Woman joins church, brings in family

Picture: Cassia William’s prayers that her family embrace Catholicism have been answered. From left are Timothy and Hannah O’Farrell, her sister and brother-in-law; her parents Dana and David Williams; Cassia; and Ronald and Micah Wilkins, her brother-in-law and sister. Ronald is still discerning. (Courtesy photo)

She made the ‘mistake’ of reading Catholic books written by Catholics

Cassia Williams’ family, although hesitant about her decision to become Catholic, graciously attended the Holy Saturday service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception three years ago when she was brought into the fullness of the faith.

This year Cassia will return the favor when her mother, father, and youngest sister will make their profession of faith Holy Saturday at Church of the Resurrection in Wichita.

Her family may have had doubts about Cassia’s decision to embrace the fullness of the faith, but Cassia has no doubts regarding her family’s determination. She – along with the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother – was instrumental in their embracing the fullness of the faith.

Cassia’s and her family’s conversion story begins one block south of the Cathedral at the First United Methodist Church, where her parents David and Dana Williams, were married and where Cassia, a harp player, was active in the church’s music and other ministries.

After a time, though, she became unsatisfied and decided to look for a different church. “I’m really good at procrastinating,” Cassia said. “It took me a good two years…to start venturing out and finding a different church.”

Although her sister’s best friend was Catholic and her sister later became interested in becoming Catholic, Cassia said she thought Catholicism was just too weird.

“So, I started reading about the different denominations – Protestant denominations – and I saw that there were so many disagreements when it came to theology and in what they thought. I didn’t really know what I believed at that point,” she said. “All I knew was that I wanted to find what I believed in and find the church that fits that description.”

She decided to investigate the teachings of the Catholic Church because she knew it was the first Christian church. “I wanted to see where the Catholic Church went wrong because that would help me branch out…and learn about which denomination followed the true path.”

Cassia said she made the mistake – from a Protestant’s point of view, and a blessing from a Catholic’s – to begin reading books about Catholicism written by Catholics, rather than Protestants.

“I realized that all the things that I knew as a Methodist were – in terms of sacraments, especially – very superficial and they didn’t have anything to back them up, no tradition. They use the word tradition, but there wasn’t a reason. It was just ‘this is how we’ve done it.’”

Tradition in Catholicism, Cassia said, was truly tradition that was backed up by scripture and years of theology, and had a depth that she never knew existed. She realized she didn’t have to uncover what she should believe, but that the church was saying here’s what we believe and here’s why.

“It was crucial for me because I no longer had to figure out everything on my own, I could rely on other people who are much smarter than me.”

There was one challenge, though. Despite her sister’s decision to investigate the Catholic Church, Cassia knew her parents would not be supportive.

At the time, she was a student at Friends University, so, to attend Mass she would tell her mother a few evenings during the week that she was going to the library to study. She didn’t lie. She went to the library, then went to Mass at St. John’s Chapel at nearby Newman University, and returned to the library.

“It was very secretive for about a year,” she said, adding that she put off joining the Rite of Christian Initiation process because becoming a Catholic was such a serious commitment.

At the time, Cassia was working two jobs and had little free time. By chance, she met Father Adam Keiter, rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, who recommended the RCIA there, which met on Wednesday evenings.

“I was just kinda blown away because out of all the churches I looked at that didn’t fit, when I stopped trying to make my agenda work and just be present, God was like…here’s the program you’re going through and this is the night. And it was the only free night that I had.”

Cassia tested her mother’s reaction by asking her mother what she thought about her sister, Micah’s decision to join the Catholic Church. Her mother replied that she was accepting it, but not necessarily supportive. “And then she looked at me and said, ‘Why are you looking too?’ And I was like, yeah, I kind of already started the process.’”

Doing so was hard on her, Cassia said, because she had been secretive and didn’t have the full support of her family – although they witnessed all of her RCIA rites and attended the Holy Saturday Mass when she made her profession of faith.

Two weeks after her Confirmation, at a time she said she should have felt joyful, she said she instead felt completely cut off from her family in terms of worship. “They couldn’t take the Eucharist with me and I couldn’t take their version of communion with them anymore.”

Cassia’s relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary was so new she said she felt like an adopted daughter of a mother who everyone else had known for years. But that didn’t stop the Blessed Virgin from reaching out. “I don’t know if it was her or the Holy Spirit or a combination of both, but I received an affirmation that my mom would come to the church through Mary.”

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, after that Mass at the Cathedral, religious items were being sold in the gathering space and Cassia bought a rosary made in the Holy Land. She had it blessed by Father Marco DeLoera, now pastor at St. Andrew Parish in Independence, with the intention of praying for her mother’s conversion after which she would make it a gift to her.

“So, I knew my mom was going to come (into the church), but I thought it would be years down the road,” she said. “I was prepping for the long haul.”

Fortunately, the Blessed Virgin isn’t as patient.

After a few question and answer sessions, Cassia invited her mother to attend a centennial Fatima procession hosted by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters near Colwich. She didn’t immediately accept the invitation, but later asked Cassia about her plans for that day.

“I don’t know if I have any plans,” Cassia replied. “And she said, yes you do. I’m, like, what? She said, yes you do, you’re taking me to the nunnery!”

The Fatima commemoration included a rosary, the veneration of a Fatima statue, and Eucharistic adoration.

“I was overjoyed,” Cassia said. “It was like, OK, Momma Mary, you’re doing something, I’m not sure what.”

After a lot of reading, research, and reflection Cassia’s mother felt a call to discern whether she should become a Catholic. It was a time when other family members were saying yes to the Holy Spirit. Cassia’s sister studied the faith through the St. Paul University Parish at WSU, and her youngest sister’s husband who had become interested while in the military was also in an RCIA process. They were received into the church on Holy Saturday last year at Church of the Resurrection.

“I don’t know what spurred my father to enter the RCIA. That kind of blindsided me. I can’t fully comprehend that right now,” Cassia said. “All I’ve been told is that he wanted to see why his whole family was converting to Catholicism.”

On Holy Saturday Cassia’s prayers will have been answered. Three years after she joined the church, her mother, her father, and her youngest sister and will be received into the fullness of the faith. Only one family member has yet to join the church, her middle sister’s husband, who is already planning to join an RCIA process.

“I’m just blown away at how the Holy Spirit is working in my family,” Cassia said.