by Carolyn Kaberline
Sharri Orndorff was called to convert to Catholicism in the most unlikely of places — Pinterest, a social media website.
After more than 40 years as a “dedicated Protestant” in the Lutheran, Baptist and evangelical churches, Orndorff wasn’t looking to convert when she stumbled across a post on Pinterest, which users refer to as a “pin.” She was just looking for “anything Christian to help restart and strengthen my relationship with God.”
The pin was a quote from the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, whose cause for canonization was opened in 2002:
“Airplanes must have runways before they can fly. What the runway is to the airplane, the rosary beads are to prayer . . . the physical start to gain spiritual altitude.”
The words made sense to Orndorff, who for years had been seeking something in which to ground her faith. But as a Protestant, she was looking for something “not Catholic.”
So she turned to Anglican prayer beads.
Ironically, it is those Anglican beads that started her on a journey that led to where she is today.
The long and winding road
Orndorff was baptized into the Lutheran Church and attended Sunday school classes until she was 13. At 14, she was “born again” in the Southern Baptist Church and, in 1974, discovered the Protestant branch of the charismatic movement. Shortly thereafter, she began attending the Full Faith Church of Love in Shawnee and even attended its in-house Bible College for a couple of years.
Though Orndorff had faith and a desire to learn about God and the Scriptures, life was not easy.
“I had one really, really bad year,” Orn-dorff said. “And when the Lord brought me back to faith through [Alcoholics Anonymous], he also put me into a spiritual desert for eight years.”
During that dark time, Orndorff returned to the Baptist Church to get a “solid regrounding in the Scriptures.” That’s when she saw the pin about the rosary on Pinterest.
“I was so surprised at how many things were on Pinterest,” she said. “Initially, I was looking for something like a rosary to help jump-start my prayer life.”
The mentor to lead the way
After discovering the abundance of resources on Pinterest, Orndorff searched for more pins to connect with her faith. That’s when she saw a pin by Catholic author Denise Bossert.
“Her entire concept drew me,” Orn-dorff said. “I came from a couple of churches where the pastor seemed to be stuck. . . . I was tired of pet doctrines and wanted the whole counsel of Scripture, and wanted to follow the liturgical church calendar. I love stained-glass, color, beauty and sometimes a more formal reverent faith. Sometimes, I need help to keep the perspective of who [God] is.”
After responding to the pin on Pinterest, Orndorff struck up a friendship with Bossert.
“She totally got it, as she is a convert herself,” said Orndorff. “She immediately connected the longing that was emerging in my heart, and we bonded quickly.
“The Holy Spirit really brought us together on many levels.”
“It is our highest calling to share the One we have received each week in holy Communion,” she said. “It has been a joy to share her journey of faith and to know that Our Lord used something that I wrote and made it into a moment of grace for Sharri.”
A brief online exchange turned into a mentorship that helped Orndorff open up to the possibilities of the Catholic Church.
She began voraciously reading books by Catholic authors and watching “Journey Home,” a show on the Eternal Word Television Network about converts.
These resources helped everything fall into place in Orndorff’s faith life. She soon started the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
As she says, “the rest is sort of history.”
God had big plans in store for Orndorff’s next step to becoming Catholic: a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
After seeing an invitation Bossert had posted on social media to join a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Orndorff decided to take a leap of faith.
Thirty days later she was on a plane to meet her mentor in person and travel to the Holy Land.
It was there in Jerusalem, with Bossert at her side, that Orndorff took the first major step to becoming a Catholic — the Rite of Acceptance.
“Denise was able to stand as my sponsor and do the signing,” Orndorff said. “The pilgrimage priest celebrated the Mass; our Texas tour guide did the readings, and I was able to say to God and my pilgrim family, ‘Yes, I want to be Catholic’ at the Church of the Visitation at Ein Kerem, Israel.”
Orndorff officially entered the church at the Easter Vigil 2015, surrounded by her family and friends.
She is also now a firm believer in the power of social media to connect, inform, inspire and even evangelize.
“If there’s another person out there like me, they just might contact you,” she said.
But her entry into the church at Easter turned out to be more of a beginning, rather than an ending, to Orndorff’s journey.
“I had been working as the office manager for Access Sales Associates in Mission, where I had been totally happy for eight years,” explained Orndorff. During that time, there was never a day she didn’t want to go into work.
After returning from the Holy Land, however, that job no longer had any appeal.
So she called Father Dennis Wait, founder and director of Sanctuary of Hope Prayer and Retreat Center in Kansas City, Kansas, where she had attended a retreat in May 2014. Father Wait remembered Orndorff as an eager and knowledgeable student.
“Sharri was most eager to learn about the Catholic faith, and she was already very knowledgeable of the sacred Scriptures from her Christian faith,” said Father Wait.
“What touched me most about her was her maturing faith life and her willingness to pray with others, especially those who were hurting from life experiences,” he continued. “She wanted to know, learn, find out all she could that pertained to the Catholic faith.
“You just don’t see this every day when dealing with those who desire to convert to the Catholic faith.”
Because of this earlier connection, Father Wait was quick to mention to Orndorff a job opening at the retreat center in public relations.
“She was so charismatic that I also asked that she become the chair of our Associate members that meet monthly here at Sanctuary of Hope and do much to support our programs and the work that is needed here,” said Father Wait. “She agreed to do both as a volunteer. She came here on the off hours, when she wasn’t working as the office manager with Access Sales.”
Orndorff’s faith life inspired others, including Father Wait.
“She brings with her practical truths, along with an ardent desire to do whatever God asks of her, and now whatever Our Lady asks of her,” added Father Wait.
It is because of that desire to do God’s bidding that Orndorff has traveled to Israel again and visited numerous shrines across Europe, including Turin, Assisi, Rome, Norcia, San Giovanni Rotundo, Lourdes, Almudena, Zaragoza and Fatima, to name just a few. She has also visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City — all despite the fact she doesn’t like to travel or be in large crowds.
It is also because of God’s bidding that she has now left Sanctuary of Hope and headed out on the next leg of her faith journey — the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio — where she will study theology.