By Jayne Sherry
Hello my friends and readers! After taking a short break, I am pleased to be writing for you again.
I would like to take this space to share with you my journey of faith and conversion to Catholicism. As many of you may remember, I grew up in the Episcopal church and my family was very active there. For all of my childhood and teenage years I was active as well, participating in our youth group, serving as an acolyte, and on the youth diocesan council of Milwaukee. I attended and worked at the Episcopal church camp in northern Wisconsin over the summers and in many other events in and around the church. You get the picture!
When I was about 17-18, I went on a diet to lose a few pounds and found it very easy as well as extremely rewarding. Keep in mind, “Twiggy” (the model) was all the rage back then and being super skinny was the “in thing.” Well, I succeeded in achieving that goal and then some. Anorexia was a fairly new disease and not much was known about treating it. Losing weight and starving myself took over my entire life. I had to drop out of college, lost my job and eventually moved back home.
My faith in God eroded and turned instead to feelings of despair, isolation, anger and even hatred toward him. I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t help me through this horrible time and so I turned away from him and toward a destructive life of drinking, drugs and sleeping with anybody and everybody. This continued for many years until I met my husband and got pregnant with our first daughter. Although I never fully returned to the church, I did manage to change my life around and raise two children. Although the marriage ended, my ex-husband and I remain friends and my children are a constant source of joy and inspiration for me. Life continued in a pretty ordinary way with nothing too extreme ever happening.
About two years ago I decided to leave Genesis, where I had been working for over seven years. I applied at the chancery (diocesan headquarters) for the kitchen supervisor position and was interviewed and hired the same day. I have no doubt in my mind that God led me here and his purpose has been made very clear to me over the past year.
After meeting my coworkers and the retired priests who live here, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and genuine care everyone showed me. I couldn’t believe it at first. I kept thinking, who are these people? They talk about God and Jesus like they are friends and they discuss their feelings openly. I couldn’t accept that my new friends were for real!
But as I said, God had plans for me and I began realizing that all these people had something I was severely lacking. My isolation and loneliness suddenly became too much. I wanted what my friends and residents at the chancery had. I realized I was missing God, faith, love and the church in my life and I wanted it, badly. I started asking questions about joining the church and what I needed to do. Of course I immediately received more support than I can begin to tell you!
Things pretty much just fell into place after that. RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes started the following week at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport at 7 p.m., perfect for my schedule. The leader contacted me and I began classes that Thursday. When God has a plan, you just go with it!
The RCIA program has been an amazing and transforming journey for me. Being surrounded by people whose faith is constant and unwavering is such a powerful thing. Although I still have issues with my weight, I am now open about it and do not isolate myself. It is a disease most people don’t understand or even know how to deal with, and that’s OK. Knowing I have support and love constantly surrounding me is uplifting and fills me with hope. My faith and the knowledge that God’s love is so strong and steadfast give me a peace I have never known before. I cannot express what coming into the church means to me and I look forward to my continuing journey for all my years to come.
I am excited to share with you that I was received into the Catholic Church, confirmed and received the holy sacrament of Communion on May 14, at St. Paul’s! Now, it’s onward to new experiences and a life of prayer, faith and love.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you. May God’s peace be always with you.
(Jane Sherry is an employee of the Diocese of Davenport.)