Updated: May 2, 2022
Converts, young and old, find a home in Catholic Church
The following story appeared in the April 29 Idaho Catholic Register.
Ethan Lang is Confirmed by Father Costance Swai during the Easter Vigil Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Community in Pocatello. His sponsor, standing behind him, is Cooper Dow, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) serving on the Idaho State University campus. (Courtesy photo/Thomas Smith and Holy Spirit Catholic Community)
By Gene Fadness
One was the pastor of evangelical churches throughout the Intermountain West, who later became so discouraged he ended up agnostic and alcoholic.
Another grew up in a home where one side of the family was rabidly anti-Catholic while the other side included a man who was recently declared Venerated by Pope Francis.
Two were students who determined Catholicism was true in the quiet of their own apartments by watching YouTube videos and reading Catholic blogs.
Two families escaped a civil war in Burma and life in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to Boise, meeting each other, marrying and later, mother, father and two children were received into the Catholic faith.
The journeys are as varied as are the people and their circumstances, but the destination, in the end, was the same: the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church that in an age of increasing secularism still has the power to draw searching minds and hearts.
This issue of the Idaho Catholic Register spotlights the stories of just some of the hundreds received into the Church during the Easter Vigil in the Diocese of Boise. Some wrote their own stories, while others were interviewed to let us summarize their stories.
Their stories, while different, confirm the message shared by Bishop Peter Christensen during his Easter message at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist: “Jesus is among the living.”
“Why do you seek the living One among the dead?” the women are asked by the men who appear to them in St. Luke’s Gospel. “He is not here, but He has been raised.”
The truth that He lives and moves in the hearts of His people is repeated over and again with each baptism, with each Confirmation, with each first reception of the Holy Eucharist, with each marriage validation that takes place at thousands of Easter Vigil Masses across the globe.
CASCADE – George Jordan moved around a lot, his dad serving in the Air Force. A knee injury kept the 1970 high school graduate from having to serve in Vietnam. He moved to Montana from California, starting a business in the Troy and Libby areas as a mechanic for Volkswagons.
His parents were nominal Methodists so faith was not a part of his life until the Montana move when a friend from the community nondenominational church led him in the “sinner’s prayer.” Jordan was baptized in 1974, at this time in his early 20s. His conversion eventually led him to Boise Bible College and his eventual decision to become a pastor.
He started out successful, recalling a church in Post Falls where he counted 30 baptisms. But, soon church disputes began to dampen his enthusiasm for preaching. He decided to leave one church in Oakland, Oregon, that was on the verge of splitting, choosing instead to take a church in Wyoming. After that venture failed, he returned to Boise, taking on work as a tractor mechanic. “I was pretty much an agnostic by then,” but he could not “get the feeling out of my life,” that something, someone was always present.
“I would always pray, ‘I love you, God,’ but, at the same time, asking myself, ‘Why do I keep doing this because I don’t believe anymore.’ ”
He moved to Paul, Idaho, near Burley, to work for a tractor business but developed COPD, which led him to leave the business after 12 years. His wife wanted to move to Cascade to be closer to grandkids.
Also by this time, an old problem resurfaced: alcoholism. He had been sober during his years has a pastor, but started drinking again as challenges to ministry mounted.
In fact, he was in a bar in Cascade when he met Walt. “We connected for some reason. He was from California and had just moved to Cascade.” One of the first things he learned about Walt was that he was a Catholic, who took his faith seriously. “One day I told him I was going to go to church with him.” And so, Jordan attended Mass at St. Katharine Drexel Parish.
“It was very confusing but for the first time in a long time, I felt peace.”
He readily acknowledges that “everything I heard” about Catholicism during Bible college was negative. “But I was never a preacher who would say anything bad about them,” he said, largely because of positive encounters he had with Catholics during his life. In fact, one of his regular financial backers during his years in ministry was a Catholic couple.
At St. Katharine Drexel, he didn’t detect the division and congregational fighting he had experienced in other churches. He took up reading the Catechism and had quickly challenged his years of instruction that all the truth was found in the Bible. “The early Church didn’t have a written scripture for many years. The Apostles were basically leading the Church by the Spirit of God, by the Tradition, and they were passing that Tradition on.”
Jordan knew he had found what he was looking for. He didn’t have to do the full year of study through RCIA. Because of his past scripture study and his familiarity with the Catechism, “they did a fast track on me.”
He is sober once again, finding great comfort in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
“When I received absolution, I really felt such a huge burden come off. My whole brain changed because I had previously been so hard on myself, not being able to forgive myself,” he said. “Father Bruno (Segatta) told me that change was the Holy Spirit, and I really believe that.” His wife has not followed him in the faith but is supportive of his newfound happiness and sobriety. “She thinks it’s great,” he says.
POCATELLO – Unlike George Jordan, Ethan Lang did grow up in a believing household. His parents are active churchgoers in his native British Columbia. Lang graduated from high school there in 2016 and worked four years as an electrician before enrolling at Idaho State University to study nuclear engineering.
Before moving here, Lang, dialogued with his pastor about questions of faith. Always interested in theology and history, Lang came across Catholic content on YouTube, particularly Matt Fradd’s “Pints With Aquinas.”
Becoming convinced about the need for baptismal regeneration, he was baptized in a lake in October of 2020, even though he was already leaning toward Catholicism.
He continued his quiet study of Catholicism online. “Probably within six months, I had decided I was going to convert,” Lang said.
In February of 2021 he had relocated to Pocatello and immediately contacted the RCIA director there, Thomas Smith, a scriptural scholar who is a convert from the LDS and then evangelical faiths to Catholicism.
Lang also got involved with the Catholic campus ministry at Idaho State, befriending the FOCUS missionaries (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) on campus.
“From them, I really learned a lot about how to live your daily life as a Catholic, about devotion and prayer,” he said. “Being around such devout Catholics was really huge for my faith,” he said. His parents, while loving, were “generally anti-Catholic,” he said believing that Catholics worshipped Mary.
When he went home for Christmas, he told his brother and his wife and also a sister who was pursuing a Biblical Studies degree, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to tell his parents. That would have to come later.
Eventually he did so, and they came from British Columbia to attend the Easter Vigil Mass where he was Confirmed. “They think I’m kind of crazy, but they also love me,” he said. “We’ve been having good conversations about the Eucharist.”
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