by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — Being in the right place at the right time is one thing. But for Tracy Goforth and Dusty Thompson, it was more a case of being in the right place at the rite time.
“I’ve been looking for a while, and I kept getting frustrated, but I guess when it’s right, it’s right,” said Goforth of her journey to the Catholic Church. On April 8, she will be baptized at Mother Teresa of Calcutta Church in Topeka.
Goforth, along with Thompson who hails from Centralia, is a member of this year’s class of catechumens and candidates who participated in the Rite of Election held at St. Matthew Church in Topeka on Feb. 26 for the archdiocese’s western region.
A second celebration was held for the eastern region of the archdiocese that evening.
Usually celebrated in early Lent, the rite is one in which those wishing to be received into the Catholic faith — both those who have been baptized into other Christian traditions (candidates) and those who have never been baptized (catechumens) — stand with their sponsors, the archdiocesan faith community and the archbishop to express their desire to enter the full sacramental life of the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann presided over both celebrations.
A few years ago, Goforth said she started receiving several spiritual signs in her life, all of which pointed to the Catholic Church.
“They kept coming in front of me at my feet, and I kind of kept ignoring them,” she said of the signs.
First, her sister married a lifelong Catholic, became an active member of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish in Topeka and began sending children to the parish’s grade school.
Then, there’s Goforth’s husband, who though not Catholic himself, attends community organizational meetings held at Mother Teresa Church. He’s gotten to know many people within the parish — people who have, according to Goforth, gone out of their way to help him.
And then, there’s the matter of the unexpected gift Goforth received.
“My dad was in ICU and in heart failure,” Goforth said. “My sister came to me and said, ‘Tracy, I want to give this to you.’ She said, ‘I cannot really go into it and explain it to you, but it’s just something for you to hold.’”
The “it” was a rosary.
“I held it so tight. I had it in my pocket, held it in my hands, and I cannot tell you what a source of comfort I had that I had never had before,” Goforth said.
Of the Catholic Church itself, Goforth said she’s finally found what she’s been looking for all along in its structure, liturgy and sacred traditions.
In fact, one Monday morning, she had what she terms her own personal epiphany when talking to a coworker. She was sharing her impressions of the readings from the previous day’s Mass and her coworker said that he, too, had heard the same readings at his parish church.
That’s when she realized the unity and consistency of the church’s message and that its teaching is “unchanged.”
After she joins the church, Goforth said she plans to get involved in the parish by serving meals for those in need or assisting with the parish’s religious education classes for children.
“I know I have a lot I need to learn,” Goforth said. But that’s OK.
“I love little kiddos, so maybe we could learn together,” she added.
Learning together, Thompson said, is something he plans to do with the youngest of his three children.
Since his senior year in high school, Thompson has attended Mass with his wife Manda and her family at St. Patrick Church in Corning. The couple has been married for more than 20 years. And although he’s wanted to become Catholic and the couple first started discussing the possibility when his oldest of three kids (now a senior in high school) was in preschool or kindergarten, the time has never been right.
“We’ve discussed it seven, eight times since,” Thompson said.
But his schedule was always an obstacle.
“There was never a time in the past where I could say yes and go for the entire time frame,” Thompson said.
Although he will officially become a member of St. Patrick Parish in Corning, he is receiving instruction in the Catholic faith in Seneca at Sts. Peter and Paul Church. This year, Thompson said, the timing was perfect.
Thompson is a teacher and coach at Centralia High School. In the past, one of the head coaches preferred to watch game film on Sunday evenings at the same time as the RCIA classes. (RCIA stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and is the process by which adults are received into the church as catechumens or candidates.) When a new coach changed the game film sessions to a different time, Thompson was thrilled.
“It kind of felt like it was the right time for all of it. It all just fell together at once,” he said.
And he’s really looking forward to learning and growing in the faith with his children.
“To be able to have conversations with my kids and feel like we’re talking about the same thing is probably the biggest part for me.”