule. Others will notice and want what you have.

Q. What can our parish do to welcome those who are curious about Catholicism?

A. Invest in a road sign that tells passersby what’s happening at the parish and announces that “All Are Welcome.” Have cards placed in the pews that a stranger can fill out and put in the collection basket, asking for more information about the parish and their interest in joining. Every Sunday before Mass, ask folks to say hello to those around them. These simple gestures of hospitality set the tone for reaching out to strangers.

The next step is to ask parishioners to contact those who they know who would like to be Catholic. Hold a parish open house so the pastoral staff can talk about being Catholic and what the parish is all about. Ask parishioners to come and bring their candidates with them.


An Open Door Prayer Service
By: Jeanne Hunt

Preparation: Assemble on a prayer table: small cards with the Scripture quote from Hebrews 12:1-2 on it, old keys, a Bible opened to Hebrews 12:1-2 and a lighted candle

Opening Hymn
“Come to Me” by David Haas

Heart of Jesus, let me be your welcoming presence. Give me the wisdom to understand the way to reach out to the disenfranchised and those hungry for faith. Amen.
Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-2

Leader: Who is waiting at the door? Who needs to be welcomed into our church? Whose seat is empty at our table?
Let us pray: Gracious God, help me to unlock the door of rejection, confusion or fear or anything that keeps those I know from entering your presence. Allow me to be your welcoming arms that beckon them in.

You are invited to come forward and take a copy of our Scripture and a key. You hold the key to inviting someone to come to faith. As you come forward, pick up the key and say his or her name. Keep that key in your pocket and pray for the means and grace to welcome your special soul to faith. Recite Hebrews 12:1-2 as often as you need encouragement. (When everyone has returned to their seats, say the blessing.)

Final Blessing
May God send us forth to be his welcoming heart, his compassionate ears and his loving arms, and may God bless us in the name …

Closing Hymn
“Come to Me” by David Haas

John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

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