As Lent unfolds and Easter approaches, Girdwood resident Glenn Crocker and his children are set to join tens of thousands of people around the world in entering into full communion with the Catholic Church.
For him, the decision to become Catholic did not come in a blinding flash like Saint Paul’s experienced on the road to Damascus. Croker, 48, works for BP as a project lead. He attended the Methodist church in Girdwood but not consistently.
His wife Janice picked up the guitar a few years ago and soon began playing for Mass at Our Lady of the Snows, the small Girdwood mission 40 miles southwest of Anchorage. Their daughter Elena, age 9, joined mom at church, and soon Glenn did as well.
“For me, two pieces fell into place,” Glenn explained. “One was attending with my daughter. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense for them to be Catholic and not me.”
Glenn was raised Baptist in Oklahoma but he married Janice in the Catholic Church. They have three children. In addition to Elena, Nathan is 11 and Matthew is 5.
“Janice is Catholic. We went to Engagement Encounter — it was a very good process,” Glenn recounted. “If we had been married in the Baptist church, we would have just showed up and gotten married, but this involved questions and soul-searching.”
The second piece of his conversion has been the common path for adults seeking communion with the Catholic Church: the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA. For Glenn, this involved staying in Anchorage every Tuesday night and attending classes after work at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, which sponsors the Girdwood mission, before returning home to Girdwood.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton pastor Father Tom Lilly acknowledges the sacrifice of time and energy that this entails.
“People are just drawn when they hear the truth and they make amazing sacrifices,” he said.
RCIA involves weekly classes with catechists who enter into dialogue with those exploring the Catholic faith. Participants read Scripture, ask questions, engage in discussion, and, if they wish, prepare to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
“I hadn’t ever been to a Catholic Church before,” Glenn recalls. “I was interested in it and started RCIA, and it spoke to me. I really enjoy the classes. I’ve been going every Tuesday. I never walk away from it regretting that I came. I learn so much. It’s one thing I think you don’t get so much in the Baptist church or other denominations. Yes, you get some, but it’s more localized and less consistent.”
Glenn has discovered a number of differences between the Catholic Church and the Baptist community of his upbringing.
“One thing that’s definitely different is Communion itself — it’s the flesh of Christ,” Glenn said. “It’s different than what you would see at a Baptist Church. It doesn’t take on the significance as it does in the Catholic Church.”
At Easter, Glenn and Janice’s three children will be baptized. Glenn and the two older children will receive the sacrament of confirmation. Glenn’s Baptist baptism is considered valid by the Catholic Church.
Each week, Father Lilly or associate priest Father Patrick Brosamer visits Our Lady of the Snows to minister to Catholics in Girdwood. Other priests fill in when needed.
Father Lilly has enjoyed following the Crocker’s journey into the church.
“In early testament times, whole families were baptized into the church together,” Father Lilly said. “I am always humbled and edified to listen to and participate in their journey. Of course, the Easter Vigil is the magnificent culmination, but a lot of the joy is present in the process. You see people start with questioning and wondering. And then you see them get drawn into the community through the Holy Spirit.”
Glenn encourages anyone who is wondering about the Catholic Church to consider attending RCIA, which is the normal path for adults seeking conversion in the church. The gatherings, however, are also open to people who just have questions about Catholicism.
Glenn speaks highly of the teachers who give time weekly to facilitate the classes, as well as the sponsors who walk alongside those seeking conversion.
“You just learn so much. In the Baptist church, we read and studied the Bible, but the discussion about it, the learning about it, and the history about it just wasn’t there,” he said. “Also, some of the other people going through RCIA will ask questions you haven’t thought of, and this deepens the meaning of things you’ve been discussing.”