Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Thomas Spink/Archdiocese of Atlanta
Ushers holding signs walk before the Blessed Sacrament as the morning procession makes its way to the entrance of the Georgia International Convention Center during the 2012 Eucharistic Congress.

College Park

Converts Attest To God’s Grace At Work In Sacraments

By SUZANE HAUGH, Special To The Bulletin | Published June 21, 2012

The Eucharistic Congress brings together a multitude of people. One slice of the population attending the congress includes converts to the Catholic faith.

“It has everything,” said Dr. Laurie Johnson, a psychologist from Cartersville, about the Catholic faith.

Johnson had a closed mind to Catholicism until she and her husband became tired of divisions that seemed to plague the Christian churches they had attended.

“We tried them all,” but they steered clear of the Catholic Church.

“Once we drove past a Catholic church and looked at each other and said, ‘It will not be that one,’” she recalled with a smile.

After study and searching they came around to what God’s “original design” was for his church.

“First it was a horror story, then a mystery and then a love story,” she said, alluding to the description of the conversion process given by another well-known married couple now Catholic—Scott and Kimberly Hahn.

God was “very merciful,” Johnson said.

“He brought my husband and me to the Catholic Church on the same timetable. It was an amazing journey.”

While she relies on her education and years of experience in the mental health field to serve clients, “God is bigger.”

And his power comes through in concrete ways via the sacraments, she affirmed.

She highlighted the power that the sacrament of reconciliation has to achieve and to continue a sense of wellbeing.

“I have faith in the mental health (profession), but nothing comes close or near to confession,” she said.

It is a powerful tool for finding “new life.”

“If a problem crops up, you can go to reconciliation … before it becomes an addiction. You can handle heartache, find peace, and it has the power to repair and stop bad habits.”

Johnson attended the congress with her daughter, O’Keefe, who had spent the day in the teen track soaking in the music, the opportunity for confession and Mass.

“It was incredible,” O’Keefe said.

She is excited for the opportunity she will have to lead others to Christ through the Search retreat for teens, where she remembers her own powerful experience with Eucharistic adoration.

For Johnson, the congress is an event not to be missed. “I come back to get a tune up—to clean up through confession and fill up with Mass.”

She says it’s also about experiencing community. “I come to be with the global family. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Jesse Travis grew up in a different faith tradition as well. For three years his work took him to Mexico with its typical town squares and large churches.

“It allowed me to take a look at the Catholic side,” he said. “I saw the humility of the people and sensed that there was something bigger there.”

He then spent many years in China, returning from one stint overseas in need of visiting a church on a particular day. All of the doors to the churches he visited were locked, except for that of the Catholic Church.

“God’s presence was truly there and I couldn’t shake it,” Travis said.

“It was a long, hard road—the whole reconciliation process,” he recalled. “Now, my life has never been better.”

“God’s grace has allowed me to step through everything.”

This was his first Eucharistic Congress after converting to Catholicism three years ago. He attended both the Friday and Saturday events and reported his experiences back to his wife who was home recuperating from surgery. He spoke to her as he drove home Friday after the healing service and about the power of having “Christ right before you.”

Presently he is discerning “how to get involved at a deeper level,” and spoke of the Catholics Come Home ministry of Tom Peterson, who also came to the area from Arizona.

Travis has found his home in the “first church of Christ.”