Skip to comments.New faith pulls Hot Springs family together (Baptists join Catholic Church at Easter Vigil)
Posted on 03/26/2008 10:48:40 AM PDT by NYer
HOT SPRINGS -- Danny Morrison just wanted to find a place where he could worship God. This simple yet overwhelming desire put him on a road that eventually led to the Catholic Church. But he is not alone. His wife Mary, stepson, Steve, and two step-grandchildren will enter the Church with him at the Easter Vigil Mass at St. John the Baptist Church in Hot Springs. His daughter-in-law, Kristy, is also returning to the faith after being away for nearly 15 years.
Presence of God
Morrison, 56, began his journey when the Southern Baptist church he had attended most of his life fell apart.
"All during my Protestant upbringing it was disturbing to me about the rifts and splits and the fights in our church," Morrison said.
The Hot Springs church in which he was baptized in 1955 closed. The property was sold and a new church was started across town.
"I just began to search and pray to God. I wanted to find a stable place, a place where I could worship him in truth and in spirit; a place that was befitting his majesty and not something where we were bickering," he said.
He visited several Southern Baptist churches and he said there was just always something about them that "didn't feel right." His wife Mary, also 56, wasn't happy with their options either.
Morrison discovered Catholic author Scott Hahn and began reading his books. With his job he travels frequently and one night in a hotel room he prayed for God's direction, turned on the television and found EWTN's "The Journey Home." The show's host interviews converts who tell their stories of becoming Catholic.
Though he was excited, he was also "scared to death." Morrison said he had heard "horror stories about Catholics." But, he "still had this hunger."
One Sunday morning in early 2006, Morrison walked into St. John Church in Hot Springs. It was his first time in a Catholic church. Between Masses, he just sat down in a pew and took it all in.
"When I sat down, I just fell in love. The Spirit of God fell on me and I was home, I knew that was it. It didn't matter how scared I was or what it was going to take, I was going to become Catholic," he said.
Meanwhile, Mary's son, Steve Morgan, was living in Memphis with his former wife, Kristy, and their children, Brittany and Christopher. They did not attend church.
Steve, 34, and Kristy Kramer, 31, were teenagers when they married in September 1993 because of an unplanned pregnancy. They met at Hall High School in Little Rock. At the time, Steve was living with his dad and Kramer with her parents. Her family was Catholic. They moved from North Dakota to Little Rock when Kristy was 9 and she attended Christ the King School before high school.
The young couple, along with baby Brittany, eventually moved in with Danny and Mary in Hot Springs.
Steve had lived with them previously along with his older brother Jay. Steve lived with Mary and Danny from the time he was 4 to 11 years old. During those years he attended the Southern Baptist church with them. When Steve moved in with his dad they rarely attended church, but when they did, it was a Baptist church and eventually a First Christian church.
When the Morgans moved in with the Morrisons, they all attended the Baptist church together. Although Kristy wanted Brittany to be baptized Catholic, Steve was adamantly opposed.
"At the time I was a bullheaded Southern Baptist who didn't know anything about Catholicism," Steve said.
Kristy said they fought about it, but eventually she gave up.
The couple divorced only a year later and Kristy and Brittany moved to Memphis to live with Kristy's parents.
"We spent a couple years apart, growing up," Steve said.
They were always close however; Steve visited Memphis often. By December 1996 they reunited and have been together ever since. They had another child, Christopher, and built a life in Memphis.
Searching for direction
To support his family, Steve worked as much as 70 hours a week and was never at home. Even though Kristy did not attend Mass regularly with her family growing up, she wanted that for her children. Because of negative church experiences and the fact that Steve worked so much, he did not want to give up his day of rest to attend church.
Though Kristy admits she could have attended without Steve, she said she wanted to go to church as a family. She prayed for years that he would come around. She would have been happy attending any church together, but in her heart, she wanted it to be the Catholic Church. She believed that dream impossible.
Working more and more, the pressure mounted.
"I felt like I was getting further and further apart from my kids," Steve said. "I was a highly stressed, angry person."
"We were mad at each other a lot," Kristy said. "We were like roommates."
By May 2007 he quit his job. A solution had not presented itself by that summer and Steve and Kristy decided to uproot their family and move back in with the Morrisons in Hot Springs.
On fire for God
As the Morgans struggled in Memphis, Mary Morrison thought her husband had lost his mind in Hot Springs.
