It is strange that as I begin to think of the events that have now led me back to the Roman Catholic Church, that the words, "I was raised Roman Catholic", come to mind. I wonder how many times in over twenty years I have said those words, usually at the beginning of a personal testimony or even during an introduction. I also wonder how many times I have been on the receiving end of those same words.

I live in Mesa, Arizona with my wife, Jeannie and our two grown children, James and JoAnna. I work for Boeing.

In many of the Evangelical or Fundamentalist churches, it seems that 20 - 30% (or more) of the members or attenders can say the words, "I was raised Roman Catholic." Many times at banquets or a meeting, sitting around a table, attempting to meet and learn about the other people sitting with you, inevitably those words would be said by someone. After the first person or couple would say it, normally you would see other heads nodding and the smiles would begin. Additional words weren't required, each of us understood.

We had escaped from a church that taught works for salvation, tradition over scripture, and had never told us about a personal relationship with our Lord. Each of us would say, "We never heard the Gospel" until we began to attend such and such church."

Now after being away for over twenty years I understand works as the Catholic Church teaches it in relation to salvation. I understand not only the need for tradition but how it acts as a glue in the foundation of our faith. To my shame I am now aware how week after week for twenty-two years I heard the Gospel read and preached at Mass, but I never listened to it.

Doctrinal positions that I have held and would have defended with all that was in me, are now being tempered or replaced. My days of fighting each new discovery that I was making concerning Rome have now passed. Yes I have some thoughts on positions that I wish the Church had taken, but they are becoming fewer in number, and those that remain give me something to think, study and pray about.

I know for me, and I would imagine many non-Catholics, the idea of a Teaching Office, The Magisterium, was particularly difficult at first, but probably was one of the easiest eventually to accept. I was always proud of my ability to study Scripture, to understand what it said, and to be able to teach or explain the historical setting and the modern application. Of course you always found people who could read and study the same passage and have different interpretations or at least, come to a different conclusion.

After listening to tapes by recognized Catholic theologians, who spend months and years preparing a paper or a presentation on a specific topic or position, I now find it so helpful to have this tool available to the body. For most Protestant denominations, their theological emphasis has been developed in the past 100 years, some more, many less. Usually the group was formed after splitting away from another group over a position that was debated and implemented or rejected. So often, it seems to me, each new denomination or group leaves something behind. They may create a new emphasis, missions or the Holy Spirit for example, but at what cost? If you give one thing more of an emphasis, you must de-emphasize something else. I think many of the Protestant Reformation leaders would be shocked to see how the denomination they founded has evolved in its theology. Catholic New Testament theology covers two thousand years. The consistency of teaching within the church should be something marveled at, not criticized. Unfortunately today we find priests, religious, lay teachers, and organizations who are not following the Magisterium. In fact, their opposition to the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church and the Pope can only lead to confusion among lay Catholics. Can there be any question as to why lay Catholics don't know their faith? To non-Catholics the Catholic Church, especially the Mass, seems strange or antiquated. It's not until you learn and begin to understand that much of what is practiced, the tradition (with a capital "T" or a small "t") is based on what occurred in the first and second centuries. The Jewish roots of the early Christians can be clearly seen. On the other hand, most Protestant denominations have been established and developed rather recently. Their traditions that have been developed are based on what those first generation members did.

The tradition that I have just left, the Assemblies of God, was formed in 1914. Most of the first generation has gone on to be with Jesus, leaving the second generation to hold true to what was established. The third and now fourth generation of members, many coming from other traditions, question why things are done the way the are.

There are traditional (heavy Pentecostal) Assembly of God churches and there are Assembly of God churches that have become more in line with the non-denomination Charismatic style and there are Assembly of God churches that look more like a Baptist church in worship style.

The second generation people are fighting to bring the denomination back to the roots they inherited and the third and fourth generation are wanting to change to what is important to them and their families. This has all happened in this century. When you compare the changes that have been made in less than a century, the consistency following 20 centuries, in the Catholic Church, is amazing.

Traditions like the Baptists and the Assemblies of God have held true to a call to holiness and the proclamation of the Gospel. Some of the other mainline denominations make you wonder. Who would have thought twenty-five years ago that some of these traditions would be considering, and in many cases accepting, abortion, same-sex marriages, and clergy?

Once again, the Catholic Church, in spite of the attempts of dissident groups whose motives are extremely suspect, has remained consistent in its call to Christians to remain faithful to the faith and to the teaching that has been handed down, from generation to generation, for 2,000 years.

