Convert looks forward with joy to Easter, says path to church has been ‘a joyous journey’

Cindy and Mario Garcia of Utah are pictured in an undated photo. At St. Mary Catholic Church in West Haven, Utah, April 8, 2023, Cindy will receive the sacraments of initiation and become a Catholic. Mario is Catholic and Cindy was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For most of their 42 years of marriage, they attended their own churches, until Cindy decided recently to take RCIA lessons and join the Catholic Church. (OSV News/courtesy Cindy Garcia)

by Linda Petersen

LAYTON, Utah (OSV News) — For many years, Sunday was a lonely day for Cindy and Mario Garcia. Each of them was equally devoted to God, but they were members of different faiths.

For most of their 42 years of married life, Cindy and their four children would head off to services at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while Mario would attend Mass at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Layton.

Even after church services, Cindy would often have meetings because she was very involved in her faith and served in many positions at her church. That also kept the couple apart on Sundays. Then, when they would come back together, they strove to avoid contention and would not discuss the experiences they had had that day, or any aspects of their faith.

“We just didn’t do it,” Cindy said. “I didn’t want to listen to him, and he didn’t want to listen to mine.”

All that has changed. Despite serving faithfully in her church for many years, Cindy began to have questions for which she could not find satisfactory answers, so about 18 months ago she stopped attending.

For a while, she felt adrift. Then, one Sunday, she decided to attend Mass with her husband.

“I don’t even know why because there was no way, in my mind, I would ever change religions, but I just did [go],” she told the Intermountain Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

Although she had difficulty understanding the heavy accent of the visiting priest who was celebrating Mass that day, she felt at peace when she sat down, “and I haven’t had peace in years within my faith,” she said.

That led her to return to Mass the next week. This time, while she could understand the priest clearly, she had difficulty following what was happening at the Mass, so she sought out answers.

A book of 40 Lenten lessons, which Mario purchased for her, opened the doors of understanding. Soon, Cindy began to read anything she could get her hands on that would help that understanding grow. As she read, a feeling came over her that belonging to the Catholic Church was something God wanted for her.

“I just got chills,” she said. “It just felt so peaceful to be sitting next to my husband [at Mass].”

Before long, she told Mario that she wanted to begin RCIA lessons. [RCIA is formally known as the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults.] Because they were not available at that time in their home parish, she enrolled in the program at St. Mary Catholic Church in West Haven.

It has been a joyous journey, Cindy said. “It’s not my will; this is not something I have ever wanted. Now I just thirst for it. I just keep feeling all these little nudges that this is where I’m supposed to be.”

While she has found peace in her new faith, she worried that her late parents, who had both been very active in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would be disappointed in her. An experience she had during the third scrutiny — part of the RCIA process that leads the Elect toward baptism — changed that.

While receiving a blessing from Father Martin Picos, St. Mary’s pastor, she felt her mother’s hand on her shoulder and could feel the presence of her father.

“I just feel like they are accepting me; I felt reassurance that I’m OK and that this is the right thing,” she said.

The “Elect” are the catechumens, like Cindy, who will be baptized, confirmed and receive the first Eucharist at Easter Vigil, April 8. Usually on the first Sunday of Lent, the Rite of Election takes place, when catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism. This is followed by the first, second and third scrutiny on subsequent Sundays during Lent.

Also at the Easter Vigil, candidates enter full communion with the church. They are already baptized and complete their initiation through a profession of faith, followed by receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist.

Cindy now feels peace, believing that her parents understand and accept her decision, and that the couple’s children, none of whom now attend any church, give their full support. “It has been a really spiritual journey,” she said. “Knowing what happens at the Mass, I can’t know that that’s not right.”

Cindy is looking forward with excitement and anticipation to the Easter Vigil at St. Mary, where she will be baptized and confirmed, and she and Mario will be married in the church.

Sunday has become a completely different day in the Garcia home. Now, Cindy and Mario attend Mass together and afterward discuss the homily and all the things they have been learning.

Although a cradle Catholic, Mario decided to attend RCIA with his wife and has learned alongside her, Cindy said.

“Our Sundays are so peaceful now, and that has always been missing in our marriage,” Cindy said.” I just never felt that. We were always separated on Sundays, and now we look forward to it.”

About the author

OSV News

Leave a Comment