Monday, April 18, 2011

Ivan Posthumus Conversion Story

Each day of this week the USCCB Media Blog will bring you conversion stories from around the country. Ivan’s story is one of thousands of baptized candidates in the U.S. that will enter in full communion with the Catholic Church at Easter. Hat tip to Dennis B. McGrath, of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, for facilitating the story.

Ivan Posthumus, a 43-year-old ex Marine from Saint Paul, Minnesota, who spent eight years in the Corps and saw action in the Gulf War, hardly seemed a candidate for conversion to Catholicism. As a man of science, his major in college and his career, he was skeptical of all religion, not just Catholicism. He works in the highly specialized field of electronic verification of medical prescriptions.

“I went from Baptist to hostile agnostic,” Ivan admits. Yet on Easter, he will become a Catholic.

What brought him to a deep and abiding belief in Catholicism? It was a retired general and heart surgeon whom he met in a Russian restaurant near the Cathedral of Saint Paul, and who became his sponsor and inspiration.

Ivan and his wife frequented the restaurant, Moscow on the Hill, because they were friendly with the owner’s wife who, like them, owned Rottweiler dogs. Frequently dining in that same restaurant was Ray Bonnabeau, a 79-year-old former three-star major general and heart surgeon, and his wife. The restaurant owner’s wife felt that, as former military men, Ray and Ivan should get acquainted, so she introduced them.

In the two and a half years to follow, the couples discovered many common intellectual interests and Ray spoke often of his deep Catholic faith, answering the toughest questions from Ivan. Ray shared a number of books on theology and church history with Ivan. Subsequently, on a trip to Rome, Ivan visited the ancient churches and as a minor in art history, felt the paintings were almost speaking to him, reinforcing the conversations from his dinners with Ray.

Ivan investigated some more about the faith then entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at the Cathedral of Saint Paul. Ray also attended the sessions and then he and Ivan would discuss the teachings over dinner at the restaurant. During the RCIA process, Ivan experienced deep changes and even was able to contact his parents from whom he’d been estranged for many years. “The foundational aspects of the RCIA process were pretty amazing,” he says.

Ivan’s sponsor won’t be there on Easter for his friend’s First Eucharist. Ray passed away on February 28, not long after the discovery of a cancerous tumor in his leg that spread quickly to his lungs. He was, however, there for Ivan’s Confirmation. The rector of the Cathedral received permission to confirm Ivan in Ray’s hospital room where Ray could place his hand on Ivan’s shoulder during the sacrament.

“It is pretty remarkable to find someone who is so strong in his faith that he can lead someone as estranged as I was to the Catholic faith,” Ivan concludes. “My best friend was a 79-year-old former general and heart surgeon. You know that God had to have a hand in our meeting.”

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