New members of the Church reflect on the past year

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By Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick
Catholic News Service

Daniel Gruen smiles as he puts on an alb following his baptism during the 2017 Easter Vigil at St. Louis de Montfort Church in Sound Beach, N.Y. On average, over 100,000 people enter the Catholic Church every year in the U.S. (Gregory A. Shemitz/CNS)

On average, over 100,000 people enter the Catholic Church every year in the U.S. For those who were received into the Church last Easter, the ensuing months brought opportunities to deepen their bourgeoning faith and live out their Christian call to witness.

For Emilee Urichich, a junior at Thomas More College in Kentucky, her conversion has led her to acts of service. She regularly volunteers at Be Concerned, a ministry that provides groceries to the elderly and to the homeless, and a soup kitchen, both in Covington, Kentucky. The life of St. Teresa of Calcutta provides her with inspiration.

“Over the summer, I finished one of St. Mother Teresa’s books. I really like how she connected with everyone and saw God in everyone, even if they were just covered in sores. She wanted to be a follower and disciple of Jesus and show that to the world. I thought that was something I could really learn from,” she said.

Specifically, Mother Teresa has helped Urichich to see Christ in all those she encounters. “Mother Teresa was focused on seeing people as who they are in Christ, instead of seeing people for what they’ve done or what their situation is. She was interested in really helping Jesus. He’s in the poor and sickly, and he needs a helping hand.”

Urichich now sees her life through eyes of service, bolstered by continued growth in the faith, Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. “It really changed my career path. I’ve always wanted to focus on just learning as much as I can, but after my conversion, I’ve focused more on what I can do to help others.”

Daniel Alvarado, from St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, agreed that his life has been redirected. “Joining the Church has given me focus where I didn’t have one before. It has reoriented everything in my life to asking myself, ‘What can I do with my life to serve Christ? What talents was I going to employ for myself that I can use for him?’ These questions are always at the forefront of my mind.”

The change in his life has been noticeable to family and friends. “It’s been a 180 with what I have done with my life, what I believe, the way I think. My parents have noticed.”

The simple witness of a person changed by faith is profound. “I’ve been steering my parents and my brother to join me in going to Mass. I bring up conversations where I know they are seeking something, and they can’t find it somewhere else, even though they are difficult conversations to have.”

Alvarado, who plans to join the parish choir, “hopes to become more of a help to the parish, in whatever way is put into my path.”

Since being received into the Church, Shawn Bailey has become more active in St. Thomas More Parish in Denver, which he was already attending with his wife and four children. Bailey assists with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and with Scouts, as well as making a point to attend parish events like Friday fish fries and adult education classes.

Bailey said his views on many social issues changed as he learned more about the Church’s view, notably his view on forgiveness. “Forgiveness is huge. Our culture tells us that you should hold grudges and be mad at people forever, and now I understand what a terrible poison that is. Obviously, it’s still hard to do, but at least I understand what the right thing to do is and why,” he said.

Joining the Church has positively impacted Bailey’s family life. Bailey and his wife convalidated their marriage on their 17th wedding anniversary last July.

“It’s changed my family life a lot,” he said. “We didn’t pray too much before, but I pray at least with my two older boys every night. Mass together is much more meaningful. Hopefully, I’m being a decent example for my children, though I tell them I’m not perfect.”


Anamaria Scaperlanda Biddick is a freelance journalist.