Someone standing next to Amy Earl looked out from the cathedral sanctuary at all the catechumens who were stepping forward with their godparents during the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion.
“We’re not the only ones!” stated the man, who like Mrs. Earl is seeking initiation into the Roman Catholic Church through Baptism.
Mrs. Earl always believed she had gotten baptized as a child, but she had only been dedicated.
“I didn’t know there was a difference,” said Mrs. Earl, a member of this year’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class at Immaculate Conception parish in Jefferson City. “So I’m getting baptized, and so is my daughter! To share that moment with her is going to be really awesome.”
Mrs. Earl and her husband Jeff grew up near St. Louis and met as students at Southeastern Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.
They got married and moved to Jefferson City about eight years ago.
Their search for a pre-school for their daughter led them to Immaculate Conception School.
“We fell in love with Immaculate Conception,” said Mr. Earl, who is a candidate for full communion in the Church. “It’s been a great fit for our little girl. And I think that’s pretty much where it first started for me, looking into being Catholic.”
Mr. and Mrs. Earl both grew up in actively devout families.
Mr. Earl’s father, who died when Mr. Earl was 15, had been raised Catholic but joined another Christian community when he got married.
Mrs. Earl’s mother had been Catholic but decided to raise her children in a nondenominational Christian faith tradition.
“The majority of my family is Catholic,” she noted. “But Mom wanted us to choose the path we wanted to take.”
She remembers attending a Catholic funeral as a child.
“That really stood out to me, all of the rituals and ancient traditions, even though I had no clue what any of it meant,” she recalled. “I’ve always been fascinated with those kinds of things.”
The couple visited several churches in their search for a spiritual home after moving to Jefferson City.
“Mom was always reminding me about how we should go to church more,” Mr. Earl recalled. “With Mabry starting school, we started going to Catholic church more often.”
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was different from the kind of Sunday worship they were both accustomed to.
“But it’s the same in that it’s based on the teachings of the Bible,” said Mr. Earl. “A lot of the same stories from the Bible that I learned while growing up are the same as the ones Mabry is learning at school now.”
“Presence of God”
Mr. Earl began to appreciate the affection Catholics afford the Blessed Mother, the Apostles and the saints.
“Mary was much more than someone who was just there,” he said. “I love that the Catholic faith gives her that importance and respect that I think she deserves. She was a leader and had a lot of importance and guidance to give them. She being a very godly person herself helped the rest of them. The same with the saints.”
“We pray through Mary and the saints, to ask for their help,” he noted. “It’s great to know there are people out there who have done so much for Christianity and our faith and that they are still up there in heaven and are still around.”
The Earls are enjoying their communal pilgrimage toward initiation.
“You don’t just wake up one morning and say you’re Catholic,” Mr. Earl noted. “Over time, you learn to appreciate the process.”
This year’s RCIA class and team at Immaculate Conception have several young parents. Mrs. Earl has enjoyed talking to them about their experience of being or becoming Catholic with their families.
They believe it’s making their marriage and family stronger and solidifying their bonds with the community.
“What has really stuck with me is a realization that during the Eucharist, you are truly in the presence of God,” said Mr. Earl. “That is remarkable.”
“So much to learn”
Mrs. Earl has enjoyed hearing her mom reminisce about growing up Catholic.
“And being able to surround ourselves with people with same mindset — that has been really great,” she said. “We can have important discussions with people and know that we are all on the same page.”
“God put a lot of people in our lives — friends, folks at church — who have helped us,” Mr. Earl added. “It’s good to have those people in our lives. If God would continue to put those people in our lives, it would be phenomenal.”
Mabry is excited about getting baptized.
“She wants to get a big white dress for it,” said Mrs. Earl. “She also wants her friends to be there.”
Her grandparents enjoy hearing her share the prayers and Bible stories she’s learning at school.
They see that “the work she does in school is centered around Jesus and His teachings, and that’s going to continue throughout her education,” said Mr. Earl.
The couple requested prayers for wisdom and endurance to continue diving more deeply into the Church’s teachings and beliefs.
“There’s still so much to learn, so much to appreciate,” said Mr. Earl. “So pray for us to get more involved, not only with the Church but in our own relationships and seeking out the people who will help us be better Catholics, better people.”
In that way, they hope to lead others to Christ.
“Who can we bring with us next?” said Mr. Earl. “We’ve enjoyed this journey so much, maybe there are people we know who might be interested in it, too.”