By RAYMOND PRIOR, Special To The Bulletin | Published December 23, 2010
Reading about the Catholics Come Home Georgia initiative brings back fond memories of my Dad and how, as a young boy, I was instrumental in his conversion to Catholicism.
We lived in Buffalo, N.Y. My mother was not a practicing Catholic at the time. Dad said he was Lutheran but didn’t attend church either. I suppose they sent me to Most Holy Redeemer Grammar School taught by the Sisters of St. Francis because it was much closer to our house than the public school.
I liked going to church. I became an altar boy when I was in sixth grade. I gladly took my turn serving the 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. weekday morning Masses as well as one of the many Sunday Masses. I loved Holy Week. I was in church for hours. Dad once told me that I said I was “at the peak of my career” because I was going to serve midnight Mass.
One day my Dad announced to my mother that he was going to see the pastor and learn more about the faith. He was curious about what it was that made his young son want to be in church so much and to get up at 6:15 a.m. and trudge off to church in the dead of winter.
He began “taking instructions” from the pastor in the rectory. No RCIA program in those days. No special reconciliation session either. He was just another of the dozens of people who stood in line to go to confession at 7 p.m. on Saturday night.
He made his First Communion at a 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass. No fanfare, no Knights of Columbus honor guard. He came up to receive along with everybody else. Back then communicants knelt next to each other at the “communion rail.” The priest moved along the rail, placing the host on each person’s tongue. An altar boy accompanied him and held a gold paten under the chin of each recipient. I was the altar boy who held the paten for my Dad that day. From then on, Dad was an exemplary Catholic who never missed Mass and went to confession frequently.
Over the years I have learned one thing; you never know when something you do or say may influence another to “come home.”
Raymond Prior and his wife, Rita, are on the welcome committee at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Newnan. He said, “I refer to my wife and me as pre-Vatican II dinosaur cradle Catholics.” They are now in their 80s, moving to Georgia in 1979 from the Buffalo area where they grew up and married.