January 18, 2013

'I feel I'm in the right place'

Seminarian, parish community help 83-year-old woman realize her lifelong dream of joining Catholic Church

At 83, Teresa Moore smiles after fulfilling her lifelong dream of joining the Catholic Church during a Mass at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis on Jan. 6. Moore is joined in the photo by, left, Anne Corcoran, parish pastoral associate, and Dabrice Bartet, Moore’s sponsor. (Submitted photo/Kent Hughes)

At 83, Teresa Moore smiles after fulfilling her lifelong dream of joining the Catholic Church during a Mass at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis on Jan. 6. Moore is joined in the photo by, left, Anne Corcoran, parish pastoral associate, and Dabrice Bartet, Moore’s sponsor. (Submitted photo/Kent Hughes)

By John Shaughnessy

On the day when her lifelong dream finally came true, Teresa Moore overflowed with joy thinking about all the people who made it possible.

On her perfect day, the 83-year-old Indianapolis woman realized again just how deeply her children loved her and how their love encouraged her to embrace her dream at last.

On her perfect day, she thought about the young seminarian who appeared by her hospital bed one day as if sent by God, the young man with the welcoming smile and inviting presence who made her feel so at ease that she dared to share her secret wish with him.

On her perfect day, Teresa also looked up from her wheelchair and into the eyes of the woman who came to her home every Friday afternoon for several months to teach her, pray with her, and to share her faith with her.

And on that perfect Sunday when the priest blessed her and welcomed her into the Catholic Church, Teresa turned to see all the people in the packed church smiling and applauding for her. In that moment, she felt the feeling she had always longed for—the joy of being Catholic.

“I feel I’m in the right place,” she said, her face glowing with a smile as special and as warm as the story of how she finally came to live her dream.

A dream begins, a dream is shared

Teresa grew up in a family in which she was the 18th of 19 children. She also grew up on a block in Indianapolis where two Catholic families lived, families that had girls her age. She began the kind of friendships with them that would thrive and last through all the stages of their lives.

In her childhood, Teresa was intrigued by her friends’ Catholic faith. Yet she was raised in a family of Baptists, and her mother wanted that approach to faith for her children.

When her mother died when Teresa was a teenager, Teresa started to share in some of the activities at St. Rita Parish in Indianapolis, where her friends were members. She thought of becoming Catholic then, but the memory of her mother’s wishes stayed with her—even during the 25 years she worked at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis.

Flash forward to the summer of 2012 when Teresa was a patient in the hospital where she once worked. A year before, she had suffered a stroke, but she was in St. Vincent’s this time for concerns related to a problem with her heart. At the same time, archdiocesan seminarian Xavier Raj was serving as a student chaplain at the hospital.

“I was awful sick,” Teresa recalled. “He came around every day and asked, ‘Is there anything you want to talk about?’ He’d sit there, and when I looked up, he’d smile. After his third visit, I started to ask him questions about the Catholic Church.”

She also told him the story of her life.

“I talked to her a lot, more than 10 days,” recalled Raj, who is in his third year of priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in Saint Meinrad. “I would be with her every day, spend time with her and just listen to her. She told me she had a lot of desire to join the Catholic Church. It was a very nice experience to be with her.”

It was also life-changing for Teresa, according to her daughters.

‘God has a plan for you’

“He was really good,” said Shelley Moore, one of Teresa’s daughters, about Raj. “Without saying much, it was like he knew her like a book—what she was feeling and thinking. They just had a connection. That’s good, because we didn’t know about this dream she had.”

When her daughters, all raised Baptist, learned about their mother’s dream, they were surprised and delighted for her. Teresa remembers a conversation she had in the hospital with her youngest daughter, Valerie Cameron.

“I told her I was thinking about it, but I was too old,” Teresa recalled. “She said, ‘If you want to be a Catholic, and it’s been on your mind all your life, you need to do it.’ ”

Raj provided the information that the family lived close to St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis, and Cameron contacted its pastor, Father Todd Goodson. Touched by the story, Father Goodson asked the parish’s pastoral associate, Anne Corcoran, to help Teresa with her dream. Corcoran met with the family and enlisted parishioner Dabrice Bartet to serve as Teresa’s sponsor.

“God works in mysterious ways,” Bartet said. “Anne was looking for someone who could go to their house because Teresa is in a wheelchair and she had had a stroke. I was very busy with work, but then my Friday afternoons opened. It was just like divine intervention. It was my first time as a sponsor. I feel it’s our duty to pass on our faith to others. This is a good way to bring someone else into the Church.”

Bartet and Teresa met every Friday afternoon for two hours for several months so Teresa could learn the tenets of the Catholic faith. After Teresa kept asking questions about the Blessed Mother, Bartet taught her how to pray the rosary. She also answered Teresa’s questions about the Eucharist. Most of all, she calmed Teresa’s fears that she would die before she was able to enter the Church and receive the Eucharist.

“I told her, ‘Don’t worry. God has a plan for you,’ ” Bartet recalled.

A perfect moment in a perfect day

The plan came to a climax at the 10:45 a.m. Mass on Jan. 6 at St. Monica Church when Teresa made her profession of faith and received the sacrament of confirmation and first Communion. Her three daughters were with her. Bartet was by her side. Father Goodson kept smiling at her.

“I was so excited when my daughters got me ready to come to the church,” Teresa recalled. “I felt good. Then when the priest called me up and I said, ‘I do believe,’ I felt wonderful. He turned me around and introduced me to the church, and everyone was smiling as far as I could see.”

It was a perfect moment in a perfect day, a moment that everyone involved won’t forget.

“She was practically dancing on air,” said Cynthia Moore about her mother.

“She had the faith and the relationship with Christ, but she had this yearning for being in the Catholic Church,” Corcoran said. “She’s just happy to be here. It’s just like heaven to her. It’s such a testimony to a loving family. Her daughters have such a devotion to their mother. They were so supportive of their mom living her dream.”

Bartet noted, “At the end, I told her I would stop by every now and then to pray the rosary with her. We will continue because it is a lifelong journey together.”

Teresa savored it all, thinking back to her childhood friends who introduced her to the Catholic faith, thinking of her daughters and her new friends who were there to see her and help her become a member of the Catholic faith.

“There’s just something about the Church I’ve always liked,” Teresa said. “I’m so happy.” †

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