May 21, 2021

‘It’s wonderful to be Catholic—I feel so at peace’

Judy Townsend receives her first Communion from Father Dustin Boehm during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3 in St. Gabriel Church in Connersville. Her badge bears her confirmation name, St. Abigail. (Submitted photo by Mellissa Ackerman)

Judy Townsend receives her first Communion from Father Dustin Boehm during the Easter Vigil Mass on April 3 in St. Gabriel Church in Connersville. Her badge bears her confirmation name, St. Abigail. (Submitted photo by Mellissa Ackerman)

By Natalie Hoefer

Michael McFeely, 58, was born and raised in the Catholic faith.

“I believe we can set examples,” he said before paraphrasing a quote often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Always preach the Gospel, and sometimes open your mouth.”

And so the member of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville did for the last several years after meeting his new neighbor, Judy Townsend.

There were two things McFeely did almost every day—visit his neighbor and walk across the street for Mass at St. Gabriel Church.

“One day we started talking about different kinds of religion and different belief systems,” he recalled.

Townsend, who at the time was a self-proclaimed “holy roller” Pentecostal, started to question McFeely about his daily trips across the street for Mass.

“I started asking more questions, and he started bringing over books,” said Townsend, 74. “I’d read one and ask for more. I was hooked.”

She soon found more time to read when an illness put her in the hospital for several months. McFeely visited Townsend, and so did his sister Abigail, an oblate of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

“She was a volunteer, and she used to console me in the hospital,” said Townsend. “We got to be close.”

The more Townsend learned, the more she wanted to know. Soon she and Mike were going to the Mary grotto on the parish’s grounds, where he taught her how to pray the rosary.

“Going to a holy roller church, I never learned about Mary,” she said. “I was really taken by her.”

With the help of the words and witness of the McFeely siblings, Townsend felt the call to become Catholic. She joined RCIA and, with Mike as her sponsor, entered into the full communion of the Church on April 3.

“I was so happy to become Catholic,” said Townsend. “After Communion I just felt happiness.”

She admitted to also feeling a bit of sadness.

“I wish Abby could have been there,” she said. “She died last summer. For my confirmation name, I took Abigail in honor of Mike’s sister.”

Knowing his sharing the Gospel with his neighbor helped lead her to the Church, McFeely is on fire to do more.

“I’ve got more people in mind for next year,” he said. “I’m going to try to get as many in [the Church] as possible. All the troubles we face in life—I’m convinced the Catholic faith helps us to get through.”

But seeing Townsend be baptized, confirmed and receive her first Eucharist does not mean that McFeely is moving on. The neighbors walk across the street together for Mass every Sunday.

“I told her this is just the beginning,” McFeely said. “We’ve got Pentecost coming up—there’s so much more to learn.”

Townsend agreed, saying she has “a lot more reading to do.”

But for now, she said, “It’s wonderful to be Catholic—I feel so at peace.” †
 

Related: See a list of all new Catholics in the archdiocese for 2020 and 2021

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