The amazing story of the 13 becoming Catholic!

I was just asked to share my conversion story, and thought that it would be good to have it once and for all on a page by itself.  I share about it often, as it is when my LIFE truly began it's glorious journey each day in The Church.  What JOY fills my heart!

I was born the first born to my parents in Boston, Mass. while my dad was attending seminary to become a Protestant minister.  My sister, Martha, arrived 14 months later.  My dad was called to his first chuch in Antrim, NH - a Baptist Church.  While there my parents welcomed 3 more children.  Having a set of twin boys premature - they lost one after two days of life - Lincoln.  He is buried there in a small cemetary in New Hampshire.  My father was then called to a Presbyterian Church - First Pres in Flint, Michigan.  I started school, and we grew to be 7 children over the years.  My parents modeled for me openness to LIFE, although at the time they were kind of different among the Protestants.  My father started a part of his ministry which included working with alcoholics - doing his chalk talks at AA meetings and treatment.  My parents also traveled to Detroit and were baptized in the Holy Spirit and became Charismatic.  A prayer group grew up around them and other couples from the church, and at one point they prayed over me and the two sisters just under me by laying hands on us... I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues at about the age of 15 or so.  My faith took on a new depth, and I had a new closeness to Jesus in my life. 
My dad outside First Pres with his young family...  My family did something unusual in those years - they moved us out of the country and into the inner city of Flint.  This was a time of turmoil in our country with race riots just blocks away - we could see the fires and hear the sirens and rioting.  My parents felt that we should not be sheltered, but exposed to the reality of LIFE.  There were many experiences that came from this decision - good and not so good.  One thing that was very wonderful - Pat, my husband, says that we were spoiled - was that my grandfather had a cabin on Grand Traverse Bay, and we would spend most of the summer there and get out of the city.  When I was about 16 there was a family from the church... They had attended a Drive In movie, and were driving home late at night.  A drunk driver came the wrong way and hit them!  Both parents were killed and the 4 siblings were all in the car and hurt.  They all recovered, and their mother had said that she did not want to have her kids seperated.  It was hard for family to see taking in 4 more kids, but my dad told my mom that he felt the Holy Spirit was telling him that they should take in the 4!  We then went from 7 to 11, and it was a difficult time of blending the two families.

The new 4 fit right on the end of our family!  At one time my parents had two in 6th grade and one in every grade down through kindergarten!  Just as I graduated high school in the summer of 1969... my dad moved all 13 of us to Minneapolis.  He was still an ordained minister, but he was moving there to start a Chemical Dependency Unit at General Hospital.  He would go out to churches that needed a stand in minister on the weekends yet.  However, our search for a Charismatic prayer group to be a part of led us to the Cenacle Convent in Wayzata, a subburb of the Cities.  Charismatic sisters were the first religious sisters I had ever come to know.  I tagged along with my parents to these prayer groups many times as I worked a year before entering college, so that I could go cheaper to the U of M as a resident of the state.  I found a job at General Hospital taking the lab results around and taping them in the patient's charts throughout the hospital.  I went everywhere!  I got a good view of everything from the large wards filled with rows of beds along each wall and seperated by curtains.  And then I would go into the ICUs too!  Soon I started to think that I would like to be a nurse and that I should become a nurse's aide and check it out.  I discovered my call to nursing this way, and knew that I only wanted to work at General/Hennepin County Medical Center.

Our beautiful home in Minneapolis in Kenwood - it had 9 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and a ballroom on the 3rd floor!  The Lord certainly does shower us with wonderful blessings!
I then entered the U of M in the fall of 1970, and was pursuing nursing.  During welcome week I met a wonderful new friend from Marshall, MN - Marge Verly!  She was in dental hygeine, and I was in prenursing.  She lived in the dorm and I at home, but we became very close friends.  I even came for a weekend visit to her farm!  She was the middle of 10, so it was a very busy place!  Marge and I shocked our mothers by deciding that we would hitchhike out West the summer after our first year of college.  Everyone was for some crazy reason doing this then - Yes, it was the flowerchild days - hippy days.  I am not sure how we managed it, but we found a friend to drive us all the way.  How far did we get?  We ended up in a Christian Commune in Bolder, Colorado!  The first night there I was prayed over to stop smoking - I had been a pack a day smoker for that year of college - and I have not smoked since!  Our life there was very much like being a nun, I thought.  We wore long skirts, were seperated from the men, had chores, Bible study, and prayer.  "I think I want to be a nun."  I thought!

Margie's growing family - Marge is in the front in white. My husband, Pat, is being held by his dad... there were 3 more to come - up to 10 children!
At the same time that I was out in Colorado... my parents were attending a silent retreat called the Ignation Exercises at the Cenacle Convent.  The sisters had been telling us that they were praying for our conversion.  My mother had found a devotion to Mary years ago, and there is really no place to be except the Catholic Church when you LOVE His Mother!  She yearned to be Catholic, but truly was not very hopeful with my dad being a Protestant Minister.  My dad was reading Isaiah 55:1-2
Isaiah 55:1-2

