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Why we are staying

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For the past several years, we have solicited stories from those who converted to the Catholic faith to share in our Easter issue. This year, however, in the wake of a new wave of the clergy sexual abuse crisis, we asked readers to share with us why they choose to stay in the Church, even amid scandal and the failings of its human leaders. The overwhelming number of responses we received filled us with Easter hope, and they serve as a reminder to all of us of how we came to first love the Church and why that love continues to draw us closer to Christ. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we did.

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The Catholic Church is the truth.

Deacon Jay Frantz via email

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A friend once asked me why I go to daily Mass. I couldn’t put it into words at first, but finally I said, if you love someone, you want to be close to them and be with them as much as possible. In receiving the Eucharist, I am with Jesus personally and as close to him as it is possible to be in this world. It is only in the Catholic Church that I have this supreme privilege. It is only in the Catholic Church that I can experience such a taste of what it will be like to be with Jesus in heaven. So, I stay in the Catholic Church because I love Jesus, and this is the Church that he founded, and this is the Church where he resides on earth.

Aggie Dowd via email

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I am staying because of the fullness of the truth of our Catholic faith. I am staying because of the richness of our Catholic faith. I am staying because my Catholic Church was begun by Jesus Christ and not by a mere man.

Vivian Brueckmann via email

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No other world religion leads to the fullness of the truth. They are merely human or demonic constructions. I want to worship the one, true, living God — the Holy Trinity. I do not want to worship myself or my opinions. I want the truth.

Anthony Tassinari, Van Nuys, California

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I am staying because I realize that anything made up of “man” is going to be imperfect. People are going to make mistakes, some egregious, unfortunately. What is and always will be perfect is the Faith and the Eucharist. There are dark times in all faiths, but we cannot ever abandon the Eucharist. We are in the midst of a battle, and we cannot let evil define our faith. We cannot turn away and run. This is the time, more than ever, to stand strong and tall and fight through the darkness until our faith is shining fully in the light.

Erica Hermanson via email

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Growing up in an urban environment (Brooklyn, New York) it seemed that there was a Catholic church on every other corner of the neighborhood. Within walking distance, I could count five churches, each with a distinct architecture and décor. But all were, in a real sense, home.

Why do I stay Catholic today? Because it is home. The priests, the brothers and sisters that were mentors and teachers to me were real human beings who shared their struggles and victories and dispensed that most indispensable of things: the sacraments. It would be all too easy, in this age of scandal and obvious maladaptive behaviors, to jump ship, but I can’t. Being Catholic is woven into the very fabric of my being. Jesus and the Gospel are center stage and — despite hell, high water or scandals — I will endure.

Have I had doubts? Certainly. Do I agree all the time? No, not always. But the Church is the Body of Christ here on earth, and it has room for all of us to build the Kingdom every day, each according to our gifts!

I am reminded that as Catholics we are “in” the world but not “of” the world! This is worth the staying!

Walt Brandstoettner Jr. via email

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Despite the past and current sins of its members (and to quote G.K. Chesterton), Catholicism is true!
In the final analysis, what else is there but truth?

Bob Taylor via email

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Why do I stay? Why stay when my parents attend different churches and my siblings rarely if ever attend Mass? I stay because although my family is scattered in some ways, we are inseparable in others. We are united in our identity as Christians who believe in a loving God who created us and who walks with us no matter where our paths lead or how far we stray from Love himself.

Why stay when the clericalism of the Church has given power to men who allow their agendas to overrule the needs of a family and community to serve in love? I stay because I have found a home where healing and transformation is found. I found a place that welcomes all people and encourages spiritual growth. I have a home that sends us out into the streets to serve others in need.

Why stay when the Church has disappointed us time and time again with scandals where the most vulnerable have been hurt in the most hideous ways? Why stay when these scandals continue to hurt our reputation so badly that young people, who already are trying to find themselves, are driven away in droves? I stay because God’s grace and love are not always found in the human mess we have created. Sometimes love must shine through the sacraments alone. I stay to experience healing and to share it. I will be part of the solution and not part of the problem by leaving. I stay to fix what is broken.