Two times after graduating from high school, I began the process of becoming a Priest. The first time at 19, I went so far as to be accepted to a seminary. However, I was unsure and scared, so I ran and joined the Air Force. The second time at 21, I was writing to the Jesuits and was planning on joining their order after I was discharged from the Air Force.

In between were two years of heavy drinking, experimenting with drugs, and almost entering a marriage that would have proven disastrous. Why? I don' t know. God however, was faithful. I most certainly wasn't, but He was. A string of circumstances led me to a Southern Baptist Church in Louisiana. In the past, those circumstances were always the bulk of my testimony on how I became a Christian. Today I can look back and still see God working in my life but my conclusion is different. He saved me, but He saved me, from me.

At this small Southern Baptist church I found people who cared for me, loved me, and shared their lives with me. Outside of my own family, I never realized people acted this way. Many nights I would be at one of their homes, sitting at the kitchen table asking questions about the Bible. They always had time for me. There I discovered Jesus in a way that was totally different than my relationship with Him as a Catholic. This of course is why Catholics leave the church. What do they find that they didn't have before? I don't mean to overly simplify this but I think for some it was hearing preaching for the first time. Not a 10 or 15 minute homily but a 30, 45, even a 60 minute sermon that fully develops an application that leads you to a point of having to make a decision to respond or to say no. This is why, I think, so many say they never heard the Gospel before. Really what they are saying is, I was never put in a position to say yes before. This was true for me.

There is another part, found in most evangelical churches, that is also important. That is the feeling of involvement. In the Southern Baptist church I began to attend, there was Sunday School followed by the morning service. In the evening there was another time of teaching called Training Union, followed by the evening service. On Wednesday there was mid-week service. On Thursday there was visitation to the people who visited the church on Sunday or who had moved into the area recently. Throughout the week there are Bible studies and committees to attend. You begin to feel involved, that you are "somebody". I have learned that the same is true at most Catholic parishes. There are many things going on, ministries to be involved in, ways to feel like you have something to offer. I wonder how many of the former Catholics, now so heavily involved in their new Protestant church, were involved at their former parish? More than weekly Mass I mean. How many taught CCD, worked with the teens, college students, singles, young married couples, widows, converts, those who are grieving, those who are in need, etc.?

A danger in the Catholic church is the under utilization of the laity. Some parishes are very good but others are not. I think by not developing the laity, not only do you not find the workers you need, you risk losing a Catholic family.

After a period of going to Mass and then rushing to the Baptist Church for Sunday School and morning worship, I decided to stop going to Mass. A few months later, in April 1974, I became a Baptist and joined the church that I had been attending. A short time later I responded to a message on Christian service and went forward to the altar, feeling there was a call on my life to the ministry. I preached my first service at a Youth Revival in June of that year. Several youth groups were invited and a different "preacher boy" (as we were called) would preach each night. I remember working for days on that sermon and being so nervous when the day finally arrived.

I arrived at the church early and was sitting on the first row. I had no idea how many people would be coming. When it came time for me to preach, I went up to the pulpit and turned to see a church that was absolutely packed. I had never seen that church that full before.

In spite of my heart pounding and my knees shaking, I began a one hour sermon that probably included every bit of Bible knowledge that I had accumulated since April. Anything and everything that I had ever heard was in that message. At the end, I gave an altar call and a teenage girl came forward and gave her life to Christ. It was one of the most exciting nights of my life and I just knew I was where God wanted me. I met my wife, Jeannie, at the same church. We were in the youth group together. Technically I was too old (22) to be in the group but they bent the rules for me. In December we were married. No one from my family attended the wedding. This of course was just another "hurt" in a long list of "hurts" that I would cause my parents to have. The excuse I gave was that the wedding was in Louisiana and my ' was just outside of Chicago. There were still 6 kids living at home so it would have been very difficult and expensive for them to come.

The real reason I persuaded them not to come, was I was embarrassed of them, not personally, but them being Catholic. In my heart I really wanted them, especially my Mom and Dad, to be there with me, but I didn't want to have to introduce them to my new church family. My anti-Catholic feelings were starting to emerge. I was beginning to enjoy my new zealousness and I didn't want to be faced with the truth by two Catholic Christians.

After I was discharged from the Air Force, I enrolled in Bible College. For the next few years, my anti-Catholic views, and at times hatred for the Catholic Church, were the dominant part of life. I had just enough knowledge of the Catholic Church to be considered an "expert" by many of my fellow Bible College students but not enough to be able to discern the error that I was hearing about the Church.