New International Version (NIV)
Invitation to the Thirsty

55 “Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and you will delight in the richest of fare."
As he read this - the Holy Spirit told him that he should become Catholic!  Looking at it - these verses are very Eucharistic!  He asked my mom to walk out in the garden with him, and told her!  She was ready!  When I returned from Colorado they told me that they were converting along with the 8 youngest, but that the 3 older girls could decide on their own.  "I want to be a nun, so I want to be Catholic!" I said.  As it turned out all 13 of us took our First Communion at Christmas Midnight Mass at the Cenacle Convent 1971... This last Christmas we celebrated our 41st anniversary of being Catholic!  My dad was ordainded a deacon in the Catholic Church with the first deaconate group in the Twin Cities!  He does everything that he did as a Protestant minister - marries, buries, Baptizes, preaches, visits the sick - the only two things he can't do is concecrate the mass or hear confessions! 
New Catholics!!!  The 13 of us at our new place to get out of the City in the summer - "The Farm."  My parents bought an old building site in Wisconsin where we would go to get the farmhouse livable by plastering, painting, sanding the floors, putting in windows and a big garden!  It kept the kids busy and out of the influences of the inner city all summer!  I came back from Colorado and got into nursing school at a Catholic College - College of St Catherine in ST Paul, MN!  As a new Catholic, I attended daily mass around my classes.  I was also actively considering a call to religious LIFE - to become that nun I was thinking about.  I was being spiritually directed by a young sister at the Cenacle, and for J-term - the month of January I lived behind the cloister with the sisters and wrote a paper on religious life - as a convert, I really knew nothing about the vows and life of a sister.  Living with them for that month of Jan 1972 - I have this warm feeling of sitting in the chapel with the bright January sun streaming in the windows as an old Monsignor celebrated mass with us each day.  The glow of the LIGHT that came from Jesus on the altar each day in His Body and Blood - how I marveled and fell deeply and madly in LOVE with my True Church! 

The Cenacle chapel... Jesus touched me - I reached out and touched HIM each day!  So much LOVE and LIFE and LIGHT! 
One thing that has added to the marvelous aspect of this story... We joined the Church just as Vatican II was happening!  There was a huge upheaval in the Church with this largely misunderstood change to bring new LIFE into the Church.  As a result many left and became disillusioned.  To think that the Holy Spirit called us into the Church as we were swimming against the tide of many leaving makes it all that much more miraculous!  Not only that, but many were leaving religious orders as they through this huge misunderstanding got rid of habits and many of the beautiful deeply spiritual meaning of being a sister or brother.  I was in the midst of meeting with my young sister of the Cenacle, and she kept on encouraging me to consider married life.  One day she shocked me to the core - "By the way.  I am leaving religious life and getting married." she told me.  All I know is that from that point on... my call seemed to become dim and fade away.  I know now that I was called to marriage, but I still have that deep contemplative place within - that call daily and with every beat of my heart and every breath that I take to PRAYER!  Now with a daughter that is a contemplative Little Sister - I have been given the gift of sitting in a sun filled chapel of the Community of the Lamb with Jesus on the altar in the monstrance for hours of contemplative prayer - I can share in the glorious LIFE with Jesus, my True LOVE and his Bride, The Church! 

My dad baptizing our son, John, in 1989!  He has baptized all of our children, and married Pat and I in 1978! 
I love The Church with so much passion and JOY!  Each day is a gift in The Church!  The Saint for each day, the office of Prayers shared with my husband - morning and evening in the Magnificat - see  My years up at the farm in Wisconsin as a new Catholic were so much filled with the romance of sharing in the Truth as I read with great delight - Thomas A'Kempis and Thomas Merton!  I got into caligraphy and decopaged scripture or quotes of the Saints on wood or in a special book.  I communed with nature and found so much happiness in the simple life of "the farm."  We were away from TV and the distractions of life up there.  We never did have running water, so would get water from the pump and heat it up to clean up.  This was very interesting - the summer I did my student nurse internship at the hospital about 20 miles away and lived at the farm for the summer!  Truly the simple life! 

The farm...
Well, I feel like I need to continue on into Patrick Verly in my life, but maybe that should be saved for another page... One thing that I will say about this man, that God had chosen for me.  Before we met... he had told his sisters that he would only marry a Catholic.  They were shocked!  But I have grown to see, over these last 34 years of marriagge, what a determined person he is!  I see that his prayers for me could have been instrumental in our conversion!  I was certainly glad that I was Catholic when I finally met him/noticed him at Margie's wedding in 1977!  He was 3 years younger, so when I came to the farm during our first year of college - I didn't even know that he existed.  Six years later - it was a very different story!  Thank you, Patrick, for your prayers!  You too are a man that listens to the Spirit in our lives!  Your words to me - "The world needs LIGHTS!"  set the stage for these last amazing 34 years in The Church! 

The first time I "saw" Patrick Verly at his sister, Margie's, groom's dinner!  Wow!  But I will leave this for another day!

Michigan shortly after we got the 4 after the accident - Carol, the youngest, still has her cast from the accident injuries!

My dad a deacon in Colman, South Dakota - an hour from our door to their door for 3 years in farm country!  Such a wonderful gift!  Each day in YOUR CHURCH has been a gift, dearest Jesus! 

My dad baptizing our second - Nancy Anna - her Godmother, my sister Mary, has been dead for 27 years. She died of cancer at age 28 leaving behind her farmer husband and 20 month old daughter. 

Christmas card - just as we were coming into the Church! 

Christmas card the year I graduated from nursing school at St Catherines - after working 6 months at Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home - I did get my job at my beloved Hennipen County Medical Center as a neurology nurse! 

Reverend Robert Cross - First Presbyterian Church

A family baptism on Easter Sunday 1998! 

Audrey's Baptism the year before my sister, Mary, died.

Recoving at the farm from a sprained ankle I got at Margie's wedding during the dance - Pat called!!!

A month after Margie's wedding!

The farm then became THE FARM!

1 comment:

  1. Found your site "by accident" (with God, no such thing!) and love, love, love reading your story. God is SO good. Conversions, adoptions, more and more graces and blessings. Thank you for sharing. May God continue to bless all of you.