Archdiocese of Mobile

More than 300 enter Church in archdiocese

By ROB HERBST

The Catholic Week

About six years after first attending Mass with her Catholic husband, Heather Forest is now in full communion with the Catholic Church.

Forest was baptized and received communion at St. Joseph Parish in Prattville on April 20 and she was far from alone. Forest is one of more than 300 people in the Archdiocese of Mobile who entered the Church at the Easter Vigil. While hundreds entered, they all have special stories and many embarked on long journeys of faith and discernment before becoming Catholic.

Forest’s special path began with her family. The 42-year-old and her husband, Benjamin, were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Benjamin left the LDS Church soon after their marriage while Heather stayed fully active. Eventually Benjamin became Catholic and was attending a Catholic church in California in 2014 with the family’s youngest daughter.

For the good of the family, Heather began attending Mass.

“I felt very comfortable there and that was kind of surprising to me,” Heather said. “That was the first eye-opening moment. The very first day we walked in I felt happy and peaceful and complete. I had never felt like that in any other Church other than the LDS Church before. I knew at that moment I had made the right decision.”

But attending Mass was one thing and entering into full communion with the Church was something else.

In 2016, the military family moved to Alabama where “God put us here for a reason.”

The Forests’ new neighbors just happened to be Catholic.

“She opened the door and I saw a Crucifix on the wall and I asked if she was Catholic. We became instant friends and clicked instantly,” Heather said. “It was really neat having a family next door that shared our faith, not necessarily my faith. I have a strong conviction about Jesus Christ and it was so neat to have that same values and convictions that I did. We became very, very good friends.”

Heather would have plenty of conversations about faith and attended St. Joseph Parish. Eventually, Heather discovered her beliefs coincided with the Catholic Church.

“A lot of my beliefs were more in line with the Catholic Church than the LDS Church. (My friend) said ‘Honey I don’t know how to tell you this, but you’ve been Catholic for a really long time,’” Heather joked.

Heather took time to pray before deciding on formally entering the Church.

“I knew what I wanted the answer to be, but I didn’t want to take what I wanted. I wanted what God wanted (for me). And I was really nervous that if I prayed, I would feel whatever answer I wanted to feel,” Heather said. “I wanted to become Catholic. I wanted the answer to be Yes. I was just afraid that I would pray about it and just pick what I wanted anyway. So I prayed not for the answer, but the courage to pray for the answer.”

The answer came in January.

“I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I said I’m going to become Catholic. There was so much peace from that moment on. Everything made sense to me.”

Now Heather and Benjamin are truly of the same faith.

“I am so grateful that God never gave up on us and kept us together and helped my husband have patience as I began my own journey into the Catholic Church,” Heather said. “I would not be where I am today without my husband. I prayed God would give me a husband who would keep me strong and lead me to (God). I didn’t know this is how He would answer that prayer, but I am so grateful He did.”

Like Heather, 67-year-old Ronnie Mathews entered the Church at the Easter Vigil. He received Communion at St. Columba Parish in Dothan.

Ronnie had been Baptist, but was affected by watching EWTN.

“I’m a Mother Angelica Catholic,” he said.

“Without EWTN and Mother Angelica, I would not be here. I couldn’t take my eyes off it and I’m talking like five or six years ago. I became convinced the Catholic faith was the one and only true faith.”

But Ronnie didn’t have any Catholics in his family and didn’t begin attending Mass until last year.

“Something happened at the Easter Vigil. I said ‘this is the Church I ought to be going to,’ he said. “I never thought I’d join the Church, not because I didn’t believe in it, it was always something to do with me. I’m not a joiner.”

But he took the step of attending RCIA at St. Columba and prayers were answered.

“People have been praying for me. One lady had been praying for me and when I had that experience at the Easter Vigil last year, I said your prayers had come through for me,” he said. “Things came together and here I am.”

He added: “66 years as a Protestant Baptist and now here? This is a big deal. But it will only be the beginning for me. It is not the end by any means.”