By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 9, 2010
Kenny McMann’s journey to the Catholic Church has not been an easy one. However, through his struggles with belief, various addictions and an overpowering feeling of being alone, McMann has emerged a confident man of faith who realizes the power of having God present in his life.
McMann, who grew up south of Atlanta near Hampton, said faith was not a significant part of his upbringing, as his parents never encouraged church attendance or the importance of getting to know God.
“To me and my immediate family, (faith) didn’t mean much,” McCann said.
He said his mother was raised in a Catholic household and went to Catholic school until her family moved from Washington, D.C., to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. She married at the age of 17, gave birth to McMann when she was 18 and was divorced shortly after.
“She didn’t go to church then even though her parents did,” he said.
McMann remembers attending a few Baptist services as a young man because he was able to catch rides on a bus that would drive people to church. He also looked to friends for rides to church since he was never able to go with his mother.
“I think my mom has always believed in God, so I probably always believed that there was a God or a higher power,” he said. “I didn’t have much confidence in it. It was like a good feeling to have, but I didn’t really give it any thought.”
When he became old enough to drive himself, the newfound freedom allowed McMann to participate in other activities besides going to church. He fell in with a “rough crowd” and began drinking heavily in his teenage years, a habit that continued for long afterward until he was in his 30s.
“I drank a lot and frequently,” he said, adding that as a young man he wanted to feel accepted and loved and thought partying with his friends was the way to achieve that. McMann said that he often found himself feeling completely alone, even though he was constantly around people.
“I could be surrounded by hundreds of people who claimed to be my friends and . . . I felt alone in the room,” he said. “At some point in every single night, there would come a moment when I would look around and be like, ‘None of these people care about me.’”
McMann said that during this time he was arrested five times, all alcohol-related incidents. He felt like he needed to change his life, but said it was difficult finding out just how to do that. The party lifestyle had been all he knew for so long.
“I didn’t like who I was, and I hadn’t for a very long time,” McMann said candidly. “I knew I needed a change.”
His journey back to God was not an overnight conversion. It was a slow and sometimes painful process dealing with all the mistakes he had made and all of the trouble he found himself in throughout his young life.
McMann began attending AA and chemical dependency meetings. He began praying by himself, at first unsure why but simply following the instinct to talk to God one on one.
“I believe that you got to exist, or I wouldn’t be where I am,” he told God during his prayers.
McMann would also pray for his mother, asking God to take care of her, and saying that he would get more serious about his faith and church in return.
McMann found it easier to stay away from his old life the more he became involved in the faith community. He began attending young adult ministry events and getting to know people in new ways.
“You have to do stuff that is out of your norm,” he said. “When you are trying to change your whole life, that is very powerful.”
McMann began to go through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He said that nearly every night of the week he was at some church event. It was still a struggle dealing with his affinity for alcohol, but he felt changing his lifestyle was the most important step.
In 2006 he came into the Catholic Church at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw.
It was not only his faith that McMann found through this slow conversion back to a life of sobriety. God also blessed him with his wife, Jennifer. McMann remembers attending a young adult ministry coffee and speaker series called Holy Grounds. His future wife gave a talk about Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body.” The two became friends, eventually started dating and are now married with one daughter, Gracie.
McMann has been sober since Easter 2007, and he said having his family has made it much easier.
“I now have something to lose,” he said.
He now lives a life of confidence in his faith. Struggles still continue to find a way into his life, but they are of a much different nature. Now McMann deals with finding appropriate ways to pray with his wife and occasionally tending to a crying baby during Mass. Whenever struggles arise in his life now, McMann goes to God.
“I think when we struggle, it’s when we are not as close to God. If we are keeping God in our daily life, then we are fine,” he said.
“It is a great feeling because I don’t ever feel alone now,” McMann said.