From 1974 - 1985 I served in several different Baptist Churches in Louisiana, Washington and California. I was always involved in lay ministry and church leadership. I served in pulpit ministry, preaching when the pastors were on vacation or ill. I also taught Sunday School classes as well as leading adult Bible studies.

Beginning in 1984, my wife and I felt a drawing to the Holy Spirit, which was not an emphasis in the Baptist churches. When we moved to Arizona in 1985 we took the opportunity to join an Assembly of God (Pentecostal) church. We had been at that church until April 1997, when I finally resigned my position as a Deacon, and my position on the Board of Directors as the Secretary / Treasurer. Jeannie was the Senior Pastor's secretary and the church receptionist for five years. The position ended in October 1997.

I chose to not seek credentials with the Assemblies of God, even though I could have been licensed and eventually ordained a minister. I love the church, the Pastor and people, but I never felt a kinship with the denomination. Even after attending the AG church for 13 years I was still very Baptist in my approach to living out my faith, with one exception, the Holy Spirit. The AG church we attended has praise and worship as a fundamental ingredient of any service. I always enjoyed this time of singing out to God in preparation to the message that would be preached.

Again I was very active in the local church doing pulpit ministry, adult Sunday school, weekly Bible studies, etc. For one year I taught the Jr. High Sunday school class. The church has grown steadily and great things are sure to happen. As the Secretary / Treasurer I was responsible for the church budget. I was involved in the finding and hiring of the current Sr. Pastor, as well as the hiring of four Associate Pastors. In July 1997, the church moved into a new $1.2 million, 900 seat Worship Center. I was involved with the financing, planning and design of the building.

Sometimes I think I can understand how Moses felt, standing on the mountain top looking at the Promised Land. It's difficult to understand why, after going through the hard years of building something, helping it to grow, that now you are told, you can't go in. For me it was time to move.

I think the beginning of my restlessness with the Protestant form of worship services, basically prayer, a greeting, singing, announcements, an offering, more singing, more prayer, a special song either by the choir or an individual or group, followed by a message and some sort of an opportunity to respond to the message, was the idea of going to get "something". If the songs weren't the ones I liked it could ruin the whole service for me. As part of church leadership we always tried to make sure the emphasis was on worshipping God, regardless of how we felt. But so often it still came down to how we felt. I believe this is the source of the standard line, "I'm not being fed." Without really knowing it, I was beginning to think there has to be a better way. I remember talking to the pastor, shortly before I announced I was leaving, and he felt so much pressure. He was carrying the service on his shoulders. He didn't want it that way, but he felt like he was performing.

In the spring of 1996 we began preparing for our first visit back to my home in Illinois, just outside of Chicago, in 10 years. I am the oldest of nine children, 6 boys and 3 girls. As I said before, I left home at 19, in 1971, to join the Air Force. With the exception of two years, 1977 - 1979, I had lived away from my family. Most of my brothers and sisters were small children when I left. I wasn't there when they grew up, and I felt I didn't know them very well at all.

The thought of seeing them all was very tough for me. I felt so different. I was the only one who had left home and I was the only one who wasn't Catholic. My anxiety over seeing them verged on paranoia. I began to look for excuses for not going back home.

I had kept very close with my parents during the years. I knew how I had hurt them so many times especially by leaving the Catholic church and moving away from them. They were always so supportive of me and wanted to know about the church we were attending. To be sure, we had some whopper talks concerning religion and the Bible. I always believed my parents were Christians, there was never a doubt about that. I just couldn't understand how they could stay in that church. Why couldn't they see that what I had was so much better? I began to play mind games with myself. What was the best way to act around my brothers and sisters? I knew I couldn't act like some evangelist and throw Bible verses at them. I tried that years before and it didn't work. So I decided to not worry about it. If the opportunity to witness and share my faith with one of them arose, I would take advantage of it. I actually became very comfortable with this idea, which of course was the best approach anyway, and began to look forward to going back.

The purpose for going back at this particular time was my brother, Paul, and his fiancée, Katherine's, wedding. I had missed many of my brothers' and sisters' weddings, mostly because of the paranoia I spoke about earlier. My dad wanted all of his sons to be in this wedding, so I agreed.

Paul and Katherine are graduates of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, where Paul had received an M.A. in Theology. I remember thinking, what a sap. He spent all that money and time earning a degree in Catholic theology. I'll bet they didn't open the Bible once during the whole two years he was there. He mentioned this one professor he had, Dr. Scott Hahn. It didn't make much of an impression back then. (Of course it does now.)

