The road to the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion can be as direct as Interstate 70 or as hilly and serpentine as some of the lettered highways in this diocese.
But for all catechumens and candidates who made that pilgrimage to the Cathedral of St. Joseph on the First Sunday of Lent, it was the last great milestone toward receiving the sacraments of initiation in their home parishes at the Easter Vigil or during the Easter Season.
Drawn to community
For Taylor Meyer and Jon Meyer of St. Andrew parish in Holts Summit, becoming Catholic can be summed up in one word: family.
Taylor, a 21-year-old catechumen, has felt the pull toward the Church since she was a little girl.
“Whenever I was little, I never really went to church,” she said. “I always wanted to go, but I never really had anyone to go with me.”
She began going to Mass as a way to get to know her boyfriend’s family better, but found herself gaining a deeper connection to others, as well.
“Once I started going to the Catholic Church, I saw how it kind of brings everyone together into a community,” she said. “That’s something I really like about the Catholic faith. And then my dad was baptized a Catholic, so that’s why he decided to do this with me, as well.”
Taylor’s father, Jon Meyer, said his daughter inspired him to get confirmed. He, too, is pleased with the closeness of the Holts Summit parish.
“St. Andrew’s, they all treat you like family,” he said.”
Though Jon and Taylor’s father-daughter faith formation is already one-of-a-kind, there’s yet another generation involved in their conversion story.
“The name that I’m choosing to be baptized under is Mary,” said Taylor. “That’s my grandma’s name. I was really close to her.”
She was Catholic, as well.
Truth to all generations
Samantha Brooks knows it’s somewhat unusual for a college student like her to embark on such a journey of faith, but she’s ready to stand out from the crowd.
“I feel like I’m going against the grain,” said Ms. Brooks, a catechumen at St. Vincent de Paul parish in Pettis County. “It feels good to be a part of something like this.”
She grew up without any faith affiliation and was never baptized.
She has felt drawn toward being Catholic through the example of her grandmother, Virginia Mary.
“I started getting closer with my Grandma and realized something was missing in my life,” she said.
This empty feeling was compounded by Ms. Brooks’ realization that her outlook on life was different from that of many of her student peers.
“Living for yourself never really felt right with me,” stated Ms. Brooks, who is studying conservation biology at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.
But as she strengthened her relationship with her grandmother and learned more about the Catholic faith, Ms. Brooks felt a deepening conviction.
“This is the truth,” she said, “This is definitely something I need to pursue.”
In the process, she has found a place to call home and a Church that shares her passions.
“I really like the community aspect of it,” she said. “I really like the fact that I already feel when I walk into Mass, I know a bunch of people there, and they say ‘hi’ to me.
“I love how into charity work the Catholic faith is, especially,” she added. “That’s something that’s always hit home with me, something that’s very important.”
Joshua McNeely is a graduate student in chemistry at the University of Missouri and a catechumen from Sacred Heart parish in Columbia.
While many catechumens take small, slow steps toward the Church over several years, Mr. McNeely started with a crash course on a mountaintop in a faraway country.
“The first time he went to Church was with me, in Indonesia,” stated Mr. McNeely’s wife, Catherine, who is a cradle Catholic and native of Jakarta, Indonesia.
“Stand up, sit down and kneel, sit down and bow — He didn’t know anything!” she recalled of that first Mass with him. “We brought him to go to some religious retreat in the mountains that he didn’t understand any of the language.”
“I just took the cues,” said Mr. McNeely.
Since that Indonesian Catholic immersion experience, he’s learned more through the RCIA, which put to rest his nervousness about religious education.
“Actually learning the practices, that came with RCIA at Sacred Heart,” said Mr. McNeely. “I was a little worried at first because I thought they only had the classes for the kids, and it was going to be like ‘Billy Madison.’”
He was referring to a 1990s comedy film about a man who must repeat all levels of grade school and high school.
“But I found out that the ‘A’ (in RCIA) meant ‘adult,’” said Mr. McNeely.
The couple’s relationship has grown over the past five years, from online friendship to international courtship to civil marriage.
Mr. McNeely looks forward to taking the next step toward growing closer to his wife in faith — getting their marriage convalidated in the Church and receiving the sacraments together.
“I wanted to join and be able to get the sacramental marriage,” he said.
His family is very happy for him.
“It’s an adjustment because they’re not as familiar with all the modern Catholic practices, but they are supportive of it.”
Ms. Schleicher is a free-lance writer and a member of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Sedalia.