When Mary's husband called her that night in the hotel room in early 2006 and said he wanted to be Catholic, "I thought he was crazy," she said with a laugh.
Even after he visited St. John Church a couple of times and attended Mass, she did not go with him.
"I just felt God calling me and pulling me in this direction and I can't explain it," Danny said.
When he attended his first Mass at St. John, he did not understand it, but he was truly moved by the worship he saw taking place.
"I loved the pageantry. I think God is deserving of a certain respect and worship, not cut-offs and flip-flops and T-shirts," he said.
The first thing he noticed was the priest was not the center of attention. His chair and the lectern were off to the right. "Front and center is Christ and the altar. That made an indelible impression on me," Danny said.
"When I would see people come in and kneel, I had never seen that kind of respect paid just coming in to the presence of God," he said.
After the Mass, Danny met pastor Father Erik Pohlmeier and before long Danny started attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults sessions. That was during Lent 2006. Mary said she thought it was just a phase because he was angry about what happened in their church.
She had attended the Baptist church with him since they married 29 years ago. She grew up in Black Rock (Lawrence County) attending a Methodist church. With her first husband, they rarely attended church. When she married Danny 10 years later, he felt strongly about being Baptist, and they were until 2006.
It took a while for Mary to come around. Eventually, she decided to go with him just to see what it was all about. Impressed, she began reading Hahn's books and attended RCIA with her husband.
Mary admitted her husband's enthusiasm "probably pushed me a little faster than I would have gone on my own." Gradually though, she realized "this was the right place to be." She even began attending Mass without her husband when he was away on business.
Because they had both been married previously, they were told they would have to receive declarations of invalidity (annulments) and have their marriage convalidated (blessed) in the Church before they could receive the sacraments. Although disappointed by the delay, Danny said he was committed. "You couldn't run me off."
They applied for annulments before Easter in 2006 and continued to attend RCIA sessions, which started up again that fall. They also attended Mass regularly.
By Easter 2007, there was still no word on their annulments so they continued to wait.
A whole new life
By July 2007, the Morgans moved in with the Morrisons to start over. Not wanting to lecture, Mary told her son, "I just have one thing to say, and I'm only going to say it once, 'Until you start going to church and get God in your life, you're not going to have a good life.'"
Steve said he had known that for a long time and it played a part in moving back to Hot Springs. But he wasn't looking for "a religious transformation" he just knew he needed a new life in general.
Danny and Mary told Steve and Kristy they were attending the Catholic Church but did not push. Danny said he learned that lesson the hard way when the couple moved in with them before. He had demanded Steve and Kristy attend church with them, which he knows now was the wrong thing to do.
"You can't take what you've got in your heart and force it on someone else," he said. "I probably had a lot to do with him not attending church for a while."
But Steve could not help but notice Danny's excitement when he talked about the Catholic Church. He became curious and started asking questions. He wondered why it was so important to Kristy and decided to check it out.
"I didn't have the answers, so if I wanted to get God in my life, I had to find some place to do it," Steve said.
He began attending Mass and later RCIA by September 2007. The more sessions he attended the more he thought it all made sense and "just all kind of clicked."
Kristy, however, was skeptical. She thought her family was only attending Mass because Danny and Mary were and that "as soon as we moved out, it would end."
Though Steve continued to attend, even to the point of going early to pray the rosary before Mass, Kristy still wasn't sure.
Father Pohlmeier had explained to Steve that he and Kristy would have to be in a valid marriage before his entry and her return to the sacraments.
Steve said he had no problem with that since he had wanted to remarry Kristy for years. So the couple began marriage preparation with Father Pohlmeier, but Kristy could not agree to marry him yet.
"I didn't know if it was all real," she said.
Kristy said she needed to know he wanted to marry her for reasons other than so he could enter the Church. But he did not realize that was her hesitation. She asked him to write down 10 reasons why he wanted to marry her, and to her relief, none of them were so he could become Catholic. She finally realized it was for real and on Feb. 12, his birthday, she agreed to marry him prior to the Easter Vigil.
Stability from chaos
For Steve and Kristy's children, Brittany, 14 and Christopher, 10, it was also a new life. Unlike her brother, Brittany was baptized at 11 when she visited her grandfather who attends a First Christian church Little Rock.