We arrived a few days before the wedding and of course everything was in chaos. I did try to have some time with Paul to discuss his education and to convince myself he was really a Christian. During our talk the subject of Mary came up. We discussed several Marian doctrinal positions. At first I thought he was kidding. This had to be a joke that he had been saving for months to spring on me. Then I realized he was serious. Thoughts flew through my mind. My brother isn't a Christian! Two years at that school and he thinks Mary is equal to Jesus!

Little did I know that discussion, which led to anger, caused me to begin thinking about the Catholic church. At first the thoughts weren't something I care to share, but slowly over the days before the wedding, God was softening my heart.

The wedding rehearsal was a disaster as far as I was concerned. I wouldn't cooperate by bowing before the altar as I came down the aisle. I goofed off the whole time making jokes about everything the Deacon was saying or trying to do. I was a total distraction to those around me. That was also the last time that I was in a Catholic church and thought it was joke.

The morning of the wedding was an exciting, beautiful day. I had gotten over all the fears and apprehension of seeing my brothers and sisters, not to mention relatives that I haven't seen in 20 years. I was actually looking forward to seeing everyone and especially going to the reception afterwards. The wedding was held at St. John The Baptist Catholic Church in Winfield, IL. Winfield is a wonderful town about 2 hours West of Chicago. It's an old, small, quiet town where people walk to the train station and take the train into the city for work.

We arrived at the Church and began to see people that I really never thought I would see again. We were laughing and telling stories, amazed at how years could vanish in moments. We all gathered in the church and were waiting for the bride to arrive.

I noticed my brother, Don, who was acting as if he wasn't feeling well. He started to get anxious, for fear of disrupting the wedding, which led to him feeling worse. We tried to talk to him and calm him down but he was getting worse by the moment. I put my hands on his shoulders and prayed for a healing touch and calmness to come over him. It was the first time I was able to do "my thing" around all these Catholics.

Praying for my brother helped me to focus on the wedding, to think about God, and to make a commitment to Him that I would take the upcoming ceremony seriously. When Katherine arrived, the wedding began, and in a few minutes I would begin a journey that I never thought I would take. A journey back to the Roman Catholic church.

I was enjoying the wedding Mass, looking around and making eye contact with cousins who arrived late. They were as excited to see me as I was to see them. I was feeling at home, very comfortable in a very strange place. When it came time for Communion I wanted to participate. Of course I wasn't going to go forward for Communion, but I sure wanted to.

I was in the wedding party sitting in the front row. To my surprise, the Priest gave Communion to Paul and Katherine, and then came straight to the front row and began serving the wedding party. I was second, and I was caught off guard. When the Priest came to me, obviously assuming I was Catholic, I instinctively said Amen, and received the host.

I know I should not have done that, but the moment I received the host I instantly believed in the real presence of Jesus. It seemed so 'right'. Why did I ever doubt this? A hunger was birthed inside of me and a need to rediscover the Catholic Church began.

Without making a big announcement, "I think I'm going to become Catholic again," I began to read books and magazines, listen to tapes, anything I could find at my ' . Eventually I found "Pierced By A Sword" by Bud Macfarlane Jr., Director and Founder of the Mary Foundation in Ohio.

The title was intriguing and the book cover surprised me. This was a Catholic novel of fiction dealing with the end of this age. I thought to myself, this should be interesting. I wonder how a Catholic thinks the end times will be? I thought this was going to be a Catholic version of the "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey. For those of you who haven't read "Pierced By A Sword", I won't be specific concerning the story. I don't want to ruin it for you.

As I read it I thought, where's the anti-christ? There's no mention of a temple being rebuilt and not once did it talk about the rapture. There was talk about Mary, but what did she have to do with end times?

I struggled with the characters. How was I going to accept or believe characters who were obviously going to be used by God who drank and smoked? Not just a little - a lot! Even the priest in the story drank and smoked and he was a good priest. This was too much for me to handle. Christians don't drink or smoke, and if they do, they sure don't do it where they can be seen.

In "Pierced By A Sword", the author drops, usually out of nowhere, bits of information from Marian visitations. He also slips in a lot of Catholic theology and philosophy. I kept saying, "Where is this guy coming up with this stuff?" I probably threw the novel down six times, each time saying something like, "I've got better things to do than read this."

The novel which at first angered me because of the heavy Maryology emphasis, kept "calling" me back to read it. I finally became totally absorbed in the book, I couldn't stop reading it. I was getting up early, staying up late, trying to have some quiet time or find a quiet place to finish this book. Nothing else mattered, I had to finish this book.

In the end it was a story of hope. I began to understand the Catholic teaching on the communion of saints. I didn't realize, that in just a few months, how comforting this understanding would be.

As part of my testimony, I told Bud that I would always include how "Pierced By A Sword" helped to change my life. I recently finished reading it for the second time. This time there was no anger.

I truly believe that I could have picked up a different book and to some degree, it could have impacted my life. God, however, understood me and knew what I was going to need. He had me find this book, that just happened to be laying on a table. No one said, "Rick, you have to read this book!" When I found it I went to my brother Fred, and asked him if he had read it. He said, "yeah, its good." "Pierced By A Sword" is more than a good read. I understand there have been many conversions and people who have returned to their faith as a result of reading it. To date over a quarter million people have read it! You may not agree with it, but you can't deny how God has used it.

If I had just read the book and left it at that, I would have returned to Arizona and I never would have thought about becoming Catholic again. I needed to take the next step.

In June 1997, Bud's next novel, "Conceived Without Sin", was published. It is a totally different story, dealing with relationships. I read it, enjoyed it, and learned a great deal concerning how God is involved in our lives on a day to day basis. I highly recommend "Conceived Without Sin."

After our vacation I wrote to Bud Macfarlane Jr. to tell him of the impact of his novel on my life. In addition to an autographed copy of "Pierced By A Sword", Bud sent me a copy of "Surprised By Truth" by Patrick Madrid, which I devoured. I had no idea there were other people who not only were thinking about becoming Catholic, they actually had become Catholic.

He also gave my name and number to Marcus Grodi, the founder of the Coming Home Network - an apostolate which works with Protestant ministers and lay people looking to become Catholic. Many have expressed some interest in the Catholic Church and many, as I have, have returned to the Catholic Church. Marcus is a former Presbyterian minister.

One of the wonderful ways that God has encouraged me during this time was the way people would make contact with me. I was reading "Surprised By Truth", a book of testimonies of people who came home to the Catholic Church. The last chapter I read one night was the chapter written by Marcus Grodi. The next day when I returned from lunch and listened to my messages on my machine, there was a message from Marcus saying how Bud had given him my name.

Even more than a great story, God used "Pierced By A Sword" to bring people like Bud Macfarlane Jr. and Marcus Grodi into my life. It started a chain of events that in many ways were miraculous.

Beginning in the Fall of 1996, Bud and Marcus became my support team by telephone, mail, or e- mail. Their wisdom, along with a ton of tapes by Scott Hahn and other great teachers, which I have purchased or borrowed and have listened to multiple times, along with a great deal of research and prayer, eventually brought me to a crisis point. I had to announce my resignation and my return to the Catholic Church. If I did not, I was being disobedient.

One thought, I believe, really helped to speed up my reversion. When I heard Jeff Cavins, a former Protestant pastor, and now host of "Life on the Rock" on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), speak about living a life of rebellion during his years away from the church of his youth, I knew what he meant. Our stories are different but this thought of rebellion, I believe, is true, not only for me, but a whole generation of former Catholics. I was limited in my ministry, my relationships, my joy, because I was in rebellion. Once I understood this, accepted it, and began to feel remorse, my days away from the Catholic Church were numbered.

God continues to bless my wife and me as we have stepped out, leaving many years of ministry, and friends behind. He has led us to a wonderful parish, St. Timothy Catholic Community, here in Mesa, Arizona and a wonderful pastor, Fr. Dale Fushek, founder of the Life Teen youth program.

Our first Sunday at St. Timothy was Pentecost Sunday 1997. Before the Mass began, Fr. Dale called Jeannie and me to the front, and he introduced us to our new church family. After a short word of testimony, we were warmly received. It was a wonderful day for us. Jeannie and I began the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) classes in June 1997. Our plan was to complete the classes together, be married in the Church, have Jeannie receive the sacraments, and then be welcomed into the Church in November 1997.

In another unusual turn of events, God had another plan. We met with Deacon Barry at St. Timothy to begin making plans for our wedding validation. Deacon Barry, after meeting with us, met with Father Paul, also of St. Timothy, who is assigned to the Marriage Tribunal of the Phoenix Diocese. Together they decided to attempt a rarely used process called a "Sanatio In Radice" (retroactive validation). A Sanatio is basically a recognition, by the Catholic Church, of our wedding in a Baptist Church.