James Whitaker, Scottsdale, Arizona

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I will always be a Catholic since it is the one true Church, and I want to get to heaven.

Victoria Zizzo via online comments

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Our world is changing at an alarming rate. I remember a time when an agreement could be made between people with their word and a handshake. I remember when we could disagree on issues, welcoming the insight of the other person’s views and not being hated or threatened by that person because my views differed from theirs. I remember a time when all life was cherished and infanticide was not even in our vocabulary. And, I remember a time when shootings and terrorist attacks were an exception, not a daily occurrence.

This is a daunting time to be living, and I would be a basket case if it weren’t for my Catholic faith. I cherish the Catholic faith. It is my rock, my anchor in this turbulent storm on this sea of life.

We have the Ten Commandments, which are unchanging, not multiple choice. We have guidance through the Bible, tradition, our pope. We have the sacraments to strengthen us on our journey, and can receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus on a daily basis.
The sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and other denominations is the worst of tragedies, such a betrayal of a sacred trust. My heart goes out to all those who have endured this heinous crime, and I pray for healing for all involved.

I would not consider leaving the Catholic Church because of the sexual scandal. Through my Catholic faith, I know exactly what is expected of me, where I am going, how to get there, and most of all, I can receive Jesus through Communion every day to strengthen me. The Catholic Church is my strength, my anchor, my rock, my GPS.

Mabel Dithchfield via email

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The Church is full of sinners, including myself. The range of emotions I have gone through for the victims and our Church have been many: outrage, disgust, shame, sadness. But never have I considered abandoning my faith or the Church. The Body of Christ is deeply wounded and in need of loving care and healing, not abandonment. Jesus gave us the sacraments and the holy Mass to nourish and strengthen us. He is with us. I imagine his pain and heartache over the state of his Church is much greater than ours. The Church is my home. I am a sinner, and I too need to be healed. I need the Church to help facilitate the healing. I’m praying for the Holy Spirit to renew and revive the Body of Christ through each of us.

Mandi Welman via email

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Back in 2002 when the sex abuse scandal was breaking in Boston, I had barely sat down to Thanksgiving dinner when one of my disenchanted family members confronted me in a combative and derisive tone, “So what do you think of your Church now?” After the briefest pause and without any deep theological forethought, I replied simply, “Well, I am the Church also.”

Fast forward 16 years to September 2018. I was in Washington, D.C., as the Theodore McCarrick scandal was breaking. A cab was taking me to the St. John Paul II National Shrine, near the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, The Catholic University of America and the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Driving through this decidedly Catholic area of the city, my Nigerian driver somewhat apologetically asked me, “So what do you think of your Church now?” I smiled and replied simply, “Well, I am the Church also” and went on to briefly explain how I think of the Church as my family.

This simple truth has grown in my heart over the years and continues to be the mainstay of my faithfulness. No matter the disagreements, scandals and separations, one never truly leaves one’s family. Most importantly, we are fed by family. Jesus is the Bread of Life. I would starve without being able to receive him. I fell in love with Jesus at my first Communion and have never fallen out of love.

To the aspects of the Church known as militant, suffering and triumphant, I would add “the Church hesitant.” Jesus in his mystical body continues to suffer, and when one hurts, we all hurt. But, dear family, let us not hesitate to discover anew the truth, the beauty and the goodness of our Church. He is risen! Alleluia!

Annette Bednar Martin, Avon Lake, Ohio

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“No Irish need apply.” Those were the signs greeting most of my newly arrived ancestors as they sought jobs in this land of opportunity. The signs excluded the Irish but the implied message was that Catholics were not very welcome either.

