Before I tell you a little about me, let me first apologize for typos, spelling and grammatical errors! I am obviously not a trained writer and just about the worst speller in the universe. I’m also not a Theologian or Catholic Apologist. I am a Catechist in a local parish. I hold a BA in philosophy, but have been working in the Hotel Industry for the past 15 years.
My name is Jennifer Hanselman and I am a Catholic revert. I grew up in the Catholic Church. I was sacramentalized but not catechized. In the chaos of my parents’ divorce I never received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Like most Catholics my age, with no understanding of the Mass or the Eucharist, I left the Catholic Church in college in favor of a new and exciting evangelical church. My best friend Sunny had (and still has) a pure and genuine love of Jesus. She introduced me to a small local Baptist Church. I learned so much from my Protestant brothers and sisters during this time. Our Evangelical Baptist Church grew much larger. The music ministry was a full rock band playing my favorite contemporary Christian music; we were even able to grab a Cup-o-Joe on our way into the service!
As time went by, our church approached us with the idea of getting baptized again. Due to my Catholic upbringing, I felt very uneasy about receiving a second baptism. I did not understand and often thought “did the first one not take?” The church sent a Pastor out to our home several times to discuss the importance of a full immersion baptism. The Pastor described baptism as an outward profession of faith and that was my “light bulb” moment. I realized that we were using the same words, but different dictionaries. I knew that in the Sacrament of Baptism our sins are washed away and that the Holy Spirit dwells within us turning us into a living breathing temple of God. My husband, though not Catholic, shared my belief about baptism. We both knew that the Holy Spirit is very powerful and does not require a baptismal do- over.
My heart and mind were leading me back to the Catholic Church. This was particularly worrisome because I married an Evangelical Protestant who told me on our very first date that he could NEVER convert to Catholicism. Eric also felt disillusioned with our Church’s strong desire to baptize us again. I knew that his uneasiness was a window left open for me by the Holy Spirit to get him to attend a Catholic Mass. I made a deal with Eric; go to just five Masses. He reluctantly agreed and was very clear that at the conclusion of those five Masses, we would be looking for a new Protestant Church. The next Sunday we attended our first Mass together. Eric was surprised to hear 3 readings from the bible and continual prayer. When we left Church Eric looked and me and said, “That was all about Jesus.” I just thought to myself, “Well of course it was silly man!”
It was June 21, 2010 (my birthday). I was sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee waiting for Eric to get home so we could get on with the birthday festivities. I was excited to hear the familiar sound of the garage door opening. Eric walked and threw some pamphlets down on the table where I sat. They read “RCIA: RIGHT OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION FOR ADULTS.” Eric saw my confusion and decided to inform me his day’s activities. He had visited our local parish Priest to discuss his conversion to the Catholic faith. After speaking with the Father, Eric registered for RCIA starting that September. Shock does not even begin to describe what I was feeling.
I had been away from the Catholic Church for a long time so I decided to go through the RCIA process with Eric. We attended weekly Mass during the summer to prepare for RCIA. Additionally, we started the annulment process (Eric had been married earlier in life). The toughest part of our preparation was informing our friends and family that we wanted to experience the fullness of the Christian faith in the Catholic Church. This was very hard for Eric’s evangelical family to accept and left us estranged for some time. My best friend Sunny shared her concerns. Sunny is a lifelong Protestant and has serious opposition to the Catholic Church. Sunny could see that there was no stopping Eric and I; she offered her support. Even today, Sunny is my best friend and sister in Christ.
Eric, me and my two stepsons were welcomed into the Catholic Church in August of 2011. We also made our marriage Sacramental through a radical sanation on that same day. (A radical sanation is a decree issued by the diocesan bishop stating that he accepts the original consent of the marriage as valid.) It was literally the happiest day of my life. I felt home and I was so thrilled that my family was home with me.