Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I was in prison and you visited me: Willie Knight’s conversion story

Our conversion stories for today come from a couple of faith communities in Georgia. Special thanks to Patricia Chivers, of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, and RCIA parish directors Cheryl Twickler and Mary Maudlin for facilitating them.

Willie Knight was in prison for 16 years. He befriended the wrong people, and gangs ended up derailing his life. While in prison a Catholic priest would visit him. He got curious about the faith of the visitor who showed him such mercy and began studying about the Catholic Church on his own while still in jail. He learned to pray the rosary by himself.

Upon his release, he inquired and decided to join the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. Peter's Catholic Church, in LaGrange, Georgia. The director of the program, Cheryl Twickler, says he has been a very strong and faithful participant in the classes and that “he has a sweet spirit.” He is also the only black candidate in the class, and possibly in the history of RCIA in LaGrange.

Willie says some of his friends have tried to get him to not join the Church, saying: "Man, that's a white church! Why do you want to join them?" He told them he just felt a strong pull to the Church, and that nothing would change his mind; not even the fact that there have been, at first, a lot of stares by the white participants in Mass, and there are very few blacks in the community anyway. Sometimes he is the only one at that particular Mass. His mother and father (who are divorced and not Catholic) are supporting his decision, and will be with him at Easter Vigil, when Willie makes his profession of faith and receives Confirmation and First Communion.

Komba Kemoh is one of the elect at St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro, Georgia. He was born in Sierra Leone, where he was raised by Muslim parents and became an assistant police chief. His younger brother became Catholic and eventually became a priest. The brother inspired Komba to become Catholic. He does not have transportation to the Church, so his sponsor picks him up each Sunday. “Komba’s enthusiasm and desire for Baptism are very apparent,” says St. Philip’s RCIA director, Mary Maudlin. “He cannot wait to be baptized.”

In the same community, a woman, Tonya Roque, is married to a Catholic man. She is the mother of four children, ages 17-10.The family did not attend Church, as the husband was an inactive Catholic. As the children grew and were faced with many temptations, Tonya realized that they “needed God in the family to live good lives.” Her four children are enrolled in the youth RCIA process and will celebrate all three Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Tonya will make a profession of faith, be confirmed and receive her First Eucharist.

Genevieve Mvilongo is from Cameroon. She and her husband and two children came to the United States a year or so ago. Her husband is Catholic, but she is not. Last July their 9-year-old son drowned while swimming at a day camp. The family was devastated. The community of St. Philip’s surrounded them with prayer and pooled resources together to help the family financially. One parishioner’s brother paid for the boy’s funeral. In October, Genevieve attended an inquiry class about how to become a Catholic and joined the RCIA program at the parish. On Easter Sunday she will be received into the Church and her 13-year-old daughter will be baptized. The example of the community inspired them to become Catholic.

No comments: