There and Back Again: A Return to the Church Story

Growing up as a cradle Catholic in the Chicago area, I had what I believe would qualify as a typical 1960’s faith formation experience in what is, quite frankly, one of the most dysfunctional dioceses in the world.

One of my most vivid memories of CCD (Sunday school on Saturday) is asking questions of the teachers and not getting any answers of substance. 

I have to be charitable here. The teachers were all laymen who were riding herd on a class of 20-25 5-and 6-year olds who were full of typical youthful energy, which meant they had their hands full the whole time. They had no idea what they were dealing with when it came to handling me. 

I was reading at high school level when I was five, so my questions weren’t the kind they expected. I wanted to know the reason things were done at

Missal Mass (asking about the Kyrie, or specifics on the Order of Mass) and I was confused by the spelling of names of Biblical figures, not understanding that the Douay-Rheims Bible uses different spellings than the KJV version (e.g. Noe/Noah, Josue/Joshua, Isaias/Isaiah, Osee/Hosea) that dominated print media. 

Mostly they told me to settle down and do my workbook or coloring book or whatever they had for younger kids. That didn’t exactly give me confidence that they were actually teaching me anything. What they should have done was send me to the pastor, Father Hayes, to have my questions answered. Of course, what I should have done was ask my father, who could have answered them. I never thought to look in the Missal my Aunt Chona (my godmother) gave me when I was six, which had a lot of those explanations. 

I went through the Sacraments: First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation. But I wasn’t impressed by what I perceived as people just going through the motions. So I walked away from it all after I graduated high school.

Big mistake.

I still considered myself Catholic. My sons were both baptized at the church my wife attended growing up, but they weren’t brought up in the church. 

Bigger mistake.

But the pull to return was always there. I was still a believer, and every Christmas there was this tug, the “I need to go to Midnight Mass” feeling, but I never followed through.

At work, I had a lot of conversations after the 11 pm newscast with a master control operator named Dustin Peters. We’d get into all kinds of deep philosophical subjects, especially religious faith, and we had some great talks. 

In 2017, my wife and I got a once-in-a-lifetime-chance to go to Europe, and we were in Paris on Easter Sunday. We went to Mass at Notre Dame, the first time I’d been to a Mass in over forty years, attending the International Mass at that breathtakingly beautiful cathedral. It had been so long that I had forgotten a lot of the order of Mass, and the fact it was in every language but English didn’t help, but it was still a profound experience. My wife says when we were kneeling for the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the bells rang for the first time, tears started streaming down my face. I knew the immensity of His love for us and the willing sacrifice that was made, and the reality of it all hit me hard.

I dug more and more into the faith, doing a lot of reading, continuing those discussions with Pete, and did a lot of contemplation. Deep down, I knew I was going to return to the Catholic Church. I still believed in the truth of the Magisterium, and all it implies. It was just a matter of when.

Then came the COVID hysteria. I was as off-balance as the rest of America for a time, but then more and more the red flags became obvious. I started digging, and I saw the propaganda for what it truly was. Then the “vaccine” push started, and I researched that as well. More red flags. Evil red flags.

I talked with a couple of area priests and resumed attending Mass, first at St. Anne’s and then at Holy Family. That first time, I sat in the back, and when the bells rang during the Liturgy of the Eucharist the tears flowed once again as I contemplated the enormity of what it meant. I was home.

A short time later I did my first Confession in 45 years – which took a long time, naturally – going all-in, trying to absorb all of the Church teachings that I missed the first time through as I look for forgiveness from the Lord, the strength and courage to do the right things, and to pick up the crosses meant for me to bear while I’m on this earth. 

I serve as a lector on a semi-regular basis as I try in all humility to use the gifts the Lord gave me, strengthened by my 40 years as a television sportscaster, to properly proclaim God’s Word faithfully. 

I strive to be a role model in what to do – and serve as an object lesson in what not to do.

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