For 11-year-old Carter Baldwin and his 9-year-old sister Mimi, one of the most exciting things about becoming Catholic isn’t what one might expect from children — going to confession.
“I like how Catholicism makes you confess your sins,” Carter Baldwin said. “I like how it makes you feel closer to God.”
Mimi added, “Basically, if you sin one day, you can ask him the same day to forgive your sins and he’ll forgive them and you’ll feel, like, free.”
Carter Baldwin will receive his first Communion and confirmation at Easter Vigil Mass at Christ the King Church in Little Rock along with his mother, Susan Baldwin, 39. Carter’s twin brother Cole and the Baldwin’s other set of twins, Ben and Mimi, will be baptized, receive their first Communion and will be confirmed. Chris Baldwin, 43, the youngest of 11 children raised Catholic, said having his wife and children join the Church means the world to him.
“The last year has literally been the best year of our whole marriage,” Chris Baldwin said. “I don’t know if it’s because we’re coming back to my roots or if I’m being a better leader (spiritually).”
Just as Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,” so put the wheels in motion for the Baldwin family after a prospective student visit to Christ the King School in September.
When Chris and Susan Baldwin married in 1999, the two attended a nondenominational church where Susan had attended as a teenager, being raised in the Baptist faith.
While Chris Baldwin said the church was filled with wonderful people, he felt disconnected spiritually. Deep-rooted in Catholicism, Chris graduated from Catholic High School in Little Rock in 1988, as did his brothers, with his sisters attending Mount St. Mary Academy.
“I guess it was about seven or eight years ago, I just had a real pull to be a Catholic again,” Chris Baldwin said. “I love everything about Catholicism … I love the reverence of it.”
While the Baldwins’ four children enjoyed attending the nondenominational church, the adults were separated from the children during the worship services, so the brood never got to attend a church service together until going to Mass.
“I just like that whenever we will sit down and say a prayer I’ll know my parents are there with me, whenever I go up to get a blessing and stuff they’ll be watching, and I think I’ll be doing something good,” Mimi Baldwin said of attending Mass.
Susan Baldwin said she’s always had an interest in learning more about the Catholic faith, particularly after attending the beautiful Catholic funerals of her brother-in-law and father-in-law. However, a tour of Christ the King School — to inquire about Carter and Cole attending next year — changed everything.
“I have always wanted to learn more about Catholicism because I love the reverence and sanctity of the Church,” Susan Baldwin said. “After I toured Christ the King School, I fell in love with it and realized that if I wanted our children to go to a Catholic school, I need to learn about what they will be teaching them.”
That very September night, Susan attended her first RCIA class with Chris and hasn’t stopped since.
“It was kind of funny because every week we’d be driving to the class and she’d say, ‘Now, I’m not becoming Catholic, I’m just going to learn,” Chris Baldwin said.
And Susan said she meant it, never being one to be a “blind follower.”
“The classes that really stuck out to me were the history of the Catholic Church that Cackie Upchurch taught, and the class on tradition taught by (pastor) Msgr. (Francis) Malone,” Susan Baldwin said. “After I learned more about it I realized this is where our family needed to be. Since we have been attending RCIA classes and Mass together our marriage and family life has been much closer and stronger than ever before.”
Chris Baldwin said knowing his wife made her own decision about joining the Church is a blessing.
“I’ve never pushed, I allowed her to make the decision for herself,” Chris Baldwin said. “That’s been really great for me because I know she’s not just doing it for me. It’s something she wanted to do. Now I never have to second guess.”
Susan Baldwin also stressed that each of her children made the choice to become Catholic. The four Baldwin children have attended children’s RCIA classes.
“I enjoy how we say a prayer in the morning and whenever (the teacher) is telling us something she’ll make sure we’re paying attention to it,” Mimi Baldwin said. “Also I like how each and every day, we review a (Bible) chapter and read … We watched a video about Jesus and we’re going to take a tour of the church really soon.”
Carter and Cole will be starting sixth grade this fall at Christ the King.
“You’re getting to learn not only about your education, you get to learn about your church and religion while you’re there,” Carter Baldwin said of attending a parochial school. “I think that’s very important in a school.”
While the Baldwins wish they had been married in the Catholic Church, Chris acknowledged, “God’s just been preparing us all along for different things.”
On March 9, the day after Susan’s birthday, the couple had their marriage convalidated at St. Joseph Church in Fayetteville with Chris Baldwin’s brother, Deacon Bud Baldwin, officiating. Cole walked his mother down the aisle, Carter read the Scriptures, Ben was in charge of the rings and Mimi was the flower girl.
“It was really cute,” Chris Baldwin said. “I can’t tell you how proud I was.”
While each member of the Baldwin clan is excited to grow in their relationship with Jesus through the Catholic faith, 11-year-old Carter may have said it best.
“He’s given me life, earth, my family and I have to love him for that and respect him for that,” Carter Baldwin said. “He’s just an amazing person.”
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