I was notified on Friday, August 8, 1997 that our Bishop had signed the Sanatio and that I was free to begin participating in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. On Saturday afternoon, August 9, I made a general confession. This was my first confession in at least 25 years. On Sunday, August 10, I received the Eucharist, legitimately.

Jeannie and I are very thankful to God for allowing this recognition of our marriage to take place. To us, it is proof, that God was always with us. On Saturday, November 22, 1997 I had the privilege of watching my wife and her RCIA class make a Profession of Faith, receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, and then First Holy Communion. We are now able to receive the sacraments together as husband and wife.

After a year of struggling with the new faith her parents had unexpectedly accepted, our daughter JoAnna surprised us with her announcement that she was beginning RCIA in January 1998. She came into the Church on May 31, 1998 - Pentecost Sunday.

That night, her boyfriend Jason, whom she met at St. Timothy proposed to her. They will be married at St. Timothy on December 19. I think it is safe to say that Pentecost Sunday will always be an extra special day for our family. So much has happened in such a short time. There were many times during this process that I became discouraged and wanted to forget about it. After all, I had achieved a position in our church. I was a "somebody", involved in the administration of the church. The pastor as well as church members asked my advice on issues. Why would I want to walk away from ministry that I had devoted years to preparing for? Each time God would send someone, usually someone I didn't know, usually on the internet, who just felt led to write me a letter sharing their story or to offer encouragement. For all of you who made contact with me, thank you.

Today I have fallen in love with the Catholic Church. Through the ministry of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) and Mother Angelica, I have discovered Catholic Priests and Religious whom I not only admire but truly love. I am in awe as I hear many of them speak about a personal relationship with Christ, scripture, and the Christian walk. I have to ask, what has happened to me? I would have laughed, and did, at these same people in the past. I would never want anyone to think that the 23 years I spent away from the Catholic Church were a waste. I have developed skills that I may not have developed if I had remained a Catholic.

One thing I'm confident of is the understanding of the Evangelical or Fundamentalist mindset. This is something that many converts or reverts bring to the Catholic Church. We know the language. Very often a Catholic appears to be ignorant of the Bible or basic theological fundamentals to a Protestant. When, in reality, it's a language problem. Catholics and Protestants each have a unique way of talking.

I had the privilege of serving under some Godly men during my years away. These men provided friendship, wisdom, and many wonderful memories. Two in particular, Pastor Jim (Washington) and Pastor Jeff (Arizona) stand out. In each case I left them after developing a relationship that went beyond Pastor and church member. These were close friendships of men that I loved and still do. In the case of Pastor Jim I left to move to California. With Pastor Jeff, I left to return to the Catholic Church. Each time I felt as if my heart was being torn out of my chest.

As a result of the difficulty I had, when I first felt the longing to return home, to find someone local to talk with, I have created a web page on the internet. The ministry of my web page, Returning Home - To the Roman Catholic Church, is to provide a non-threatening environment for someone to ask a question, seek direction, or to share what's on their heart. To date I have been blessed my many who have visited the web page just beginning their journey home. The words of thanks and encouragement I have received have made it all worth while.

I wish I could say that the only tears that were shed during this past year had to do with making a very difficult decision to return to the Catholic Church and saying good-bye to a church and many friends. In January 1997, my father, Frank, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He went to be with Jesus on April 8, 1997. My father was always so strong and healthy. He retired from General Motors where he worked in welder maintenance supporting production lines. He attended daily Mass, regularly read at Mass, and was a Knight of Columbus. My father was the most righteous man I have ever known. I miss him terribly.

There would have been a time when I would have said Satan was attacking our family. He was trying to discourage me and keep me from returning to the Catholic Church. I don't understand why God chose that particular time to take my . I can't see out far enough to see how it all unfolds. I do, however, believe that God is in control. He has a plan for all of our lives. His plan for my father was that he would be reunited with Him on April 8, 1997. In spite of tears and a feeling of loss, I will not challenge God and raise my fist in the air to Him saying, "Why did you do this to me?" I'm sure as a result Satan was hoping I would not return to the Catholic Church but that I would renounce God entirely. No, not even close. In great hope, through Jesus, I look forward to the day of seeing my dad again.

This leads back to the words, "I was raised Roman Catholic".

Thanks Mom and Dad - I love you.

Rick Ricciardi

June 23, 1998

Homepage: http://www.returninghome.com/

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