By Celine Klosterman
Several years ago, a job loss plunged Tom McKinney into “dark days” filled with fear of the future.
Today, his blessings more than make up for those times. He said that thanks to God, he’s found new income, and most importantly, the 63-year-old is reaping the spiritual benefits of joining the Catholic Church.
Now a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, McKinney wasn’t a religious man during the 30 years he spent working for Maytag. He’d worked his way up to a senior engineering position before losing his job in 2004, three years before the appliance company’s Newton plant closed.
“I lost prestige, income and friends. My house wasn’t paid for. I thought, ‘What am I going to do now?’”
He hadn’t been raised in a churchgoing family, but believed in God. So he turned to prayer. “I prayed as hard as I’d ever prayed — for help in the future, for peace.”
Then, McKinney’s fortune started to change. In addition to receiving pension payments, within a year he accepted two opportunities to serve as a Maytag consultant. “I believe that the Holy Spirit allowed me to see these blessings for what they were” — gifts from God, he said.
Wanting to thank the Lord, he considered joining his wife and two sons in the Catholic Church. He’d long felt a void in his life, but hadn’t pursued membership in a church community for various reasons. Among them: “I didn’t feel a sense of belonging because I had no faith background. I would be walking in as an outsider.”
But because of the blessings McKinney believed came from God, “I felt obligated to join regardless of personal insecurities.”
So he told his wife, Mary, he wanted to become Catholic. “I was really excited; I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I had prayed for this for years.”
In 2008, he received the sacraments of baptism, Eucharist and confirmation. “Now, I feel a peace I never had before,” he said. He marvels daily at God’s creation, takes Communion to homebound Catholics and enjoys participating in a small study group at his parish. “I have met many new friends at Sacred Heart.”
Small-group participants immediately liked McKinney, said facilitator Greta Koppin. “He just added so much. He asked questions, gave his opinion and was very willing to learn about the Church.” As parishioners prepared for the new Roman Missal, he sent fellow group members the revised translation of the Nicene Creed with the changes clearly marked, she noted.
Mary said his questions about the faith make her think. His participation in the Church has gotten her more involved at Sacred Heart, she added. “It’s really nice.”
McKinney believes his blessings continue. Though the veteran has battled Ischemic heart disease following exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam, he has begun receiving compensation through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
And he looks forward to continuing to enjoy the gift of his family, including sons Mike (Gloria) and Troy (MaryBeth) and grandchildren Landon and Adelyn. Most importantly, he now feels prepared for the afterlife as he embraces his new faith. “I’m cramming for finals,” he joked.
He voiced thanks for the Sacred Heart Parish leaders and volunteers who have guided him on his journey of faith, including Director of Faith Formation Tammy Norcross, former pastor Father Ernie Braida, Koppin, current pastor Father Bill Reynolds and Deacon Dan Goetz.
“I am set for life,” McKinney said.