Monday, July 23, 2007

No Converts Please We're Catholics

When I write a piece I try to be general and inclusive of most Catholic beliefs and Traditions. In this case though I can't mainly because I can't speak for other Parishes. I can only speak about my former Parish and the experiences that I and some other converts were subjected too.

Like many Parishes I went through the RCIA. During the first meeting a woman stormed in and thumped the table where we were all seated. This angry lady then went on to say that ALL converts were ingrates and that because we were NOT born Catholic we would never be accepted as such.

What I didnt know then, and came to understand over the years, is that this lady was correct, she simply vocalised what many within my Catholic 'community' were thinking but were to frightened to say.

Things became so ugly in the RCIA that I chose instead to learn the Catholic Faith by a most holy Passionist Priest in Adelaide over a period of a year. Once the year had been completed I was Confirmed into the Catholic Church. What a wonderful experience, I was finally Catholic, or was I?

During my time at this particular Parish, I watched over the years as many converts were received into the Church and yet within 6 months all the Catholic converts had left the parish. I brought this fact up at a Parish Council meeting and was told to go and see these 'people' for myself, so I did.

What I found when interviewing these wonderful converts is that many felt unwelcomed and isolated. They all said that noone within the Parish sat next to them during Mass, and once Mass was completed none of the Catholics would speak to them. When I asked if they thought of approaching some of their fellow Catholics many replied that they did and found that the people they approached simply talked around them and never involved them into their conversations. There were also many of my fellow converts who through illness had been unable to attend Mass, they felt very hurt that not one Catholic had enqired after them not even their Sponsors.

The one common ground they all shared though was that after being away from Mass for several months ALL these converts received was a letter reminding them to keep up their donations!

I know that some cradle Catholics find converts irritating and at times we are. We love our Faith, we want to know more about it, we are in affect excited by The Traditions and beliefs of the Catholic Church and long to know even more. Is it the fault of the convert that many cradle Catholics do not know or understand the meaning of many of their Traditions?

Another angst is that converts are 'know it alls' and tend to preach AT their fellow cradle Catholics. This seems to occur when many cradle Catholics deviate away from Catholic Teachings. What cradle Catholics don't understand is that by expressing opinions which are not inline with Church Teaching they are confusing the converts who have only just learnt what Catholics believe and why.

For an example from my own experience I was told by a Catholic Priest that Jesus had only ONE nature, and that was human nature and that Jesus did not have a Divine Nature. Huh? I was taught differently by the Passionist Priest, that Jesus had both Human and Divine Nature. Another Priest described the Eucharist as 'just a biscuit'. Again huh? I was taught that the Eucharist IS the Body and Blood of our Lord. Once again a Priest instructed me that I did not have to genuflect before the Tabernacle in that 'nothing was really IN there'. Excuse me? I was taught that the Tabernacle contained the Eucharist which is the Body and Blood of our Lord and so due Reverence is obligatory. Am I wrong?

I know at times converts can be over zealous I know I was very much within that sphere. I had fallen inlove with the Divine Mercy as revealed to St. Faustina. I personally bought tracts, booklets and pamphlets detailing the Divine Mercy Chaplet and God's Mercy, through my love for this devotion I then handed out these booklets and pamphlets to my fellow catholic parishioners. Then oneday a friend approached and asked me to stop, she told me that I was making many of my fellow Catholics uncomfortable. I must have looked dumbfounded for she went on to say, " the Catholics here only want to go to Mass, they dont want to know Jesus". I was stunned to say the least!

After persevering in this Parish for over 10 years I left. A new Priest had come in and decided that he is 'Jesus' and so the Church did not need a Crucifix. The Crucifix now sits in the Sacristy gathering dust. The new Nun had renamed God 'Sophia' and only referred to God as 'goddess'.

I can say that not one convert goes to this parish. I was the last convert standing and now even I left. Where is the victory for cradle Catholics? If they continue this snubbing of converts what will the future hold for all Catholics?

Even in this blogging sphere I have been referred to as a 'neo catholic' I had to look that up on google as I had never heard of it before. I was also accused of saying that another 'catholic' was a 'rad trad?' I had no idea what that meant either and once again looked it up on google. I have never met a 'radical traditionalist'. Was the name calling necessary because the person realised that I was a convert? How uncharitable!

I now attend Catholic Mass at a Church which is a 40 minute drive away. I can say though just like my fellow converts of my previous parish the only letter I received from them was one to remind me to keep up with my donation. How insulting they don't want us 'converts' but they DO want our money!

I hope that other Parishes will be more open to converts and more patient. There will be some who upon reading this will say smugly to themselves, 'well their faith couldn't have been THAT great if they left'. And they would be correct. A convert does not have the strength to withstand a hurricane of indifference and total snubbing, they will break under such pressure.

Upon reading this ask yourself, when was the last time you spoke to a convert or invited them to your home?

I do hope though that what I and others experienced in this Parish is a one off. I would hate to think that others also have gone through this same experience? How does your Parish treat Converts?