Finding peace in the Church

Newly confirmed Catholics reflect on their journey into Catholicism

It’s been a topsy-turvy journey into the Catholic Church for Michelle Peters.

Through a series of life-changing challenges, such as the passing of her mother and an accident that nearly took her life, Michelle has not lost hope nor faith. Instead, she has discovered in these events a providential passage, leading her to a deeper faith and a stronger relationship with God.

This journey reached a culminating moment this Easter, when she was baptized and received into the Catholic Church.

“My reason for being here – I’ve realized it has to be more meaningful,” she said. “Somehow, through all that I’ve gone through, I’ve been given a strength that I don’t understand. I have to give it to God; how else do you explain it?”

Many changes came into Michelle’s life before she reached this faith-embracing conclusion.

As they say, ‘when it rains it pours’, and beginning in 2019 Michelle had a multitude of difficult and life-changing trials come her way. In the fall of that year, she had a serious ATV accident in which her quad flipped over three times and she broke her pelvis in five places.

“I’m certain I shouldn’t have survived the accident and it was a miracle that I did,” she said. “It was quite the journey – very humbling and very difficult. I could not walk for several months. It gave me a lot of time to think about life and where I was going. And then my mom got very sick with cancer and over the pandemic she passed away. That was really hard for me; I was with her when she passed. I felt a little bit of guilt because it was during COVID and we didn’t get to have a big funeral.

“But somehow, through it all, I had this strength carrying me that I couldn’t explain.”

Michelle Peters

Michelle was raised with a vague sense of Christian faith. She went to church on the odd occasion and she inherited her grandmother’s Bible, but outside of that it was not an upbringing that gave her a consistent or strong sense of faith. Though it always stayed with her, at times her faith was greatly challenged by the many struggles she faced.

“There was times I was angry and didn’t believe. I would say, ‘How can there be a God? Why would God put us through this?’” she said.

“I didn’t have that strong faith background and understanding that our lives aren’t made to be easy. We’re not meant to go about having an easy life, we’re meant to have these trials.”

Yet, at the same time, it was thanks to these trials that she began desiring something more, something that her faith could be anchored in and strengthened through.

“I knew that I wanted to strengthen my faith but I didn’t know where to get it,” said Michelle. “I had faith, but I didn’t really have a faith family.”

It was in 2020, in the aftermath of her mom’s passing and her continuing recovery from her quad accident, that Michelle decided to reach out to a Catholic friend who she knew had an open and strong Christian faith. She mustered up the courage and asked to tag along with his family to St. Joseph Church in Grande Prairie one Sunday.

St. Joseph staff members Allan Forsberg and Beatriz Fernandez call upon those being baptized and confirmed at Easter at the Rite of Election Mass at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in McLennan.

“I just felt I needed something more, something more meaningful. I actually just said one day, ‘Will you just take me to church? I just want to go to church!’” she recalled with a laugh. “I came to the Mass and I fell in love with everything – the rituals, the support, everything was beautiful. I think my favourite part is the sign of peace. I love the sense of community it creates. It gives me a lot of strength.”

She began attending Mass more and more, and last summer Michelle grew certain in her desire to become a full-fledged member of the Church. But she didn’t quite know where to begin in getting baptized and entering into full communion. Eventually she was introduced to St. Joseph staff members Allan Forsberg and Beatriz Fernandez. From there she joined OCIA (Ordo of Christian Initiation of Adults) and everything fell into place.

This process brought her a greater understanding of both the Catholic religion and her own relationship with God. As Michelle began to reflect on her past, she newly discovered the ways in which God had been working in her life all along.

“The more I learned about the faith, the more things started connecting and making sense,” she said. “I’m having lots of ‘a-ha’ moments, finding connections and seeing how God always had a presence in my life but I just didn’t always see it.

Confirmands and catechumens prepare to register their names as part of the Rite of Election liturgy, held in McLennan on Jan. 26th

“The first 40 years of my life I just felt like there’s so much I didn’t understand. And now I’m at peace with the things that I don’t understand. I don’t have to control everything in my life; I don’t have to have an answer. I can leave it with God and trust in my path. And the more I’ve done that, the more things have fallen into place.”

The process has been one of continuous new experiences – from experiencing new liturgies, participating in new prayers like the Stations of the Cross, getting to see the cathedral in McLennan during the Rite of Election Mass, and more. Peters says it all makes her feel like being a child again, where everything is brand new. It’s a fitting perspective as she prepares for her own ‘rebirth’ through baptism.

One of the most revealing things for Michelle has been the acceptance she has felt at church, as often her biggest worry about going was a fear of judgement.

“I felt like if I walked into the church, alone with my son as a single mom, I would be judged,” she said. “I made a lot of mistakes with my life, but I’ve definitely learned that there is no judgement there. When I walk into the church I feel loved.”

This is only an excerpt. Read the full story in the April 2023 edition of Northern Light