A Desire for Beauty

Today we get to meet Becky’s daughter, Kate Huebner. As you’ll read, she and I actually share a very special connection.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an optometrist by profession, a Nebraskan by birth and a Washingtonian by adoption. I grew up in a Christian household with two loving parents, two sisters and a brother. I’m a middle child, peacemaker, introvert, lover of all things British (including a good Stout). I enjoy the outdoors, singing in choir (when I have the time) and trying new cuisine. I’ve fallen in love with DC, the people I’ve met here and the faith I’ve encountered.  Like my mother who you met last week, I also enjoy a good cup of coffee, a good novel and good conversation.

Tell us about your faith journey that led you to the Catholic Church.

My Christian faith is rooted in my childhood. I was baptized Lutheran and then growing up, my family mostly went to church on Sundays at an Evangelical Free Church. We learned to recite verses of the Bible and talked about what we learned in Sunday school on the car ride home. I also spent the summers going to church camp and was involved in Youth Group. I can say that I did have a relationship with God. I felt the most spiritually fed when I was with my girls Bible Study group. One of my best spiritual mentors at the time was my Bible Study leader.

My more intensive exploration into my Christian faith began my junior year of high school when I was an exchange student living in Sweden. I lived with an atheist host family who intensely questioned my faith and the American church culture. I did not have great answers for them at the time. I also joined the local church choir, singing sacred music to an almost empty Lutheran State church on Sundays. I witnessed and experienced the spiritual bankruptcy of a mostly non-religious culture and it made me long for a deeper faith and connection with the divine. Interestingly, a couple of the closest friends I made there were Muslim immigrant friends from eastern Europe that I met in my Swedish language class. My Muslim friends shared more of the same values as me, avoiding binge drinking and sleeping around.

Fast forwarding to my college years, my strongest experience with my faith came through singing in my college choir. This was an education in the great beauty of the Church through the music we sang and learned. I only attended church occasionally on Sunday, but I felt a true yearning for a deeper formation. I was surrounded by mostly non-practicing Christian friends, a few that were on fire for Jesus, but no close Catholic friends. Whenever my choir toured the country, we always made special stops on Sundays for the Catholics to attend mass. I always wondered…can’t they just skip a Sunday? Why does it matter so much? Isn’t God everywhere, even when we are not in Church?

My brother entered the Catholic Church while I was in college and I was intrigued. I loved the idea of actually practicing my Christian faith and living a fully Christian life, but I didn’t really understand the need for Catholicism. I wanted to join a church, but it seemed so overwhelming and intimidating to find one that ‘fit me’ and also find a community I could connect with.

After a year of transition, I started a four-year grad school program. During that time I was absorbed in my school and clinical work. I still didn’t really join a church until my last year there when I started attending Catholic mass at the local parish. It was a Catholic young adult group that I became involved with that led me there. I finally felt ‘at home’ with the friendships I made there.

After grad school, I moved to Washington, DC to complete my clinical training. My brother knew of a house where I could live – with 4 other Catholic women. Balancing two giant suitcases in against my legs on a bitter cold January night in 2014, I knocked on the door of my new home in the heart of Capitol Hill, not really knowing who would answer the door. It turned out to be Emily, my interviewer, Miss Total W(h)ine.

My plan was to soak up city life for the four months needed to finish my optometry training before moving back to the midwest to start my career. That has turned into five and half years, a thriving career, and a deep love for the city.

By the time I moved into that Catholic-infested rowhouse, I had been attending mass regularly during my clinical rotations and was waiting until I was in one place for more of an extended period of time to join RCIA. Seeing the way my new roommates, these Catholic women, lived out their faith in a way that was beautiful, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Coincidentally, the house was right across the street from a Catholic Church with a vibrant Young Adult group and RCIA program!

