June 14, 2019

‘I finally feel like I belong’

Father James Farrell, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, confers the sacrament of confirmation upon Ward Walker during Mass on May 25.  (Submitted photo)

Father James Farrell, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, confers the sacrament of confirmation upon Ward Walker during Mass on May 25. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Most catechumens and candidates are received into the full communion of the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass.

But not Ward Walker. After a long journey that included a rock band, alcohol and no religion for several decades, there was one last hurdle that delayed his reception into the Church—an unexpected brush with death in late March.

Walker, a 54-year-old real estate salesman, was baptized and raised Methodist.

“I reluctantly went to church,” he says. “But from high school until about age 50, I didn’t set foot in a church.”

Instead, he spent more than two decades as a musician, including 15 years touring a three-state area as a drummer for a rock band.

“I’ve been a drunken musician with long hair and tattoos who partied too much,” he admits.

Walker eventually settled down and married Tina, a Catholic woman from the Bahamas. The couple has 9-year-old twins. They have gone to Mass as a family since joining St. Pius X Parish six years ago.

“I’ve been inspired by their reverence in church,” he says of his children, students of the parish’s school since kindergarten. He also enjoyed talking with Tina as she went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Pius to learn more about the culture of the faith in America.

Walker even felt called to a ministry of making small wooden crosses to give to people.

“I meet members [of St. Pius] by walking up to them and giving them a cross,” he says. “I get so much joy from that.”

But Walker says the “coup de grâce was when I got invited to CRHP [Christ Renews His Parish] the fall of 2018. Hearing how important faith is in these men’s lives, how it helps their struggles. The day after CRHP ended, I signed up for RCIA.”

Between RCIA sessions and meetings to help conduct the men’s CRHP retreat at St. Pius in February, Walker was “at the church four nights every week.” He was on track to receive the sacraments of confirmation and Communion with his RCIA class members at the Easter Vigil Mass when he was given a new cross of his own.

In early April, Walker became “violently ill” after returning home from dinner at a restaurant.

“Two days later, I was lying in the hospital in a coma with spinal meningitis and encephalitis,” he says. “The doctor told my wife I would either die or be brain dead if I survived.”

While in a coma, Walker says he knew he was “on the brink of death, and I wasn’t one bit afraid. … I’m 100 percent convinced that was because of my newfound faith.”

After five days in a coma, he recalls, “I woke up on a ventilator, and [St. Pius X pastor] Father Jim [Farrell] was holding my hand.”

Walker says he was deeply touched by the care Father Farrell and the parish provided his family during his many weeks of hospitalization and recuperation.

“St. Pius Parish took care of my wife and kids for three-and-a-half weeks,” he notes. “They had meals delivered to our home every single night. And Father Jim visited me three times while I was in the hospital.

“The community feeling that my wife and kids and I felt since joining St. Pius has been profound.”

After receiving the sacraments during the parish’s Saturday evening Mass on

May 25, says Walker, “I raised my arms up over my head and said, ‘Yes!’ It felt so great, and I felt so comfortable, because I know so many people at the Saturday night Mass.”

At home that evening, Tina asked him if he felt different.

“I said I feel like part of the community,” Walker recalls, “like I finally feel like I do belong.” †

 

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

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