Now, a lot of DREs will tell you this isn’t the ideal, but I sneaked into Masses at Holy Family, an old mission-style parish in South Pasadena, for six months before I thought about joining the Church. I made an appointment with the DRE, who was surprised that I had been receiving the Eucharist all this time, and gently told me that I should wait until I was Catholic to do this. Reluctantly, I agreed.
She gave me a sponsor, who quit three weeks later (I guess I asked too many questions). So she decided this little lamb needed a shepherd with a firmer hand, and took me on herself. She invited me for breakfast after Mass, invited me to spend time with her family (something I sorely needed at that time in my life, as I was feeling rather disenfranchised), and answered all my many, many questions. Sometimes we didn’t agree, based on what I had been reading about Church teaching. But she gave me a place to learn and grow, and be part of a community. Dawn Ponnet at Holy Family Parish was in a very real sense my spiritual mother.
At the Easter Vigil, I stood outside the church with my beautiful white dress and red-and-gold sash and lit candle that she had made for me, and I thought about the journey I had undertaken. No one in my family was present — they lived far away, and none of them agreed with what I was doing. My college friends were also uncomfortable with this choice, and stayed away. Two co-workers had shown up to celebrate with me. I found myself singing a song I had learned in Sunday school:
I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus. I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back, no turning back.
I haven’t stopped following. Haven’t stopped learning. And if you’re reading this, I hope you will follow him, too. Let’s take up this journey together!