The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Why am I becoming Catholic?

These new Catholics tell their personal story of coming to the Church

Published: April 12, 2023   
Aprille Hanson Spivey
Pastor Father Norbert Rappold baptizes Emily Beyer as she joins the Church during Easter Vigil Mass at St. Peter the Fisherman Church in Mountain Home April 8. He is assisted by altar server Francis Kelly.

“Becoming Catholic means so much to me. Last summer, when I read in the church's bulletin that RCIA classes were starting in August, I knew that I was ready to grow closer to Christ. It means that I can build a stronger marriage with my husband by putting God first. It also means that we can continue building a stronger religious foundation for our children.”

Shari Barnidge, Elect
St. Stephen, Bentonville


“There are so many reasons why I joined the Church. I liked the structure and the hierarchy. I liked the aesthetics and church architecture. But the most important aspect was my learning of Church history and the Church fathers. … I got into St. Thomas Aquinas first, a great theologian of the Church. His five proofs, even as a Protestant, astonished me. … I think the most significant Church Fathers to me would have to be St. Augustine or St. Thomas Ligouri. I had struggled with temptation and vice, as Augustine had, and found hope that I too could fight against it with the aid of God and conquer my vice. I also live by memento mori so naturally Ligouri appealed to me.”

Gabriel Dority, Elect
St. Joseph Church, Conway


“My mom has been taking me to Catholic churches ever since I was young. I grew up going to boarding schools because she worked out of town, and when I came back for the holidays she always took me to boot camps (retreats) at the closest church that we had. When I came here, I continued my journey to join the Catholic Church by deciding to join RCIA. Going there has helped me learn a lot, especially in thinking about life and how to get by on a day-to-day basis using the tools they have given us … It teaches you how to approach people and how to think before you say something to somebody, help somebody or give a gift to somebody.”

Munglisi Mkhatshwa, Elect
Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock


“My husband and I are attending RCIA together. I had never been baptized, and he was raised Catholic but never been confirmed. When our sons, who are 1 and 3, were born we began attending Mass as a family. It gave me a sense of peace and made me feel closer to my dad, who died a few years ago. Last year my husband’s identical twin and his wife went to RCIA, and she was baptized. My sister-in-law fills in for my sponsor when she can’t attend meetings. I learned so much about my faith by attending the RCIA classes.” 

Courtney Valdez, Elect
Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith


There are a lot of things that drew me in. The biggest thing probably was the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist. I’ve read John chapter 6 and it really spoke to me … Another thing too is apostolic succession. No other Christian sects really have a claim to the chair of Peter like the Catholics do…. Another thing, I’d say is that the doctrine of the Catholic Church has been unchanged. What I mean by that is, if you want to see what the Church has taught and continues to teach, you can find it in the Catechism, … I’m ecstatic to be brought into full communion with the Church.”

Connor Evans, Elect
St. Leo the Great, Russellville


“Although Christ was always at the center of our 30-year marriage, my wife Liz was Catholic and I was Baptist. We took our four children to Mass and Baptist services almost every week. When one of my daughters got engaged, I began thinking I wanted to set a better example of Christian marriage. Although the Baptist church we attended had a wonderful preacher, I never really felt at home there. Through RCIA and watching my kids as they went through religious ed and received confirmation, I learned that the Church will lead you closer to Christ if you let it.”

Dave Earnhart, Candidate
Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith


“I grew up going to Episcopal services and Catholic schools. As I was going through our things I found rosary beads that belonged to my Great-Aunt Katherine. Finding those beads encouraged me to look into finally joining the Church. I met a wonderful woman named Kim who is Catholic, and we started going to Mass together. She helped me get enrolled in RCIA at St Raphael’s and is my sponsor.”

Chris Neyland, Candidate
St. Raphael, Springdale


“I grew up Baptist … and my husband is Catholic… I started going to church with him (on) Saturdays, and he would go with me on Sundays and he would ask me questions about my faith and what I believe. I started realizing some of my beliefs were more Catholic than Baptist … When you go to get married and you are not Catholic, you have to sign something saying you're going to raise your kids Catholic and so I wanted to know more about the Catholic faith. As the (RCIA) class proceeded I was like ‘Why am I Baptist and not Catholic if I believe everything the Catholics believe compared to what the Baptists believe?’ … This is the truth. This is the religion that everyone should be a part of, and now I am joining.”

Brittany Westcott, Candidate
St. John, Russellville

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