I was born into a non-church-attending Church of England family, but I was always encouraged to go to church regularly, to join in the activities and be part of it all. I attended the CofE school attached to the church when I was a young kid.
I drifted away as life took me elsewhere, but I always wanted to feel that I belonged. I never felt like anything but an outsider at my own church, even though everyone knew me there. Throughout my teens, I tried out many different churches - evangelical, Salvation Army, charismatic Pentecostal (in somebody’s front room :)), high church, low church … all interesting, none right for me. I even started thinking about Judaism.
I never stopped looking, really. I thought a lot about faith, I wanted to be able to say “I believe” and mean it. As a teenager, I visited a famous Catholic church in Manchester and went to Mass - I can’t even remember now why I was in Manchester that weekend, without my parents. The service had an impact on me, the incense, the Latin. It was mystical and beautiful.
I kept Catholicism in my mind. Through my 20s and 30s I attended the local Catholic church near my home a number of times. I sat at the back, I watched what went on. The church was always packed out with young families. I thought how good it was to see a full church - rare in the CofE. I liked it there.
In my late 30s and early 40s I probably would have made a commitment to Catholicism, had I not been with someone who was strongly opposed to the Catholic church (for no good reason). My life changed again when I turned 50. I wanted to go back to church, so remembering how I’d enjoyed going to the Catholic church, I tried an Anglo-Catholic parish in my home town. The services were full of ceremony, but the pews were empty and the priest said inappropriate things in his homily, in my view. So I stopped attending.
And then suddenly, last year, I just thought to myself “I really want to be Catholic, I want to belong to the church founded on Peter”. I started reading about the Ordinariate, it all looked a bit complicated. So I looked at the website of my nearest Catholic church. It was friendly and welcoming. I saw that the RCIA course was due to start the following week. I sent an email to the priest and received a lovely reply. I went to the first session - and I was on my way!
I couldn’t make all the sessions last Autumn, as we live in Italy part-time, so I had some meetings one-to-one with the priest to catch up. He has been wonderful, I can’t thank him enough for his understanding and compassion. After Christmas, I was able to attend every RCIA session, started attending other activities at the church and was made to feel so very welcome.
I was so happy to be received into the Catholic Church last month. Holy Week was a great experience. And now I feel that I belong.
I am now 56 and I wish I’d not wasted so many years. We are now back in Italy, but I’m attending Mass here in our little village and enjoying the difference! I know I’m at the beginning of my real faith journey, even though I’m definitely not at the beginning of my life - but at least I’m now on the right road. I feel I was always meant to be Catholic, and now I am.