Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi! My name is Bonnie and I’m a mom of five kids, ages 11 to 1. I’m a homeschool graduate and currently homeschool my oldest three daughters in grades 5, 4 and 1. My husband and I have been married for twelve years this spring. We both grew up in Alberta but now live in Vancouver, BC.
Tell us how you became interested in Catholicism.
I converted twelve years ago, just before getting married. I became interested in Catholicism because this guy I liked at university was Catholic. 🙂
Actually, my best friend growing up was Catholic so I saw her and her family live out their faith for years. They were cradle Catholics and I grew up Lutheran, and I just sort of accepted that was how things were. Then I met my husband in my first year of university. When he mentioned that he’d converted to Catholicism, all my questions began. He was the first convert I’d met and it opened up this new idea to me.
We were friends throughout university. He was actually in the local seminary at the time, discerning whether God was calling him to the priesthood. This gave us space to hang out as friends without the whole “he likes me / she likes me” pressure. We’d often talk about faith, as another friend whom we frequently hung out with had grown up Christian Reformed. Our discussions really made me think about topics I’d always taken for granted, things I’d never really questioned before.
In my last summer at university, I went to Australia on a working holiday. It was a pivotal time in my faith journey, as being so far from my friends and family forced me to rely on God. I chatted via email with my Catholic friend about various things, including how I’d wandered into a Catholic church one Sunday morning and what was this thing called a vigil Mass? I can go to church on a Saturday night? That makes traveling so much easier!
When I got back from Australia, I went for coffee with my Catholic friend and finally asked him for his conversion story. He said what had ultimately attracted him to the Church was the Eucharist: “If that’s where God is, then that’s where I want to be.” That awakened a hunger in me because that was what I’d experienced in Australia — this desire to be where God is. We kept talking about faith and began dating. He bought me a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the rest, you could say, is history. I converted and we got married and…
What were some of the barriers you had and struggles you faced on the road to becoming Catholic?
When my husband and I started dating, my mom said, “Don’t date him. He’s Catholic and they worship Mary.” For me, as a Lutheran, probably the biggest barrier to becoming Catholic was Church teachings on Mary. I read the Catechism expecting that I’d disagree with the Mary parts. In fact, I thought that would be the deal breaker. I wouldn’t be able to accept what the Church taught about Our Lady and we’d have to break up and that would be the end.
Instead, I was surprised by how much I agreed with the Catechism. I literally read it cover to cover and couldn’t find anything I objected to. All the teachings about Mary made sense. And when I joined RCIA after reading most of the Catechism and discussing it with my boyfriend/ fiance, I found myself explaining Marian teachings to others in my RCIA class who were struggling with it.
I still had some reservations about Church teachings on some topics when I joined the Church. However, I came to the point where I was willing to say, “I believe what the Church teaches about these topics, so I will also accept what the Church teaches about that, even if I don’t understand it right now.” Conversion really is a journey, and the moment that I entered the Church was not the end of that journey.
Over the past twelve years, I’ve continued to grow in my understanding of what the Catholic Church teaches, about Mary and about other topics. Having my first baby was actually a huge step in accepting Mary. I felt much closer to her knowing that she’d also gone through what I was going through, and could intercede for me. In fact, she probably knew better than I did what I was going through and could pray that much better than I could!
Was there a defining moment or series of moments that cemented your decision to convert?
I think I had been drawn to the Catholic Church for a long time, without knowing it. My childhood home wasn’t always the happiest place to be. My parents subscribed to some conservative Christian teachings that left us very isolated and lonely. Their marriage slowly fell apart over twenty years and created some difficult dynamics in our home. My dad was at times emotionally and verbally abusive, but as a child, I didn’t realize that and simply accepted it as normal.
I did know that my best friend’s house was a happy place to be. I spent as much time as I could over there. We often read saint stories together (she had a great set of kids’ picture books) and even pretended to be various saints. Her parents had crucifixes and icons around the house. When her mom did an hour of adoration at her church every week, we’d play quietly in the church hall together. I went to my best friend’s confirmation, her younger sister’s baptism, her older sisters’ weddings. And I asked her mom to be my confirmation sponsor when I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church at age 14.
