June 14, 2019

‘Something I never had before’

Cassandra Guerra, far right in the front pew, listens intently during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 20 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Fortville. During the Mass, she was baptized, confirmed and received her First Communion. (Submitted photo by Gary Potts)

Cassandra Guerra, far right in the front pew, listens intently during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 20 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Fortville. During the Mass, she was baptized, confirmed and received her First Communion. (Submitted photo by Gary Potts)

By Natalie Hoefer

If life is a series of peaks and valleys, Cassandra Guerra found herself in the lowest of valleys two years ago. So low, in fact, that she attempted to take her own life.

Guerra, 20, survived. She stayed a week in a stress center hospital—and there met someone who helped her journey not just out of the valley, but toward the highest peak of faith.

“I met a nurse there named Joe,” she recalls. “He was Catholic. And he asked me what was really bothering me. I was obsessed I was going to hell, not heaven.”

She says her fear was grounded in messages she gleaned from her faith experience.

“In the Baptist church, we got a lot of those sermons that if you don’t do this, this and this, you’re probably going to hell,” Guerra says. “That used to terrify me.”

Joe listened. Then, she says, “He talked to me for an hour and a half about God. I really feel like he led me to the Lord that day.

“Every day he told me that God loved me and wasn’t going to leave me. He made me a folder of Bible verses and quotes—I still have it. He really got me through that tough time.

“After that, I wanted to go to a Catholic church.”

But Guerra struggled with another message she received growing up: “I was told that Catholics weren’t true Christians.”

She says it took her a year and a half to build up the courage to go to a Mass. When she did, she chose a church she’d driven by frequently: St. Thomas the Apostle in Fortville.

“I fell in love with it,” Guerra says. “I knew that was where I wanted to go and felt comfortable enough to worship.”

She called the parish to find out how she could become Catholic.

“I thought if they got enough people together, they’d just baptize us together, like in my Baptist church. I didn’t know it was a process,” she recalls of learning about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). “I’m glad it is [a process]. I learned so much. It made me a stronger Christian, better than just being baptized and done.”

Through RCIA, Guerra learned more about God’s unconditional love and desire for her to live eternally with him in heaven.

“I felt like at St. Thomas, I finally learned the truth,” she says. “Before that, I really didn’t believe God loved me. Through St. Thomas, my relationship with Christ grew into something I’d never had before.”

Guerra says the Easter Vigil Mass on April 20 when she was received into the full communion of the Church “is a bit of a blur.”

One of her favorite moments, she says, was being baptized, “feeling the water pour over my head. I felt at peace.”

And now Guerra looks forward to receiving the Eucharist at Mass.

“I really like that we [receive] Communion every time we go to Mass,” she says. “I like the feeling of God being present there, [that] I’m actually worshipping the living God.”

As Guerra, a sophomore at Anderson University in Anderson, Ind., moves forward on her journey of life and faith, she says she does so while holding an image in mind, something that the Catholic nurse Joe told her.

“He told me to see my walk with God as having peaks and valleys,” she recalls. “Now I imagine me and Jesus walking through peaks and valleys together. It makes my journey more real for me.” †

 

Related: New Catholics from Bright, Fortville, Greencastle and Indianapolis share their journey to the Catholic faith

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!