In Pursuit of a Relationship with Christ: Melissa Riviere's Conversion Story
Melissa’s conversion story is a part of our five-part Holy Week series: Conversion Stories & Encouragement for New Converts. Learn more about the series here!
State of Residence: California
Religious Background: Grew up Protestant (Church of Christ)
Year you entered or came back to the Catholic Church: 2014
Her Conversion Story
My journey into Catholicism all started one night on a camping trip with a friend in 2007 when I was 23. At the time, I was no longer practicing any religion. I grew up in a Protestant Church of Christ, where I would attend twice on Sundays, then again on Wednesdays and sometimes Tuesday nights. When my dad married his second wife he converted to Seventh Day Adventist and I would have to attend their church on Saturdays too if I was visiting him on the weekends. By the time I entered high school I was frustrated with two different and conflicting churches so I gave them up altogether. I was confused about what to believe and eventually lost my faith. My friend told me about something called RCIA she was attending to start the process of converting to Catholicism.
This seemed odd for this very Christian woman to switch to a religion that I was always taught was "bad." I knew nothing of the faith, other than I was told Roman Catholics were the ones who crucified Jesus. Today, I look back at this and laugh at the absurdity in that thinking.
When I asked her why she was converting, she said she wanted to get closer to God and felt most other Christian denominations focused more on being saved from hell than having a relationship with God. Growing up Protestant I found that to be true, as well. I was taught from a very young age that you either loved Jesus and did what he said and would go to heaven, otherwise you would go to hell; there was no middle ground.
I struggled with this from an early age because it made me think I had to be perfect, even though Jesus was the only perfect human.
A few years later, I realized I started missing God in my life, there was this emptiness in my heart. I tried to keep myself preoccupied to fill the void, but at night I would lay awake and think about all of these signs where God was reaching out to me. These random experiences kept happening and they all involved Catholicism and because of this, I felt God was speaking to me to reach out to my friend about attending a mass. At that point, she told me she had been praying for me to find my way back to God, and her prayers had been working.
Although it took me a while to be brave enough to go, I finally attended my first mass on the Epiphany in 2013. It was like returning from a really bad vacation.
It was peaceful, welcoming and most importantly, it felt like home. I did not understand all of the prayers, the kneeling, the sign of peace, or the Eucharist, but I was fascinated and I kept coming back. The few times I went with my friend, she would explain things as they happened. When I told my parents I was attending mass regularly, my father had a really hard time with it; however, I made it clear that this was something I needed to pursue because I was being led to the Church of God.
That Easter Sunday, the priest sprinkled holy water on all of us as a way to renew our baptisms, and when the water hit me, it was electric. My body tingled and it felt like warm honey dripping on my skin. I knew then I was ready to fully commit and joined RCIA the following fall. While in RCIA I learned about the meaning of mass, the prayers, and the traditions of the church. I learned that Jesus was the founder of the church and that he appointed Peter to lead it.
I loved that these traditions and beliefs are practiced by every Catholic in the world, it brings such unity to the church and something that was very different from what I was raised with. I will be eternally grateful for my friend’s prayers that brought me back home.
Melissa’s Words of Encouragement for New Catholic Converts
Something that might come as a surprise to newly converted Catholic women is the feeling of loneliness once RCIA is finished. RCIA was my only source of support during my conversion. During classes, I always found someone to talk to, share my obstacles and struggles with and receive answers to my questions.
So when it was over, I struggled with loneliness. If you end up feeling alone like I did, my advice is to reach out to people in your church, other local parishes and on social media.
Look for the mom that is trying to keep her children calm and offer to help. Create playgroups or reading groups with other moms. Smile and talk to the elderly or sit next to someone who always sits alone. Talk to the church office to see if there are volunteer opportunities that will allow you to use your God-given talents. Reach out to the RCIA leadership, they always need help bringing in new converts. If you are great with children, consider becoming a catechist to prepare them for their First Holy Communion or Confirmation. Look for chances to give back in areas where you have been blessed.
Even reading Catholic books can heal loneliness. Social Media is another amazing resource to help you feel connected to other women; join Catholic Facebook groups, follow Catholics on Instagram. There is also an abundance of Catholic podcasts that cover general and specific topics that you can listen to.
If your church does not offer a group or bible study, I would advise meeting with the priest who can bring it into the parish community or help you connect with one outside of the parish. Whatever you do though, do not let the loneliness overcome you. People need to have a safe place to feel connected; they need a sense of community. Last and most importantly, I suggest keeping praying about finding people to help you continue to grow your faith. He will answer you in the most wonderful ways.
About the Convert:Melissa Riviere
Melissa Riviere has been blessed to stay at home with her 15-month-old boy son, Andrew in Bakersfield, California. Her love for her family, faith, and friends encourages her to look daily for the good in all things and hopes to inspire others to do the same. She has a love of dressing up, baking, hosting parties and a sense of occasion that she shares on her blog ‘Oak Tree Junction’. When she is not writing or spending time with her family, she volunteers at her Parish.