But they all hung in, not just the Irish but Catholics in general, living together and supporting one another. They were the Church: the people, the hierarchy, the organization — the whole Body of Christ, supporting each other, encouraging each other, working together to secure the rights that this wonderful country promised to those who would venture here for a new life.

And this is the Church I cherish today; the Church that has advocated for me, given me guidance, family, a vision of matrimony and of myself for my whole life. The richness, the power for good that comes with living as a Church and as part of Christ’s mission is a part of me that I can’t relinquish. The present culture can’t come close to providing this.

She has never turned from me and now, in her hour of need, I will never turn from her, our Holy Mother Church. Now more than ever, our world needs the Catholic Church. The Faith and Church bring so much good to our society — hospitals, universities, schools, social concern programs, lay charitable organizations, the clergy and the people bringing Christ into this world with all the good works and teachings that flow from Christ. I love my parish, my Catholic faith and the friends and family found therein. Thank God for it! I’ll never leave.

Bill Dowling, Woodbridge, New Jersey

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St. Peter got it right. Where else can I go? When I attend Mass, whether in my local parish or at another Catholic church, I’m in my true home in this world, where I can worship with a like-minded community of believers in the company of the Communion of Saints. Why go anywhere else?

Jesus didn’t promise his Church freedom from persecution and scandal, but he did give his assurance that it would endure and prevail. For two millennia it has instructed, inspired and comforted millions of souls around the globe. Despite the current crisis, the Catholic Church continues to strengthen my faith. It enriches my life and gives me hope for the future.

I’m especially enchanted by the beauty of symbols and the harmonious interplay of sights and sounds in the Church. When I look around, I see symbolism in everything. But, of course, everything is not just a symbol!

No other institution provides such a safe harbor from our antagonistic world of noisy materialism. The Church is a quiet refuge where I can kneel in the presence of almighty God and pray. It’s a sacred space where I can be absolved of my sins, receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become incorporated into his divine life.

As a Protestant, I searched for decades for a church that would satisfy my heart’s desire — a place that would draw me closer to God, validate my views on moral and social issues, and offer meaningful opportunities for service and charitable work. My search finally came to an end when I was received into the Catholic Church. This is the fullness of faith. I’m committed to the Church like I am to my marriage. It’s for life. It’s forever. And I’m all in.

Melvin S. Arrington, Jr. via email

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Why am I staying? Because this is the Church that Christ founded, the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. Throughout history the Church has been involved in scandals, because we are human and we live in a fallen world. We believe that the pope is infallible in matters of faith and doctrine, but he, too, is still human and subject to faults and failings. The Church isn’t one person. It isn’t the pope or any bishop or any priest. We are the Church. We look to the hierarchy of the clergy for guidance in our walk with God, to help us understand sacred Scripture, and to help us maintain sacred Tradition. But we, all of us, as a whole, together are the Church.

I don’t leave my family because one member did something wrong and I won’t leave the Church because of the actions of a few. Jesus founded the Church upon Peter, and he told us in Matthew 16:18 that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. Two thousand years later, there are innumerable Protestant denominations, but there is still one Catholic faith. People come and people go, but the Church lives on.

Janice E. Bittner via email

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Three years ago my grandson made his First Holy Communion. He was the first of our grandchildren to receive the Eucharist. Needless to say, I was elated about his special day. I did something then that I never had done before; from my pew I lifted my camera above my head and took a picture of our pastor elevating the host at the consecration. After Mass, my wife and I reviewed the photos that I took in the church. We were amazed when we looked at the photo and saw that the elevated host was brightly illuminated. We did not see, nor did anyone else see, the illumination in real time. We shared it with our pastor, and he trembled with surprise when he saw it. Since then copies of that illuminated host have circulated to many parishioners.

