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Good questions, FOCUS and large stuffed pigs: one new Catholic’s journey to the faith

Jennifer Meier, left, a FOCUS missionary serving on Ohio State University's Columbus campus, is the sponsor for student Kelsey Moore, who is going through RCIA at the St. Thomas More Newman Center on campus. Meier and Moore are seen in Rome during a recent FOCUS mission trip pilgrimage. (OSV News photo/courtesyJennifer Meier)

(OSV News) — Nineteen-year-old Kelsey Moore felt drawn to the Catholic faith because of the joy it brings her, as well as its solid foundations in logic. But her journey to entering the Catholic Church this Easter Vigil started with a chance encounter, and some large stuffed pigs.

One sunny day in late August, Moore was walking around the Columbus campus of Ohio State University, familiarizing herself with her schedule. While crossing “The Oval,” a grassy area with many crossroads, Moore noticed some individuals tossing large stuffed pigs. “I literally walked into them. They were throwing pigs on a field. I guess it’s a game,” she recalled. She struck up a conversation with them about traveling, and they exchanged numbers.

The game was called “Pass the Pigs,” and one of the individuals was Jennifer Meier, a 23-year-old missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Meier described inviting others to know the Lord Jesus like this: “It’s kind of like when you have two separate friend groups and you just want them to be friends with one another.” Meier desired this connection with Jesus for Moore.

Later that week, Meier invited Moore to a trivia night. Moore accepted the invite. Then she realized the trivia night was in a Catholic church. Moore told OSV News, “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have not been in a church in over a year.'”

As a child, Moore did not grow up particularly religious. She had sometimes accompanied her father to his church, but she felt her many questions were not being answered.

“So then I just kind of grew away from it,” she said. “You’re not answering my questions, and I have so many, so I’m just going to do my own thing, because no one else around me is religious.”

But Moore attended the trivia night, and kept hanging out with Meier and her friends. Grace Turner, another FOCUS missionary, invited Moore to attend Mass.

Eventually, Moore asked Meier to accompany her to daily Mass at the St. Thomas More Newman Center. Moore described the experience as “very vulnerable.” Later, when she learned about the Eucharist — the word comes from the Greek for “thanksgiving” — Moore reflected, “That’s literally a perfect word to describe it and I hadn’t known it at the time.”

Meier felt called to invite Moore to the SEEK23 conference in St. Louis. The annual SEEK conferences hosted by FOCUS are for anyone interested in deepening their faith and spreading the Gospel, and this was the first year they were held in-person following the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, Moore accepted.

“I went and I had a phenomenal time,” she said. “It was honestly very overwhelming.” After SEEK, she was worried “that I wasn’t going to be able to continue how I felt that deep connection when I got home.”

After SEEK, Moore “kept asking really good questions,” Meier told OSV News. “And I was like, ‘Great, do you wanna come to RCIA?'” Meier explained that attending RCIA class — formally known as the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults — was not a commitment, but rather a chance to “ask your questions.”

So Moore attended RCIA, seeking “that connection again with the Lord.” She had a “clear moment” and she felt called to enroll in RCIA. She has been attending since then. “I will stay after 30 minutes and tackle deep conversations,” she said.

Why Catholicism and not another religion? “It just makes logical sense,” said Moore. “I’m a very science person,” she added. She often encountered scientific research and later learned “yep, the church funded that research.”

Another reason Moore feels called to the faith is that she feels “so much more happy than I’ve ever been.”

One very emotional moment for Moore was during her pilgrimage to Rome when she joined a group of girls in climbing the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs. One girl in particular made an impression on Moore.

“Her name is McKenzie and she is so sweet,” said Moore. On each step, they prayed the Lord’s Prayer (Our Father), a Hail Mary and Glory Be. “And I hadn’t fully remembered all the prayers,” said Moore.

So Moore’s friend offered to pray out loud with her. “She whispered them with me until I got it.” To this day, praying those prayers reminds Moore of her pilgrimage to the Holy Stairs.

Moore is hopeful that her father will attend her receiving the sacraments of initiation — baptism, confirmation and Eucharist — at the Easter Vigil. Her chosen sponsor is Meier.

“I’m just so excited for Easter and the Vigil for her to be baptized and confirmed,” Meier told OSV News. Meier has been supporting Moore as a friend, and also in prayer: “I really love praying the rosary for her, I just think Mother Mary is very very gentle and a very very good advocate and so I trust Kelsey to Mary very, very often.”

Kiki Hayden writes for OSV News from Texas.

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