The roads that lead people to the Catholic Church in these 38 counties are as colorful and varied as the kaleidoscopic windows in the Cathedral of St. Joseph.
People from throughout the Jefferson City diocese who are preparing to be received into the Church at Easter joined Bishop W. Shawn McKnight March 10 for the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
It was their last great milestone before receiving the sacraments of initiation in their home parishes at the Easter Vigil on April 20.
“It was a blessing”
The Rite of Election was an emotional milestone for George Johnson.
“I always felt like something was missing in my life growing up,” said Mr. Johnson, who lives in Columbia. “I think filling that void makes everything in my life feel like there was a reason behind it that led me to this point.”
He attended the ceremony with his fiancé, Taylor Edwards, who played an important role in helping him find his way to the Catholic faith.
As they dated, Mr. Johnson would attend Mass with his fiancé’s family at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Columbia.
At first, he found Mass to be “nerve-racking” as he tried to learn the responses and when to kneel.
Ms. Edwards patiently tutored him, and he was soon looking for more information.
“I made it apparent (to him) from the very beginning that my faith was very important,” said Ms. Edwards. “He welcomed that with open arms. And it turned out that it was something, at that moment, that he needed.
“It’s something that I think brought us together even closer,” she said. “It was a blessing.”
The coming year promises many big moments for the couple.
They look forward to Mr. Johnson becoming Catholic this spring. Shortly after that, he plans to graduate with his exercise science degree from William Woods University.
Next May, they plan to be married in Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
Mr. Johnson said he’s eager to build a life with wife-to-be and his new Catholic community.
“I’m excited to see where I can fit in at Our Lady of Lourdes,” he said.
Companions on the journey
For more than 20 years, Joan Kacvinsky has led people through the process of becoming Catholic.
Ms. Kacvinsky, a member St. Joseph parish in Salisbury, said she enjoys helping catechumens grow in their faith.
As a bonus, she gets to see her own faith grow.
She said lifelong Catholics often “take things for granted. But when we see it through the eyes of somebody who is learning, it’s just, wow.”
During the Rite of Election, Ms. Kacvinsky said she was impressed by how David Evans, her catechumen, was reciting the prayers without using a book or card.
“I thought, ‘He’s not holding anything. He better be praying,’” she said. “And he was!”
Mr. Evans, 57, said he has been wanting to become Catholic for years. He attends Mass and participates in a weekly Bible study.
“I figured it was my time to do it,” he said.
He looks forward to becoming part of the Catholic community at St. Joseph parish and at Mary Immaculate parish in Kirksville.
Ms. Kacvinsky said she believes Mr. Evans will make a great Catholic.
Once her role in helping the current group of catechumens and candidates is complete, Ms. Kacvinsky often feels mixed emotions.
“It’s joyful for them, but you know that the closeness that you’ve had is going to start dwindling,” she said. “It’s sort of like raising your kids. Eventually they leave home.”
Tabitha Strobel said her young daughter played an important role in helping her decision to become Catholic.
After Rayna, now 6, started attending preschool at St. Peter School in Fulton, Ms. Strobel said she was impressed by what the school was teaching.
“I really liked what I saw her coming home with,” she said.
Before long, she moved her two older children — Montana, 10, and Holden, 8 — to the school. She said the school and parish provided the welcoming environment that she needed after going through a divorce.
Now, she and her children are becoming Catholic together.
“We always do everything together, no matter what it is,” said Ms. Strobel. “So this has been a great experience to do it as a family.”
One step at a time
Kimberly Dixon, 14, said she had been warned that the stairs in the Cathedral of St. Joseph were marble and might be slippery.
That knowledge caused some anxiety during the Rite of Election.
“I was honestly scared that I would fall on my face!” she said.
But once the rite was complete — and she hadn’t fallen — she said it was a great experience.
“It was really great to see how many people come together to celebrate one religion,” she said. “I think that’s really cool.”
Kimberly became interested in Catholic Christianity once her mother returned to the faith after a prolonged absence.
They attend Mass at St. Peter Church in Fulton.
She said learning to be Catholic can be a challenge, but it’s getting easier.
“It was hard and frustrating at first but only because I didn’t understand all of it,” she said.
As she grows in her faith and knowledge, Kimberly is taking a conscientious approach to the sacraments ahead of her.
She knows that each sacrament is an important milestone, and she wants to make sure she is ready.
Whichever way she goes, “I know my family will support me,” she said.