God’s plan, not mine

By Earl Pfettscher

Guest Commentary

It’s been quite a journey, covering more than 60 years since I converted to Catholicism. All of it has been God’s plan, not mine.

As a teenager, I was a member of the Evangelical Reformed Church – now the United Church of Christ. At age 19, something was missing in my life. I started “church-hopping.” There were Baptist churches, United Methodist churches, Pentecostal churches, Lutheran churches and others. Still, things just didn’t seem right in my life.

My close friend and neighbor Larry said to me one day, “Earl, you’ve been going to all of these churches; how about going to Mass with me, my mother and brothers on Sunday?” I asked “what’s Mass?” Larry tried to explain to this skeptical person. I turned him down and, in the back of my mind, thought, “I don’t want anything to do with you Catholics.” I continued “church-hopping” for another couple of months.

One day, I approached Larry and said, “Larry, you invited me to go to church with you, I’ll take you up on it this Sunday.” I did, and I found myself filled with the Holy Spirit. After Mass, I asked Larry what I had to do to become a Catholic. We scheduled an introductory session at St. Joseph Parish in Vanderburgh County, where I had gone to Mass with Larry and his family, and that session led to my instructions in Catholicism.

During the months of my instructions, I watched Larry and others serve Mass on Sundays. He explained his duties as a server. On May 11, 1959, I was baptized at St. Joseph Parish. The following Sunday, Larry and I served Mass together, and I received my first Holy Communion – the Body and Blood of Jesus! I couldn’t believe it!

Larry took me to St. Meinrad Seminary for a visit. I felt even closer to God. That fall, I enrolled at St. Meinrad as a “special student” (i.e. those who were between high school and college). Unfortunately, as the only Catholic on either side of my family, I received little encouragement and left St. Meinrad at the end of the year. I jokingly describe myself as a “St. Meinrad dropout.”

I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!” God had other plans for me. Among them were meeting my wife, Darlene, (actually Mary Darlene) at the Catholic Theatre Guild in Evansville. She was born on Aug. 15, the Feast of the Assumption. The Blessed Mother is very special in our lives.

Darlene had vowed that she would only marry a Catholic. God has blessed us with two daughters and six grandchildren. Darlene and I share many joys as Catholics.

Scott Hahn, a convert himself, in his book “Signs of Life,” wrote that the “Mass was the center of life for the disciples of Jesus, and so it has ever been.” He continued, “…even today, the Mass is where we experience the apostolic teaching and communion, the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Every time we attend Mass, in the Eucharist, we are humbled and honored to commune with the Creator of the universe Himself – just as I did for the first time in May 1959.

When I became Catholic, I found the “something” that had been missing in my life. Thank you, Larry. Thank you St. Meinrad. Thank you, Darlene. Thank you, everyone, who made me the person I am today. Most importantly, thank you Holy Spirit for my gift of faith!

I once thought, in talking to Larry, that “I didn’t want anything to do with you Catholics.” However, I am now one of you – one of us! – and have been for more than 60 years!

This is my prayer--“I don’t want to make you laugh, dear God; please continue to guide me with your plans.”

Earl Pfettscher and his wife, Mary Darlene, are members of Corpus Christi Parish in Evansville. He also is a member of the St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery Board of Directors.