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Choosing to be Catholic

Pat Whalen

Until a few years ago, I never thought much about Catholic identity. Being Catholic wasn’t a choice that I made. I was Catholic because my parents had me baptized in the Catholic Church exactly one week after I was born. I never thought about not being Catholic until recently when I had an experience that really shook me to the core and made me question why I was Catholic and whether or not I should remain Catholic.

happened was that our parish was assigned a problem pastor whose words and actions were causing many of our longtime staff and parishioners to
walk away and join other parishes, or other denominations, or even to give up on belonging to a church altogether. It saddened me to see my friends and relatives leaving our parish and so I, along with many others, spoke to the pastor about the problem. When my efforts fell on deaf ears, I appealed to the Archdiocese for help. My letter was sent directly back to the pastor. The bishop called the pastor about what I had written and the pastor just laughed it off labeling me a troublemaker.

I was devastated and felt absolutely powerless. To whom could I go? I was appealing for help because our parish was being torn apart and now I was the one being blamed for it. I asked for help from those I thought I could trust and they turned the tables on me.

I seriously thought about walking away, too, and joining another Christian denomination, but I just couldn’t get my feet to move in that direction. I thought and prayed about it and realized I am just as truly a member of the Catholic Church as is the pastor or the bishop. I came to the conclusion that what makes me Catholic is my identification with Christ and my Baptismal responsibility to take up and continue His mission in the world today. I
could fulfill that mission just as well in another Christian denomination, but I am a Catholic Christian who was baptized into Christ in the Catholic denomination. This is my spiritual birth family. Members of a birth family may not always get along or even like one another, but they do share a physical genetic code. That is something that cannot be chosen or changed.

Members of the Catholic Church share a spiritual genetic code. We share two thousand years of history, with all the high points and low points. We share the traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Most importantly of all, we share the Eucharist. It is the Eucharist that gives meaning to my life. I couldn’t walk away from the Eucharist. I look forward to Sunday Mass when our parish community comes together
bringing all of the joys and sorrows of the past week to the Eucharist. From the Eucharist I draw strength to go back into my everyday world and
continue to work for the reign of God in the here and now. Belonging to the Catholic Church is an integral part of who I am as a person. I can’t pretend otherwise.

I realized at that point that I am Catholic to the core. Catholicism is a component of my spiritual DNA. This is not something I can change nor do I really want to. I made the decision to remain in the Catholic Church in my parish and to work from the inside with other “less than perfect” people just like me for a Catholic Church more in line with the vision of Vatican II.