Each day this week the USCCB Media Blog will bring you conversion stories from around the country. Hat tip to Jim Accurso of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis for alerting us to this story written by Fr. John Ubel, Pastor of St. Agnes in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“Fr. Ubel, could we see you for a moment?” When I looked up from my desk I saw four students standing in my doorway, each with a smile. It was the Vangs, (Livia ’12, Cesea ’13, Vancelee ’14 and Teedo ’20), new students to our school. “Father, we would like to be baptized.” Nothing like cutting to the chase!
You see, last summer, a gentleman named Pao Her called out of the blue to set up an appointment with me. He explained that his nieces and nephews were coming to live with him, as they were without parents following the death of their mother (his sister), and that he wanted to ensure a solid upbringing for the children. The students were not Catholic, but he was adamant that he desired a faith-based education in a structured environment. I explained that our student body is approximately 90 percent Catholic and 30 percent non-caucasian, and that we would gladly welcome these students. Best of all, the kids would be together under one roof.
I learned that they would see the Onion dome of the Church from the freeway and used it as a landmark for navigation when visiting relatives. One mentioned the engaging religion classes and learning about the truths of the Faith. Another spoke of the powerful experience of walking into our beautiful church every Thursday for School Mass, while a third mentioned the kindness she felt from people who made her feel welcome as a new student.
Classical and Catholic tradition speaks eloquently about truth, beauty and goodness. God Himself is perfect truth, pure beauty and infinite goodness. Education is fundamentally about encouraging students to develop by seeking truth, beauty and goodness. There it was: the truth of the doctrine, the beauty of the architecture and music, the goodness of others who reach out in time of difficulty. Ultimately, this pointed them towards God. It was actually the 4th grader, Teedo, who was the catalyst of it all, who first felt the inklings of grace. His infectious smile manifests a joy that is as undeniable as it is authentic. He began to lead prayers before dinner, and soon his siblings also began exploring the faith. A few months after the start of the school year, they knocked on my door.
At the Easter Vigil, I will proudly baptize not just four, but nine Vang siblings: two who are college age and the three youngest ones, who may well be future Aggies. I can think of no better way to describe all that we try to do here at Saint Agnes, but to reflect truth, beauty and goodness.