I love being Catholic, but that wasn’t always the case. I was born into a family with strong Catholic beliefs and traditions. My relationship with God was one of fear, being afraid of God, thinking if I was not good, he would punish me. So I prayed faithfully that I might find favor with God. Because of racial prejudice, growing up in the South was a great distraction to my faith. God seemed distant. I wondered why He would allow our family to be treated with such hatred in the Catholic Church. But our faith and love for God were strong, and we persevered. In 1976, I attended a Cursillo retreat where I experienced forgiveness and healing. My relationship with God became alive and vibrant. I understood what Scripture means when it says, “God is Love!” God shared his love through the people who were his instrument on that weekend. I realized I also had a mission from God to share his Gospel. I love the Church because I have the freedom to be who I am in sharing God’s given gifts with others. He sent my husband, Clarence and I out as a couple to share our sacrament with married and engaged couples, and to serve in other ministries. I love the Church because at each Mass, not only do I profess my faith, acknowledge my sins and hear the Word of God, but I also receive the Eucharist that nourishes me for the mission to bring Christ to others. I love the Church because when we come together we are one with each other — our extended Church Family, who loves, encourages and supports each other. I love the Church because I have learned to pray its “formal” prayers as well as spontaneously. The Church teaches us about Mary, the Mother of God, her love for her Son, and the importance of praying the rosary. I love the Church because when we come together we are one with each other — our extended Church Family, who loves, encourages and supports each other.After Clarence’s mother died over 21 years ago, we heard the Lord say to us, “Gather your greater family once a month to pray the rosary.” Our motto is “A family who prays together stays together.” There have been many blessings from our family praying together!Like no other Church, we are graced with the sacrament of reconciliation. God forgives us when we have contrition. Through this sacrament, I also find healing in forgiving myself.I love being Catholic because I am on a journey to receive everlasting life with God as I continue to die to self and live my life for God and others. Elsie M. Dixon, a member of The Tidings Editorial Council, is director of the Rite of Christian Initiation at St. Bernadette Church, Los Angeles, and a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s St. Bernadette Conference.Please limit your responses to this reflection to 200 words maximum, and either email them to [email protected], or mail them to The Tidings (attn.: Perspectives), 3424 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90010. Please include your full name, address, email and telephone number.