Emily and I had many conversations while we cooked dinner and stayed up late drinking wine in the backyard–conversations that involved faith, the single life and all things under the sun. She helped answer some of my tough/awkward faith questions (ones like ‘what exactly is Natural Family Planning…’). A lot of time was spent just laughing though too! I knew within the first month we would be lifelong friends and that I wanted her to be my ‘spiritual mother’ of sorts, and asked her to become my confirmation sponsor.

Left: Kate receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation. | Right: After confirmation, Kate’s brother Christian, Kate and Emily, her “spiritual mother.”

Looking back, I see that I first became interested in the beauty of the Church. The beauty of the people, the beauty of the physical churches, the music, the intellectualism, and a life centered around human flourishing. I knew as far back as  my mid 20s that I wanted to be a part of that. RCIA ‘filled-out’ my understanding of the faith and helped to answer some of the important questions I had.

I officially entered the Church on the Feast of Christ the King in 2014. Several family members flew in from out of state to attend the Mass, which was so meaningful to me.

What were some of the barriers you had and struggles you faced on the road to becoming Catholic?

One of the biggest barriers I would say was the commitment itself. Deciding to become a part of the Church means committing to a life of prayer and actually participating in the Body of Christ fully. It was a whole new way of living out my faith and it is a constant struggle. I sometimes revert back to…why won’t Jesus just love me even if I don’t go to mass, confession? Why do I have to belong to ‘actual church’? What about those outside the Church, can they get to heaven too?

These are questions that I have learned to wrestle with and still continue to explore more deeply to this day. One of the most important things I’ve done (and it sounds so simple) is to pray about my questions and anxieties. Also talking about them with those I trust, including going to spiritual direction with a local priest.

Was there a defining moment or series of moments that cemented your decision to convert?

It was a series of things. I would say one of the turning points was witnessing the life of faithful Catholics that I knew throughout my years living in various places. Witnessing my brother’s faith transformation and him joining the Church was also hugely influential. It was a slow process, I can’t say I remember one moment or one day that I decided. I remember throughout RCIA there was not really one ‘sticking point’. Reading about the life of the Saints, specifically 20th Century ones, brought the faith more alive for me. Everything just sort of fell into place for me intellectually, praise God for that.

Another thing that I would say confirmed my decision was returning to my academic background in the early church and pre-reformation church. I was part of a Great Books program in college and reflected back on that experience and knowledge with new eyes during my faith transformation. I remember thinking all Christians were Catholic before the Great Schism and the Reformation. I loved the idea of returning to the true root of the Christian faith!

What was your experience with RCIA?

I had a fabulous experience with RCIA. My class was mostly taught by the vicar of the parish where I belonged and a couple of the parishioners. There were about 20 people in my class from all walks of life. We became very close as a class and felt comfortable asking the hard/awkward questions.

How has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic? Your relationship with yourself? With others?

My relationship with Jesus is something that I nurture daily. I would say it’s honestly so hard but so rewarding. I feel like I am much more aware of how I live, how I act, speak, interact with other affects my relationship with Jesus. When you live for the eternal, not just for the here-and-now, you live life with more care and intention.

Tell us your favorite Catholic book or author and why.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I remember reading it for the first time in my early 20s and not really liking it. When I picked it up again, I was struck by the conversion of one of the main characters.

Being of Scandinavian heritage, I love Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. Undset is a Norwegian and a convert as well, and tells a story about a woman who undergoes her own conversion during the Middle Ages. I also enjoyed Undset’s biography of St. Catherine of Siena.

Another book that was really helpful was Why We’re Catholic by Trent Horn. Horn answers some of the important questions of the faith in a concise, easy-to-understand way.

What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming Catholic?

I spent years trying to make sure I had all the pieces in place before becoming Catholic. I felt that I had to have all of the answers. However, I have learned that will never be the case. I found that I had to make the leap and trust that the pieces would come together with the help of God’s grace. If you have felt a pull, invite the Holy Spirit to develop that within you and lead you.