Asking my husband for his conversion story was a big step toward my own conversion. I’d always considered this a very personal question and wasn’t sure how to ask it. (He’d really been dying to share it for years, so I should have asked much sooner!) When I realized we both liked each other and wanted to start a romantic relationship, I knew I needed to know his story and to think about converting. I didn’t want a relationship with a man who had a different set of beliefs and values than mine.
What was your experience with RCIA?
My husband and I started dating in November, so RCIA had already begun. I’d been attending Mass with my parents since October, as my dad said I should check out what it was all about if I was going to date a Catholic. I didn’t want to jump into RCIA late, so I just read the Catechism and many of Scott Hahn’s books, and talked about Catholicism with my husband and my best friend.
By the time that I joined RCIA the following September, I felt like I’d already been through an informal RCIA. I asked my best friend’s mom to be my confirmation sponsor again (since my best friend lived several hours away). Her husband laughed and said, “Didn’t you know she’d pray you into the Church?” Many others in my RCIA class were there because their significant others were Catholic, so I felt better about converting because of my husband. Working through many teachings and ideas with him before RCIA made RCIA much easier for me.
My best friend’s parents were a huge support during this time. If my best friend’s mom couldn’t make it to RCIA, then my best friend’s dad came with me. At Easter, my best friend came home to be at my confirmation. My parents didn’t attend my confirmation; they’d stopped going to Mass with me once I told my husband I was thinking about converting and he started going to Mass with me.
How has your relationship with Jesus changed since becoming Catholic? Your relationship with yourself? With others?
I feel like my relationship with Jesus has deepened and grown since becoming Catholic. The Catholic Church has a much fuller perspective of His life and Passion than I found in the Lutheran Church. I love Catholic teaching about Mary, how she points us to her Son with her entire life. I love the saints — ordinary, everyday people like me who loved God with great abandon and give me hope that I can do small yet great things for God too.
I think becoming a Catholic has helped me to accept myself more. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I used to be very hard on myself. I remember laying in my bed at night, asking God to forgive me for a long litany of sins, and wondering if He really heard me, and then doing the same thing again another night. Confession, as hard as it is, ended that. I love walking out of the confessional knowing that God has heard me and has spoken those words of forgiveness. My sin is dead and buried and I have a chance to start over (even if I blow it more often than I’d like to admit!). But if God is willing to forgive me, to speak those words of absolution to me, then who am I to hang onto those sins?
Becoming Catholic has deepened my relationship with my friends and my husband. That first conversation with my best friend, after I said I was thinking about converting, opened up a whole new aspect to our friendship. We’d never talked about faith before that. Now, most of my friends are Catholic and we regularly talk about Church, NFP, Catholic books, faith, prayer, confession, etc.
Tell us your favorite Catholic book or author and why.
I’d probably have to say Scott Hahn. He was the first Catholic author I read (my best friend gave me a copy of The Lord’s Supper when I told her I was thinking about converting). I also really appreciated Hail, Holy Queen (about the Church’s teachings on Mary) and Rome Sweet Home (his conversion story).
A more recent favourite is Jennifer Fulwiler’s books Something Other Than God (her conversion story) and One Beautiful Dream (about pursuing her vocations as a writer and a mom).
What would you say to someone who was thinking of becoming Catholic?
Just do it. I hear of people who have gone to Mass, gone through RCIA or similar processes, and yet can’t actually commit to formally joining the Church. I do believe that conversion is a journey and that some of us take longer than others. But jump in. You need the sacraments, and the amazing grace that you receive from the sacraments will help you in your journey. Don’t feel like baptism and confirmation are the end of the journey. Keep learning, keep growing, keep seeking spiritual direction, but jump fully into the life of the Church and all that can offer to you.
Final thoughts you want to share.
I also have a series of conversion stories on my blog if you want to read more. Thanks for reading my story!
Bonnie Way is a stay-at-home mom with five daughters, two degrees, and one husband. She homeschools her oldest three kids and blogs about that, motherhood, and life in Vancouver as the Koala Mom. Find her online: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest