December 4, 2022 Essay: After Years of Quiet Contemplation, I Was Welcomed to God’s Love
[On December 4 at the Solemn Mass, eighteen women and men will participate in the Rite of Welcome, the first Rite leading up to their baptism and/or reception into the Church. Here is a reflection from Jennifer Henriquez, who became Catholic at the 2022 Easter Vigil.]
In reflecting on my process to become Catholic, there are so many emotions that swell in my heart. I had felt the calling to seek a closer relationship with God in college and had even looked into the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) with my campus parish. Unfortunately, I never followed through with participating. I would find myself coming up with reasons why maybe later in life, it would make more sense for me.
Years passed, and life happened, including some very difficult losses of loved ones. Grief has been very complicated for me, and in my experience, grief is never linear. I often felt alone in it. However, praying at night before bed provided me with a quiet moment after a long and hectic day to just be, to sit with my thoughts and share them with God. In looking back over my journey, the one constant has been my faith, my relationship with God. It was and is the ever-present support, the warm embrace, the unconditional love that has never left my side throughout my life.
And so I thought, “Why not listen to that call in moving toward a closer relationship to God?”
What attracted me to the Catholic faith was the sense of home and peace I would feel whenever I sat in a church. I was raised to be what I like to call “culturally Catholic,” often taking part in rituals like always crossing myself when I left our house for the day or when I passed a Catholic church. However, I had never formally attended Mass or received any of the sacraments.
Going through the RCIA process was a beautiful experience beyond what I had expected. Our group would meet every week on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings for Solemn Mass. What started off as a group of strangers became a group of people I deeply care for and with whom I was able to relate in so many ways.
I find that we often feel alone when we are going through life’s challenges. However, in sharing with one another, we learn that we have more in common than we think. I believe that this commonality and mutual understanding couldn’t be a greater illustration of God’s love.
RCIA classes always recentered me ahead of a new week. They also helped me learn a lot about myself through reflection and hearing other peoples’ stories. I was able to be vulnerable (something I personally have found to be challenging) but was also uplifted. I always left class feeling such joy in my heart. There’s really no other way to describe it.
As an active member of the Parish, I enjoy attending Mass every week and participating in the Ignatian Young Adults ministry. This has become a second home, and I feel the love and support whenever I walk into the Church. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow as a member of the Parish community.
The experience of becoming Catholic really pushed me to reflect on myself and my faith, what it meant to be present, and an example of God’s love on this earth. I am so grateful and happy that I made the decision to finally go for it! It has changed my life forever in the best possible way, and I can only hope that it does the same for anyone else out there who has been hearing that voice whispering to come home to God’s love.
— Jennifer Henriquez, Parishioner & Ignatian Young Adults Ministry Member