January 15, 2021

‘Why are you Catholic?’: A question leads a couple to a deeper bond with Christ, the Church and each other

Sean and Paige Hussey pose for a photo with their daughter Emma during a vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in July of 2020. (Submitted photo)

Sean and Paige Hussey pose for a photo with their daughter Emma during a vacation to Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., in July of 2020. (Submitted photo)

Fifth in an occasional series

(Editor’s note: In this series, The Criterion is featuring young adults who have found a home in the Church and strive to live their faith in their everyday life.)
 

By John Shaughnessy

Looking back to his senior year in high school—a time when he was a star quarterback—Sean Hussey recalls there were two qualities that stood out about a certain female classmate.

“What struck me about her really quickly was that she was very different than other people I knew,” Hussey recalls.

“She was someone who prayed every day and read Scripture every day. She always had a Bible with her, and it actually looked like she used it. I had never thought about reading the Bible on my own. And never thought about praying. I really didn’t have a relationship with God, and I could tell that she did. And something about that really intrigued me.”

Then there was the second quality that he noticed about his classmate Paige, a quality that Hussey shares with a big smile.

“And I thought she looked good, so I was willing to hear her out. She wanted to know why I was Catholic. And that was a question I never really considered—especially coming from someone who wasn’t Catholic. I really had no clue.”

That question from Paige—“Why are you Catholic?”—has led Hussey to two of the most important choices in his life.

One of those choices is captured in a YouTube video that the now-25-year-old Hussey has created called “How a Protestant Made Me Catholic,” a video in which he shares how Paige’s questioning about his Catholic faith led him to a real and deep relationship with Christ and the Church for the first time in his life.

The other important choice is revealed in the reality that he and Paige celebrated their third wedding anniversary on Dec. 30, a marriage that has been further blessed by their 10-month-old daughter Emma.

‘An amazing discovery’

Before meeting Paige, Hussey acknowledges there was a disconnect between the way he lived his life in his high school in Illinois and the example that his parents provided.

“I grew up in a great family with people who modeled the faith, and it was obvious to me that it was the center of their life. But that wasn’t the case for me,” he notes in a conversation with

The Criterion.

“I did find it was part of who I was, but I was so entrenched in my own sin, and I was so fine with it. I was able to justify how I was living. I didn’t feel any guilt from it.”

He began to see a change in his life when he noticed Paige, especially as their paths crossed more from the time they graduated from high school to the time he left for the University of Illinois to play football.

Her question, “Why are you Catholic?” stayed with him and led him to do something he had never done previously.

“That question led to a lot more questions—about the things we believe and why we believe these things,” he recalls. “I looked into Scripture for the first time. I was convinced really quickly that Jesus started a visible Church, that that Church has continued through the centuries through the succession from the Apostles, and that Church exists today.

“That was such an amazing discovery for me that the Church could trace itself back to Christ himself and the Apostles. That intellectual discovery led me to realize I’m supposed to be Catholic.”

He also realized, “My life needs to look different. That was a turning point for me into having this really deep, interior encounter with the Lord—of really meeting him for the first time.”

Hussey also had a defining meeting with Paige.

“Paige was certainly already someone who loved God, and she continued to pursue him. I shared with her my past. And I was met with amazing mercy and forgiveness from her.”

Another turning point awaited him after he transferred to Eastern Illinois University in the middle of his freshman year.

‘The Lord places people in our lives’

“I was fortunate to have some men mentors in college who walked with me and talked to me and taught me how to live as a disciple. Even how to tell people about Christ,” he says. “That helped me to evangelize more in my everyday life. That helped with Paige, too. It forced me to be really grounded in my belief so I had good answers for her, for whoever.”

Having this great desire to share God’s love with others during his college years, Hussey focused on relationships, leading small groups and meeting people one-on-one for coffee or a meal.

“I caught this vision of how I could help other people come to know Jesus,” he says. “That led me to want to do that full time, to work for the Church. To sit down with people and talk about the Lord, talk about his Church, talk about Scripture. I just have a passion for it.”

Hussey has lived that passion for the past 15 months as the coordinator of evangelization and discipleship for the archdiocese. On Jan. 19, he will become associate director of the archdiocese’s ministry for young adults and college students.

He has no doubt about what’s the best way to bring Christ into the lives of others, to help them embrace a deeper relationship with God.

“The most effective evangelization happens in the context of a relationship. Who are the people in your circle of influence? Who are the people you already know and trust you?

“Maybe they’re Catholic and they just need someone to take an interest in them to help them take the next step. And maybe they’re not Catholic and that’s good, too. I feel the Lord places people in our lives for a particular reason. It takes intentionality on our part to make sure we’re investing in these people the Lord has placed before us.”

Looking back now, he knows that God placed Paige in his life for a reason. He also smiles when he shares the impact that Christ has had on his wife.

“Paige became Catholic in 2017 at the Easter Vigil—before we got married. She did not want to become a Catholic just because I was. It was a process for her. She definitely reached the point where the Lord led her to his Church.”

It wasn’t the place Paige ever expected to be earlier in her life.

‘I just love the richness of the faith’

Paige’s faith journey began in her childhood when she woke up each morning to find her mother starting each day in her rocking chair, praying and reading the Bible.

“She’s shown me that having a relationship with Christ is the foundation of her life,” says Paige, who is 23. “She’s always done a very good job of leading our family in Scripture and prayer—and letting everything else in life flow from that.”

That focus was also at the center of Paige’s life when she met Sean. Her question to him—“Why are you Catholic?”—came from a combination of curiosity and her firm belief at the time that she would never want to become Catholic.

“I think I just truly wanted to know,” Paige says, explaining why she asked that question. “I didn’t know much about Catholicism and didn’t think much of it growing up. I had heard a lot of negative stereotypes about Catholics. I knew for sure I didn’t want to be Catholic, but I wanted to know why he wanted to be Catholic.”

That question led Sean to a deeper desire to understand the foundations of his faith. And Sean’s pursuit of truth about his Catholic faith intrigued and inspired Paige.

Still, she insists, “I never wanted to become Catholic for anybody. I never wanted to become part of a religion for anyone but myself and God.”

Now she has her own answer to the question, “Why are you Catholic?”

“I’m Catholic because I believe the Catholic teaching on the Eucharist is true, and you can’t find that anywhere else,” she says. “Jesus gave us his body and blood, he gave us his mother, and he initiated all the sacraments. I just love the richness of the faith.

“I often compare my testimony to the walk to Emmaus. I walked with Jesus a long time, but it wasn’t until my eyes were open in the breaking of the bread that I was truly able to see the Lord and his Church. The Eucharist is what brought me home.”

‘People want to be known, to be loved’

In their home, the Husseys view the Holy Family as their role models, rooting their life in prayer and Scripture. And similar to Sean, Paige tries to lead other people closer to Christ and the Church. For nearly three years, she and two friends—Raquel Davis and Madeline Montee—have written a blog focused on faith, marriage and natural family planning.

“It’s called The Monica Ministry, named after St. Monica,” Paige says. “It was born out of a desire to bring the truth and beauty of marriage and natural family planning to the internet. I feel so passionate to share the grace of God—and the goodness, the truth and the beauty that I feel in my marriage.”

For Paige and Sean, their stories as individuals and as a couple reveal how people’s faith journeys can take them to different and unexpected places. At the same time, they share a belief that nearly all faith journeys are marked by a common desire.

“People want to be known, to be loved, to be heard,” Sean says. “People want to feel they’re part of a community. Because in real community, we are known, we are loved.

“That’s part of the beauty that Jesus models for us. In his attention to 12 men in a particular way, he models investing our lives in a few people.” †

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