Saturday, January 23, 2016

Glenn and Tina's Story: Becoming Catholic as a Couple

After graduating from Moody Bible Institute in 2003, Glenn decided to settle in Seattle. He took a job in the fall with a large, Christian non-profit to work in their donations processing department. The job involved 5 hours of commuting by bus, round trip, but it was a good place to start a career. The department was going through changes, so they put him and some of his colleagues in a cozy space which had been intended for filing cabinets. “It was really intimate. Seriously, it was the size of an airplane galley,” Glenn said. In such a close quarters, one couldn’t help but know one's co-workers, and it was there that he met Tina.

Friendship in a Tight Spot

Tina worked for the non-profit company for three years before transferring to the donations department. Glenn and she were the youngest in the group, which had mostly women in their 40s and 50s. “We called them ‘the moms’ because they treated us like we were their kids,” Glenn recalled. Being the only 20-somethings along with being practically shoulder-to-shoulder all day, it was easy for them to develop a friendship.

One day, Tina took pity on Glenn’s bus commute dilemma and offered to give him rides home after work. The hour’s drive along I-5 gave them more time to talk. They both felt burned out by relationships in the past, and the two enjoyed just having camaraderie with one another. Without the pressure of impressing for romance, they had honest and open conversations about all subjects.

Their friendship grew through the autumn, and then during the company Christmas party, a spark ignited. Tina organized the party, so though she normally dressed casually for work, she dressed up for the event. Glenn was immediately struck by how lovely she was. She was oblivious that he had become enamored of her, as she went about making sure the party went smoothly.

Their Faith Brought Them Together

It was another six months, in June 2004, before the couple started officially dating. “I was nervous because our relationship was just the way I liked it. I wanted to marry a friend. I didn’t want to bother meeting any other girl,” Glenn said. Tina recalled that once they did get together they took things one day at a time, as they wanted to be careful with their commitment. They were both the youngest in their families, and they felt they still had some growing up to do before deciding on marriage.

Their Christian Faith helped them to grow together. When they decided to become engaged though, issues came up between them. They went to a marriage class in the non-denominational mega church where Glenn was a praise and worship leader. “We were going through a lot of changes. I just got a new job, and Glenn was fresh out of film school,” Tina remembered. “We were trying to figure things out. Then my mom got sick with stomach cancer. The class helped us put all our junk out there and hash it out. I think that’s what turned it for us. I think if we hadn’t taken the class we probably would not have gotten married.” In May of 2007, they married in a small chapel with a friend officiating.

Keeping their Faith at the center of their marriage has kept their relationship thriving. A friend gave them a handmade three-legged stool as a wedding gift, a reminder that it takes three--husband, wife, and God--to make a marriage work. The stool has reminded them through hardships and changes of their need for one another and for God to keep their marriage strong.

Needing Something More

Although the couple started out together in a non-denominational church, Glenn who had been raised Episcopalian, began to miss the traditions and liturgy of his upbringing. He had focused on Church history while working on his B. A. in Theology at Moody Bible Institute. He felt that the non-denominational churches, though well-intentioned, were trying to reinvent what the Church Fathers had put in place long ago. Tina also wanted to find a church where there was less chaos and where the leaders had better theological training. The couple at first went to the Episcopal Church, but the ongoing turmoil among the bishops caused them to renew their search.

They found another non-denominational church that seemed to have better footing than others, so they went to the membership classes and had lengthy discussions with the pastor. The head pastor wanted Glenn to teach theology or Church history classes, and everything seemed set for them to join. They met at the pastor’s house to sign the membership papers with different elders, who had come to witness. Tina gave her glorious testimony with tears, causing everyone to be hushed and solemn. She signed the papers, and then it was Glenn’s turn. He looked at the document and noticed that he would have to check the box that stated, “I have received the Believer’s Baptism.” With that, he turned around and declared, “I can’t sign this.” The pastor was aghast, “Why not?” “Because I was baptized as an infant in the Episcopal Church,” Glenn calmly replied. A “believer’s baptism” meant the baptism candidate was old enough to make the decision. Glenn knew from his studies that infant baptism was just as much a “believer’s baptism” as an adult’s. The pastor pleaded with him to change his mind, but Glenn could not.

Journeying Home Together

After the experience at the pastor’s house, Glenn went through a kind of crisis of faith, and Tina came along beside him to support him through it. When Glenn decided to contact the Catholic Church, she was completely behind him. After meeting with the priest of a nearby Church for two discussions, the priest was ready to bring Glenn and Tina into the fold. However, they chose to go to RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) so that they could have a better understanding of the Church as a couple. “They explained everything, broke down all the traditions and why they do things. They were totally happy to answer all the questions. Take advantage of RCIA!” Tina exclaimed. “It’s a great way to put things on the table and really talk about becoming Catholic, because it’s a big commitment. Being married, you need to walk together as you go into the Church.”

Glenn added, “And whatever you don’t feel comfortable about asking in the class, you can ask a priest! They are committed to keeping things confidential, and they’ve heard everything. Interestingly, the ones who completed RCIA and made it all the way through to becoming Catholic were the ones who asked the questions. The ones who didn’t ask questions, didn’t finish the class; they didn’t make it to becoming Catholic.” Glenn and Tina entered the Church the week before Easter Vigil 2014.

The couple completely enjoys being Catholic! Tina, who is first generation Korean-American, loves the diversity of the Church, “It doesn’t matter what kind of background you have, come and worship God! That’s all that matters!” She finds that Catholics are more practical with their approaches to faith and prayer. She appreciates the emphasis on being a Church family, rather than being focused on the individual. For Glenn, the Church has put life in better focus, which has brought richness to their marriage, “It has put God’s part in our marriage into clearer perspective. I still think of the three-legged stool, but I have a better understanding of who He is.” Glenn sees the unity of the Magisterium of the Church as being key to knowing about God. In knowing Him, he has been better able to love Him and love others. “I love that being a husband is an actual vocation within the Church. It’s helped me be more serious about my marriage,” Glenn says. The couple also feels that Confession, or Reconciliation, has been a huge part of growth in their marriage. “Confession brings an accountability, with the priest acting as a mentor who helps you walk out your Faith,” Tina says.

Overall the reaction from family and friends to their becoming Catholic has been positive. Their sponsors were longtime friends, and their journey to Catholicism has deepened their friendship. Glenn’s father grew up Roman Catholic and even went to minor seminary when he was in junior high. Although his dad left the Church in college, he has been understanding of Glenn’s decision to become Catholic. After many conversations with his sister and her family, they finally became Catholic in the summer of 2015. Glenn and Tina are proud to be sponsors for his sister’s teenagers who will be confirmed this spring.

When asked what their advice is for couples who are considering Catholicism, they both state emphatically that the RCIA classes are the best course and to be unafraid to ask questions. “One priest told me that he’s encouraged by questions from people. When they go to a priest it encourages a priest and helps them with their faith to be able to help. So ask them anything!” Glenn said. Glenn and Tina also find the Rosary to be a gift to their Faith. They’ve noticed a difference since praying it regularly. Lastly, they want to add that while being Catholic has deepened their devotion to God and each other, it’s also fun, “We’re meeting with our friends this weekend for a Drinking With The Saints party (from the book Drinking With The Saints: A Sinners Guide to a Holy Happy Hour by Michael Foley). We read about saints and then have a cocktail in honor of them.” Glenn and Tina
love being Catholic in all its multifaceted beauty.

©2016 Emily Woodham

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