Seeing Catholicism through eyes of a new believer

Millie Ronkainen

Every Easter, thousands of people become Catholic. This is the official time for the Catholic Church to receive new members who have completed a period of formal instruction in Catholicism. This year at Saint Thomas, the Catholic church on campus, we are welcoming six new members. I was asked to serve as a sponsor, or mentor, for one of these people, a young lady named Chelsea.

Chelsea was raised Baptist, and she was first introduced to Catholicism in high school by her Catholic boyfriend. The more she heard about the faith,  the more she was interested in learning about it. Now, as a sophomore in college, she is preparing to make that faith her own. Like the other candidates for reception to the church, Chelsea has been attending classes about Catholicism. These classes provide instruction on church theology and traditions, introducing various aspects of Catholicism and the history behind them. I began attending these meetings with Chelsea in October.

I initially thought Chelsea was quiet and somewhat indifferent. After I had got to know her,  I realized she is passionate, outgoing and motivated, though calm and reserved on the surface. This makes her a strong and valuable woman. She is just and fair  but does not rush to judgment.

She is determined. If something does not work out for her,  she does not give up  but also does not lose her temper. She is eager to learn and try new things, especially in exploring Catholicism and experiencing various aspects of the faith. She is intuitive and nurturing towards others  and has a strong sense of loyalty and love for her family

I have watched her become active around Saint Thomas in various ways. Chelsea has been attending Mass not just on Sundays,  but during the week as well. She has been participating in prayer and adoration with the community and helps Erik, the student who serves as our unofficial janitor, clean the church building on Fridays. I see in Chelsea the heart of a servant, seeking to help others in love. Her purity of intention is beautiful.

Each candidate chooses a patron saint as their advocate or role model in heaven. Chelsea chose Saint Monica as her patron saint. There could not be a more perfect match. Saint Monica was patient, yet unrelenting in her prayers for her pagan husband and her wild son. Because of her holy persistence, both her husband and son eventually converted. Her son, Saint Augustine, became one of the early church fathers, writing documents on theology which are still heavily referenced in today’s church teaching. I see this same holy attitude of persistence and love in Chelsea.

Chelsea is an inspiration to me. Though I am unmistakably blessed to have been raised Catholic since birth, I think this makes me somewhat unappreciative of the beauty and wonder of my faith. Unlike Chelsea, I have always taken Catholicism for granted. Watching Chelsea excitedly encounter Catholicism in activities like confession and adoration has restored a sense of awe in my soul at the richness of my faith. Thank you, Chelsea, and welcome to the Catholic church.