June 3, 2022

New Catholic drawn by helpful Catholics who were ‘always smiling’

Johnette Grant, left, and her sponsor Gretchen Horne, members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, smile after Grant was received into the full communion of the Church during an Easter Vigil Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapoils on April 16. (Submitted photo)

Johnette Grant, left, and her sponsor Gretchen Horne, members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, smile after Grant was received into the full communion of the Church during an Easter Vigil Mass at St. Rita Church in Indianapoils on April 16. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles chronicling the journey of six people who were received into the full communion of the Church at the Easter Vigil on April 16.)
 

By Natalie Hoefer

There is a saying, “It doesn’t cost anything to give someone a smile.”

Johnette Grant will tell you that those free smiles can return some amazing dividends. They’re what led her to the Catholic Church.

She experienced those smiles when she and her young children lived at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis for a time. And she received them from members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society when she turned to them for help.

“If I needed food or anything, it was always the Catholic organizations that helped,” says Grant. “And they were always smiling, saying, ‘Let us pray with you.’

“I saw those smiles and thought, ‘I need to be around them.’ That’s what drew me to the Catholics.”

She was received into the full communion of the Church as a member of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis during an Easter Vigil Mass celebrated on April 16.

But at 60, Grant was active in other faiths before finding her home among “those people who smile a lot.”

‘Drawn to that kind of love’

Grant’s journey was steeped in faith from the start.

“My grandfather led a Sanctified Church, so I have a very religious and Christian background,” she says.

In her teens, Grant’s family moved and joined the Jehovah’s Witness church. But “at 18 I began my own faith journey,” she says.

She was a member of an Apostolic Church for a time, then became a member of Calvary Temple Church in Indianapolis.

“I was involved in a lot of ministries there,” says Grant. “The evangelical church kept me going, but I still didn’t feel filled up.”

It was in between her time in those two churches that Grant was introduced to the “smiling people” of the Catholic faith.

“I came out of a divorce when I moved to Indianapolis” in the early 2000s, she says. “My children and I ended up in Holy Family Shelter.

“At the shelter, people were embracing us and praying with us. The people there were always smiling. When you’re going through something and people were always smiling—that was huge for me. It made a big difference in my world.”

So did the kindness.

“It was the kindness that we mothers in the shelter always talked about,” she recalls.

Grant experienced those same smiles and kindness when she turned to the St. Vincent de Paul Society for assistance in starting over after Holy Family Shelter helped her family find a home.

“I was always embraced by Catholics,” she says. “They were always kind. I was drawn to that kind of love.”

So began her attempt to become Catholic—four times.

Grant joined a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program and says she “was just fascinated with the information.”

But issues with “lazy” landlords led to moving three times in as many years. The instability prevented her from completing RCIA.

In 2019, Grant started in RCIA at Holy Angels, then a car accident prevented her from continuing.

She attempted RCIA at Holy Angels again in 2020 via Zoom in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but “I went through a lot that year, and my mind was not into joining.”

In 2021, her third attempt at RCIA at Holy Angels proved to be the charm. At the Easter Vigil Mass on April 16, Grant at last joined the ranks of “smiling, kind” Catholics.

‘It felt like home’

The more she learned in RCIA, the more Grant knew she’d found the right path.

“As I started going through the history and the faith life of Catholics, the value of Mass and the Eucharist, it felt like home,” she says. “It was so fascinating to learn about all of it, and there’s always more. It defined the things I’d been taught.”

Grant says the Catholic Church “allows me to go deeper. It’s so much more than surface rituals, more than just taking Communion.

“Everything has meaning—it’s not just showing up on Easter and partaking and then all year nothing else going on. There’s the liturgical seasons, like Lent and Advent. That’s what really takes me to another level, the depth of it all.”

Grant chose St. Teresa of Calcutta as her confirmation name. It was the saint’s quality as “a genuine giver” that impressed her.

“That was fascinating to me, that someone actually dedicated their life to just loving other people,” she says.

‘I just want to give’

Giving and loving others are traits Grant identifies with. Having been on the receiving end of so much kindness and generosity, she now feels called to give back through a non-profit organization she founded in 2019.

While living in Holy Family Shelter, Grant—who already had a master’s degree in accounting—was working on a capstone project for her second master’s degree, this time in strategic business.

“For my capstone, I said I wanted to start a non-profit,” she recalls. “I wanted to pay it forward.”

She opened a transitional homeless shelter for veterans in 2007, but eventually had to close it.

Grant began teaching as an adjunct professor at various colleges. In 2019 she started a new non-profit called TEACH (Taking Education and Challenges Higher) Resource Group.

The organization has two components: the first is helping those in need by distributing donated items she receives from Walmart and other partners. The second is teaching entrepreneurial classes.

The recipients of the donations are “several youth-oriented non-profits” she’s partnered with, says Grant.

For example, one non-profit seeks to reunite children with their incarcerated fathers, putting on events in prisons. Another teaches youths how to assemble bikes. Her organization has also supplied food, book bags and holiday items to churches.

On the educational side, her organization will start offering entrepreneurial classes at a Glick Company income-based “success center” in August through a partnership with the company.

“I want to bless others the way I was blessed,” says Grant, who continues to work part-time teaching virtual business courses for Ivy Tech Community College and doing field research with the University of Michigan—while working toward earning her doctorate in education in 2024.

“I just want to give,” she continues. “I just want others to smile.”

Just as the Catholics she encountered when she needed help offered her smiles and kindness.

“They were always there, always serving, and they did it from the heart,” says Grant. “The kindness I felt carried me a long way.” †

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