Heather Gay, 29, remembers the first time she went to church. Her foster mother, a practicing Catholic, took her to Sunday Mass when she was 17 and the experience was emotional.
“I don’t know why but I would always start crying when I was there,” she recalled. “I think something there just kind of touched me.”
Gay was welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass on April 15 at St. Lawrence Martyr Church in Redondo Beach. Her former foster mother joined her for the celebration, which included baptism, Communion and confirmation. Her foster parents, who cared for Gay later in life, were also at the celebration, along with some of her close friends.
The decision to become a Catholic came from a realization that “something was missing,” Gay said. “It was just time to really commit myself. I had been searching for a while.”
Despite being in the RCIA program, Gay wasn’t sure about her decision until she realized that the “a-ha” moment or bolt-of-lightning revelation she was looking for didn’t matter. Some people, she noted, go through a huge event and then feel a sudden connection with God.
“I didn’t have that,” she admitted.
Initially she thought entering the Church was the “end goal,” a step she would take when she had everything figured out, but then after speaking with some parishioners who had gone through the RCIA program, she came to understand that baptism was a “touch point” along the journey.
“It’s more about the relationship and the journey and I don’t have to be so rigid in my thinking,” she said. She began focusing more on her relationship with God and discerning what that means. “For me it was more [about] small building blocks instead of that one a-ha moment.”
Although Gay said she had an easy time accepting the tenants of the Faith, she had questions about confession. “If God already knows what we did, why do we have to confess to a person?” she had wondered.
Later, Gay learned to think of it as “healing instead of confessing your guilt.” She said that Rob Bell’s famous quote, “We are only as sick as our secrets,” helped her realize the importance of verbalizing our faults.
Gay said the Easter Vigil celebration was beautiful and loved the symbolism involved. The catechumens entered with brown robes for baptism by full emersion and then returned with white robes. The baptismal candles were handed out, each one decorated with religious emblems.
“I like the ritual of it. I like the structure of it. I like the tradition of it,” Gay said about the Catholic Church. “I just like the feeling I get from it, too.”
Gay says she is finding more time to pray, listens to Scripture podcasts and plans to get involved in a Church ministry or volunteer work. She’s on a journey, she said, and just wants “to keep growing and learning.”