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Thursday, July 2, 2009

From Mormon to Catholic

By Rick McCann

I’m sure most conversion stories start off cheerful and upbeat. However, the conversion which you are going to read about is not such a story. This is an account where Catholicism and an everyday not-so-mild-mannered citizen stand toe to toe for a good old-fashioned brawl. Hopefully, you can take comfort in knowing the fact that she did indeed become a Catholic — not unlike a lobster or a steak dinner, grand and glorious only after the chef had his way. Much like God the Father, I suppose, tenderizing or boiling our stubborn will out of us, until He can season it with His supernatural grace.

Christie’s story begins in the valley of Utah surrounded by mountains thirteen thousand feet high. Her father, Dick Hepworth, was married to her mother, Mary Patricia. It’s fair to say that living in Utah pretty much made her Mormon by association. She went to Sunday school and went through all the motions, but had no serious convictions in her beliefs. Her parents believed in God enough to ask for His help in raising their daughter, Christina Marie. She was a normal child, interested in the things that most children are, such as the insatiable curiosity of what it would be like to stick your hand in a lawn mower, while it was running, of course. Thanks to quick thinking on the parents’ behalf, a blood transfusion, and many hours of surgery, you can barely see the scars. A year later, after falling out of a camper during their annual family vacation, she had to be air-lifted to a hospital to save her life.

Not too many years passed when Christie’s parents divorced. Fast forward through years of dance, gymnastics, cheerleading, boyfriends, slumber parties, and other activities common for teenage girls, and she finds herself a graduate from school, but not sure what to do with her life, so she flies to Europe to get a taste of the European experience. Christie stayed there for the next two years and survived by dressing in a clown suit and selling balloon animals on the street. When people found out she was Mormon they would mock her religion and ask her how many wives the men were allowed these days. Ironically, she came back more grounded in her Mormonism than when she left, and this is where her conversion story begins.

Working at a five-star, fine dining establishment (Denny’s) she had the misfortune to meet an extremely handsome mountain man from Maine. In a short matter of time these two found themselves outside the walls of work enjoying each other’s company. The man from Maine, who had captured her attention, unbeknownst to her, was on the hunt for a bride. I believe it was during the first date that I told her what I was all about. I explained, not holding back at all, that my wife was to be Catholic, have lots of children, and resign herself to God’s will. At that moment she knew that she was not the one I was looking for. I’m not sure why there was another date after that — it could have been my muscular physique, my radiant blue eyes, or perhaps it was my fake Boston accent.

Whatever the case, two dates soon became four, and four turned into eight. It was not too long before we fell in love. It was a well-reserved courtship however, because she knew ultimately how I stood religiously — and I wasn’t even practicing at the time. When it came right to it we both tried not to love each other. She had no interest in being Catholic, and I was tired of not being a good, practicing Catholic. Due to my own weakness I could not stay away from Christie. She was strong-willed, and firm in personality, and I was sure that if I could convert her she would make an awesome Catholic. The more I try to recall the moment of her conversion, the more I have come to realize that it just didn’t happen overnight. We had all-night conversations about the Faith, complimented with coffee, cigarettes, and raw emotion. I am sure these talks helped, although I don’t think they were enough. No, I think my wife’s conversion was ultimately due to three major influences.

The first would be my mother. She raised me to be a good Catholic, having instilled in me the fear of God. I knew that, with her, marrying a non-Catholic was not going to be an option. As Christie grew more interested, my mother began giving her catechism lessons over the phone; she sent her Catholic books, a Catholic bible, tapes, movies, pamphlets, letters, green scapulars, medals, holy water, all the things about the one true religion that could be sent in the mail. And she prayed.

The second source would be my wife herself. She could think logically in spite of the emotional side effects. In short, she had good will and she cooperated with God’s grace. Christie put on her scapular on Sept. 11, 2001, after the Twin Tower attack. I called her from work that day and asked this favor of her, just in case there were worse attacks to come.

Thirdly, and I am sure it comes as no surprise, there was our most holy mother Mary, who, either through the scapular, through the Rosaries being said daily, or simply through an uncountable number of ways in which Mary dispensed her graces, the seed took root in Christie. I would like to publicly and in writing say to our Holy Queen: “Thank you.”

In April 2002, we traveled to Maine to meet and see my family. My wife attended her second Mass that trip and that is when she was baptized and received her first Holy Communion. Three days afterwards, we received the sacrament of Matrimony. Later, when we returned to Utah, Christie’s mother fell ill. She was in intensive care for three weeks. Hearing of Christie’s conversion, she requested that we have one of those Catholic Masses said for her. That evening she fell into a coma. She was conditionally baptized and passed away wearing the brown scapular.

My wife and I are the recipients of God’s abounding generosity. We are the proud parents of six strapping young lads: Tavin James, Sean Patrick, Tristan Matthew, Brendan Timothy, Joseph Shay, Killian Vincent and another one on the way. I am blessed and proud to say we all recite the rosary together daily as a family and, of course, we all wear Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s brown scapular.

This is the brief story of my wife’s conversion to the one true Faith.

Email Rick McCann at

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