How Can You Still Be Catholic?

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From Episcopal to Catholic

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By Marc Massery

First, Alex Pumphrey of Cleveland, Ohio, discerned the Episcopalian priesthood. After all, he had been raised by an Episcopalian priest, whose father was an Episcopalian priest, too.

"I had always been very involved in church activities, choir, youth groups, bible studies ... . Religion always played an extremely important role in my life," he said. "Part of the discernment process to become an [Episcopalian minister] is you meet with a committee. But the committee kept on saying how Catholic I seemed."

Though this assessment struck Alex as a bit odd, he wasn't completely surprised. "I was always very Anglo-Catholic. I was drawn to the importance of tradition, history, and liturgy. I knew these were very important to Catholics."

Furthermore, when Alex was in high school, the chaplain at his school happened to be quite Anglo-Catholic as well, and helped him understand what it meant to have a Marian devotion. "I started saying little prayers to Mary. Nothing elaborate, but if I needed help with something or didn't know what to do, I turned to her," Alex recalled.

He even bought himself a set of Rosary beads. "I didn't know how to pray it, so I would just pray a Glory Be, followed by 10 Hail Marys, and then an Our Father. I didn't know any of the Mysteries," he said.

This was not considered normal behavior for an Episcopalian. "Growing up, we respected Mary, but we didn't really talk about her. We knew she was important as the Mother of God and that she fulfilled the Lord's will, but that was kind of it," Alex said.

Meanwhile, he decided to put his application for the Episcopalian priesthood on hold to spend a year with the Episcopalian Service Core. He was assigned to Atlanta, Georgia, to work in an Episcopalian church on the weekends and spend his week days working at a non-profit. "I happened to get placed in the new high school in town [Christo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School], and one of my roommates happened to be Catholic. This all seemed like too much of a coincidence," Alex said.

After a couple weeks of thinking and praying about it, Alex went to talk to a Jesuit priest at the high school. "I told him everything I had been thinking about the Catholic Church. I asked him if he could help me figure out what I needed to do. The priest told him, 'I'm not going to help you figure out something that you already figured out.'" Alex realized the priest was right, so he immediately signed up for RCIA in the same parish his Catholic roommate attended.

Though Alex's parents didn't fully understand his decision to convert, they supported him the best they could. "They came to my Confirmation, and they took me out to dinner to celebrate," Alex said. For his Confirmation name, Alex took John Henry Newman, after a fellow Anglican turned Catholic.

Now that Alex had converted to Catholicism, he turned his attention toward the Catholic priesthood. "I had heard of the Dominicans, the Franciscans, and was friends with some Jesuits. But I really didn't know where to start looking," he recalled. So, he went to where everyone goes when they need an answer: Google. "I typed in, 'Roman Catholic male religious order,'" he said. "I think the Marians were the third or fourth hit on the list. There was just something about the Marians that struck me. I kept on coming back to their website, reading over it and looking at it. Their charisms excited me, especially praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. That was something Episcopalians do. It was important to me and also something I could bring along with me that I had grown up with."

So Alex called Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, the Marians' vocation director, and planned to attend a vocation retreat. "[During the retreat], there was a moment we were all sitting around the kitchen counter talking — just snacking on something and talking. I felt very much at home, warm, invited. I thought, 'Oh, I could definitely see myself here.'"

Brother Alex joined the community in 2017 and is in his second year of temporary vows with the Marian Fathers. He's studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.

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Marian Priests - Brother Alex - Jan 14, 2020

I have two men who may be searching... The first is a Methodist minister of a friend, who had gone to Catholic Seminary but left - don't know why. He is leading his group to Catholic worship bit by bit... Stations of the Cross, and a trip to the Holy Land with some of the Congregation including my friend. The congregation loves learning and doing these things. Please keep him in your prayers. I think he may be married as he is not young.

Second is a young man who has had cancer removed from one calf muscle and has a some problem with that. He applied to be a Monk in Western Colo. but was not accepted. He plays organ and, I think, Piano, and loves the Latin songs and prayers. I have suggested he check with you, but, I have not heard from him. He lives in the mountains near Kremling with his parents, and is a brother-in-law to my daughter. He WANTS to serve the Church... his parents' email is [email protected]