by Katie Peterson
Special to The Leaven
MANHATTAN — Eucharist. Apostolic succession. Church authority.
These were the three aspects of the Catholic faith that Kansas State University sophomore Bridget May challenged her friend and fellow KSU sophomore Allison Dale to disprove following several weeks of intense debate.
And they ended up being the three things that led to Dale’s conversion to Catholicism on Sept. 19.
May, a parishioner of Good Shepherd Parish in Shawnee, grew up Catholic while Dale grew up Protestant. During Christmas break their freshman year, May attended a retreat that led to discussions between her and Dale in January.
“She was my friend. She was someone I cared about so I wanted to know how it went for her,” said Dale. “She started telling me about what happened and the things she was talking about were so unfamiliar.”
Those unfamiliar topics included confession, eucharistic adoration and the Eucharist.
“I didn’t know why she cared about them so much,” Dale said. “It was at that point that I started to challenge her, and I began looking at the Catholic Church — not in an attempt to join, but in an attempt to disprove the church.”
Dale said they talked daily about every topic that the two religions disagreed upon.
“During that time, I scoured Scripture. I spent so much time diving into the word trying to defend my beliefs,” Dale said. “Then I realized that . . . Bridget was also using Scripture to defend her argument.”
Dale admits there were holes on her side of the debates, but she simply wanted to be right. Finally, after nearly three weeks of argument, May gave Dale the list of things to disprove.
“I was pretty frustrated because [the truth of Catholicism] is just so clear to me. How could she not see it?” May exclaimed. “Finally, I asked: What would God have to do for me to stop being Catholic? What would have to be proved wrong? I came up with a list and told her.
“It was a very vulnerable, opening-up thing to do. I love being Catholic.”
Dale took the challenge and it ended up changing everything for her, especially when studying the Eucharist.
“I realized that I had been learning about the Catholic view of the Eucharist from Protestant sources instead of learning about this Catholic doctrine from Catholic sources,” Dale said. “When I began to do that, I could not deny the fact that it made sense.”
Then, she watched a video of Protestant pastor Francis Chan talking about the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist.
“That shook me. A man I had held so highly was revealing to me a lot about the history of the Eucharist and was explaining what the early church looked like,” Dale said. “I realized in that moment that . . . the church I was attending did not look like what Jesus intended for worship to look like.”
When Dale attended Mass for the first time with May following their return to KSU for spring semester, her desire to convert was intensified.
“We got back to my dorm . . . and I just broke down and cried,” Dale said. “I was like, ‘That was the most sacred thing I have ever witnessed before in my life. That was so familiar.’
“At Mass, I got to watch the Scriptures come to life, and I got to be part of something that is truly universal and truly unifying. I cannot not do this for the rest of my life. . . . I know this is the way the Lord intended for his creation to worship him.”
Following that first Mass, Dale learned everything she could about Catholicism, spending many hours in the office of Father Drew Hoffman, the associate pastor/chaplain of St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center.
“She was just very hungry for the faith,” Father Hoffman said. “That energizes me in such an awesome way.”
“To see someone who it just clicks for and it energizes them and just makes their life so much better — that’s what it should do,” he continued. “It makes everything else you do as a priest worth it.”
Dale also got a chance to meet more young Catholics in college when she applied to Camp Tekakwitha in Williamsburg as a counselor this past summer.
“I had only recently made the decision to become Catholic, so I was super-, super-fortunate to have the opportunity that I did. It was absolutely phenomenal,” Dale said. “To be surrounded by 50 other college students who are absolutely in love with Christ and his bride (the church) — it was life-changing.”
Many of those fellow camp counselors were there to witness Dale’s joining the Catholic Church, as were her parents.
“It still brings tears to my eyes to think about how [my parents] loved me so well and continue to love me so well and just how they were so eager to come to my confirmation and support me,” Dale said. “They don’t understand everything that’s happening or understand what I’m doing necessarily, but I’m their daughter and that is enough of a reason for them to support me, so that’s very humbling.”
Now that it’s official, Dale said she is excited to continue to learn more and dive deeper into the faith and help other youth with their faith formation.
“I just finished a 33-day Marian consecration. I got to explore the depths of what a relationship with Mary looks like and what a relationship with the saints looks like,” Dale said. “I don’t have to do this alone. I can continue to learn about the depths and the beauty of the church and cultivate relationships with those in heaven.
“I think part of the reason I had so much disrespect for the church growing up was because I didn’t know anyone who was young and Catholic and was practicing. I’d love to be able to help inspire and help high school students live out the faith.”