I have wondered why the reason the illumination occurred and why had I been the one who took the photo. The revelations of clergy sex abuse helped me understand. I am a “revert,” and a “cradle” Catholic, who several years ago left the Catholic Church because of a scandal in the Church that I experienced. In disgust, I left for three years but eventually returned because I longed to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist again. I now know why the photo revealed to me the “real presence” of my Lord Jesus. I cannot receive the “real presence” of Jesus anywhere else but in the Catholic Church. I will never again leave. I have been saved by the “light!”

Clyde Archibeque via email

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I stay because of joy: the moments of joy I find with families celebrating sacraments; the personal joy I have in being united to Christ in the Eucharist; the quiet joy I see when our community helps others — these are signs of hope that make me stay. I know that the Church has had its sad failures and faults over its entire life span, and it’s still here. I know I have my faults and failures too. I continue to pray and to hope in God’s love and mercy and the salvation Christ gave on the cross for me and for the entire Church.

Erin O’Leary, Minneapolis

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I can remember one evening my 5-year-old excitedly telling me Easter was almost here, and the Easter bunny will be hiding some eggs. This disconcerted me, and I realized it was because she did not know the meaning of Easter. That night I told my husband I wanted to return to church. It was suddenly intolerable that the children did not see us celebrating Christ’s resurrection in church. It was the beginning of my journey back to the Church. The following summer, my husband saw an EWTN local radio affiliate advertisement on a billboard sign. Since I stayed home, he suggested I could listen to help break up the menial tasks of my day. I put a small radio in the kitchen and began to listen. Shortly after, I returned to the Sacrament of Confession, and began a regular prayer life. Now three years later, I have not stopped listening. Life gradually began to change, and I have found joy and meaning in my life.

When the abuse and cover-up scandals were exposed, I was heartbroken for the victims and their families. Ironically, it has made me want to stay more. I have never considered leaving because it would mean leaving Christ on the cross, thirsting for lukewarm and wayward souls like mine. It would not only mean abandoning hurting members of his Body, but Christ himself.

Laura Heater, Odessa, Missouri

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I was baptized a Catholic at age 4. Much study of the Catholic faith has been a part of my life. There is no doubt in my mind that the Eucharist is truly Jesus himself. For me to turn my back on this great gift would be the worst tragedy in my life. I once complained to a priest about the many people who profess Jesus but do their own thing in the Church. His response was quite revealing: “What do you expect from a church full of sinners?” The Catholic Church is one of the few churches that have not changed faith based on popular or hedonistic desires of the people. Humanae Vitae is a perfect example of this. Pope Paul VI was very prophetic when he wrote this very unpopular encyclical. The Communion of Saints, the liturgies, the universality, the magisterium are all reasons for me to continue to profess my faith in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. Jesus stated that he would be with his Church until the end of time. What God has put together, I prefer to keep a part of my life.

Daniel Brock via email

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To whom else shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).
Because when the family is in trouble, that’s when faithfulness counts most.
Because I want to renew our Church for the next generation.
Because Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has the words of eternal life.

Brother Ray Morris, BH via online comments

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One word: Eucharist. The body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Lord, to whom should we go? There’s nowhere else.

Carol Goodson, Novice, Concordia, Kansas

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The Church fits me like a glove! I love her teachings, her rites and ceremonies, her sacraments, her history, her truth. The primary reason I would never leave her, though, is the Eucharist. I NEED the body and blood of Christ to survive — physically and spiritually.

Diane Brunner via email

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I was a good Catholic kid but lost my faith in high school. I slipped all the way to atheism and stayed there for more than 30 years. My reversion story has been told a few times, but I did not come back for the priests or the Church or even St. Joseph, who saved me. I came back for Jesus. I fought too hard to get here to leave again. I know (now) that I am far too broken to judge the weakness, brokenness or evil intent of others. My daily Rosary is offered for the redemption of all of those who have been hurt or betrayed by me or my brothers and sisters in the Church.

Tony Devlin via email

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Because priests are a part of my religion — they aren’t my religion.

Cathy Cook via email

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