When the family moved to Hot Springs the changes were hard and Brittany wasn't happy at all. For the first time in their lives, the Morgans were going to church regularly and that wasn't something the children jumped out of bed on Sunday mornings to do.
Brittany and Christopher also started attending parish religious education classes with their peers and extra sacramental preparation courses on the side.
Brittany said she eventually got interested in what she was learning, while Christopher thought it was all "boring" but participated.
For Brittany though, it was about the stability it brought her family at a time when their lives were so uncertain.
"Everything else is a blur because we don't have our own house and we just moved and everything was kind of crazy, but (going to church) was the one thing we have grounded," Brittany said. "With everything that was going wrong, it just made me want to have something to look up to."
While the Morgans were working toward entering the Church, Danny and Mary patiently waited for their annulments thinking it would be years before they came through. But, in December, Danny got his as an unexpected Christmas present. He said it was "bitter sweet" since they were still waiting for Mary's. The family began to pray in earnest. Then in early February, she received it and the couple's dream to enter at this year's Easter Vigil became real.
"It's just a sweet gift from God," Danny said.
The Morrisons set a date to have their marriage convalidated. Meanwhile, Steve and Kristy had not yet set a date, and Father Pohlmeier asked if they would like to have a double ceremony. They agreed and both couples were married at St. John Church on Saturday, March 15.
"I am overwhelmed at the goodness of God," Danny said. "I have not lived my life the way I should have, all my life, and he ignores all that and says, I don't care I love you anyway."
Kristy is amazed at her husband's turnaround.
"I think it takes a lot for a man to turn around and change the way he did," she said. "He didn't want to go to church. It didn't matter what I said, he didn't want to go."
"It's the power of God," Danny added.
Catholic at last
Danny, Mary, Steve, Brittany and Christopher will all enter the Church through St. John Parish at the Easter Vigil Mass March 22. In addition to making a profession of faith, the adults will be confirmed and receive their first Communion. Christopher will be baptized and both he and Brittany will receive their first Communion. She will be confirmed next year with her peers. Because Kristy was not confirmed as a teenager, she will be confirmed along with her family. She will also return to the Eucharist.
"My eyes have been opened. I'm seeing the world in a whole new way. I know what the truth really is," Steve said about becoming Catholic.
"It's a better way of life to me," Brittany said. "It's something to set your life on. You have a reason to be here, even to wake up and know that everything's going to be all right."
For Danny, the best part about becoming Catholic is the Eucharist.
"All my life I've never even heard about the Eucharist and to receive Christ, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ ... I am so undeserving and so excited. It is awesome."
Apr 7 Rosalind Moss
God bless Mother Angelica and EWTN for the Journey Home program.
Is Mother still alive?? Is she on TV if so?
I don’t think she is still alive but I am not positive.
Welcome home, Danny, Mary, stepson, Steve, and two step-grandchildren and Kristy!
I’m pretty sure she IS still alive but she has been incapacitated by a stroke.
The story of the double marriage is so touching!
**When he attended his first Mass at St. John, he did not understand it, but he was truly moved by the worship he saw taking place.**
This one sentence says volumes, and I don’t think many Protestants understand it.
Hope she recovers. I don’t usually watch but I did notice while changing channels on the tv that they ran some shows when she was younger and I assumed she passed.
Perhaps one day you will share your conversion story with others in the forum.
May our Lord continue to shower His blessings on you and all your family.
She is still alive. In 2001, she suffered a major stroke, but continues to improve. According to Sister Mary Catherine, Vicar of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery, "Mother is content living her life in whatever physical condition Our Lord wills for her."
Not to be keeping score, but there are several converts in my Baptist church from Catholicism. The door opens both ways.
A Catholic that can walk away from the EUCHARIST is a very pathetic soul. There is NOTHING that can replace the Eucharist....NOTHING on earth. Were these done for spouses?
They are not walking away from the Eucharist - they simply are not taking the sacrament as often. In the Baptist Church, it is called the Lord’s Supper and we take it approximately six times a year. Not to put words in their mouths, but the ones that I know claim they left the Catholic Church because it had become too “stale” and repetitive. They wanted more preaching directly from the Bible. Maybe it was just their individual priest failing to energize them on a spiritual level. Also, they left so that they could fell guilty for drinking the fruit of the vine (sarcasm off).