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‘My thoughts about finally arriving home’

Former Protestant pastor reflects on reception into Catholic Church after 10-year search

Bishop Peter Christensen anoints Brook Thelander with the oil of chrism. (Courtesy photos/Michelle Wonacott)

Editor’s note: In our Dec. 2, 2022 issue, we profiled Brook Thelander, a pastor of 22 years at the Epworth Chapel on the Green, a Wesleyan-Anglican church in Boise. Raised in the Church of the Nazarene, Dr. Thelander has a degree in Biblical Literature from Mid-America Nazarene University. He received his Master’s Degree from Asbury Theological Seminary and his doctorate in homiletics from the Toronto School of Theology. Over the last 10 years, he has studied Church history, theology and liturgy. In November of last year, he announced to his congregation that he was resigning from the pulpit to join the Catholic Church. He was Confirmed by Bishop Peter Christensen in the chapel at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Below, Thelander writes his reflection about his Confirmation and his first Communion, which he received on the following day, Ash Wednesday.

By Brook Thelander

for the Idaho Catholic Register

My Confirmation occurred on Feb. 21 in the chapel at St. John’s Cathedral. Bishop Peter Christensen celebrated, assisted by Deacon Chris Privon.

The entire day leading up to the evening service was a day of peace and joy. Earlier in the day, I sensed the need to spend some time in prayer at a place that has been a vital part of my journey to the Church, the Adoration chapel at St. Mark’s Parish. Through the years, many hours have been spent there, many tears shed. Christ has been very present to me in that sacred space.

The Confirmation was attended by many friends and family. My wife, Connie, and daughter, Emily, were by my side as I took this important step. Without the support of my wife, this night would not have been possible. Many people from Epworth Chapel on the Green (the congregation I served for more than two decades) came in support of my decision to enter the Church. One friend came from North Carolina, who helped a 96-year-old former parishioner attend with her. A group of former Nazarenes who have become Catholic were present, and many Catholic friends were also there to fill the chapel. A good friend and former parishioner who has been with me for most of my journey also came to support me.

Bishop Peter allowed me to choose the Scripture lessons, which included Isaiah 40:27-31; Psalm 34:1-10; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-14; and Matthew 13:44-46.

Dr. Jim Hollingsworth, Thelander, and Bishop Peter Christensen after Thelander’s Confirmation. Thelander received Eucharist for the first time on the following day, Ash Wednesday. (Courtesy photos/Michelle Wonacott)

During his homily, the Bishop affirmed the people from Epworth Chapel on the Green who supported me. He also thanked my friend Brian Merz, pastor of the Summit Church in Boise, who also attended. I was deeply honored to have all these people present.

After the homily, the Bishop called me forward with my sponsor, Dr. Jim Hollingsworth, my chiropractor and friend of 23 years. Dr. H, as he is affectionately known, is a devout Catholic who loved and supported me during my years of Protestant ministry, often helping me physically to continue working when I was not in good health. He is a constant conversation partner about things Catholic and spiritual. He loved me with a deep love, never pushing, but always affirming me and my spiritual gifts.

Bishop Peter asked me to affirm my faith (the Creed) and affirm my assent to all that the Church teaches. Then, he anointed me with chrism and administered the sacrament of Confirmation, praying for the Spirit to fill me and empower me for service.

I chose St. Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 200-258), bishop and martyr, as my patron saint. His essay “On the Unity of the Catholic Church,” has been very influential to me, especially his famous dictum: “He who would have God as his Father must have the Church as his Mother.” Cyprian labored heavily for the unity of the Church against schism, and for the authority of the local bishop in concert with the Bishop of Rome.

After the service, Michelle Wonacott took several photos and a nice reception was held, including King’s cake all the way from New Orleans (my confirmation was on Fat Tuesday!). People lingered and enjoyed good conversation, capping an eventful day with wonderful fellowship.

God lives today in bread and wine

The following day, Ash Wednesday, was a day of peace. I sensed the presence of the Lord in calm, gentle ways. My thoughts were largely focused on Him. I had a good conversation with my brother, Rod, talking about spiritual things and God’s blessings. I thought throughout the day about what my first experience receiving Eucharist would be like. After 10 years of serious discernment, with times of intense pain when I desired the Eucharist but could not receive, my mind was full of thoughts about what receiving Christ would actually be like.

Connie met me at the Cathedral for the 5:30 p.m. Mass, which Bishop Peter celebrated. When the Eucharistic prayer was offered and the consecration effected, people filed forward to receive the sacrament.

As I made my way to the center aisle, my mind was filled with conflicting thoughts and emotions. For a brief second, the enemy whispered in my ear that all I had surrendered in order to get to this moment was a waste, a mistake. He fought me when I first walked into the Cathedral chapel to attend my first Mass almost 10 years ago, and he continued to fight me now in this moment.

Joining others making their way forward to where the Bishop was distributing the Body of Christ, the warfare was real. Then I stood before the Bishop and heard the words, “The Body of Christ.” I opened my mouth and received the Living Bread of Heaven.

Back at my pew, I knelt and reflected on all that had occurred in the last 10 years. Tears flowed. The cacophony of voices in my head were silenced. The poet Sir John Betjeman once wrote: “God was man in Palestine, and lives today in bread and wine.” In this sacred moment, I knew by faith that those words are true. I was grateful for this unspeakable gift.

Earlier that morning, the Lenten devotional I am reading focused on Psalm 63:1-11. The Psalmist pro-claims: “O God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have gazed upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory. Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee.”

I was struck at how the Psalmist’s spiritual thirst is quenched by gazing upon the Lord in the sanctuary. This is precisely what Catholics do at Mass. When we enter the sanctuary and focus our gaze upon the Tabernacle, through eyes of faith, we see Christ in all his glory.

The morning after receiving Eucharist for the first time, I went to Mass in the chapel of the Cathedral. This little day chapel was where my journey to the Church began 10 years ago, but for whatever reason, receiving the Eucharist there became an intensely emotional experience. As the priest was reciting the Eucharistic prayer, a tidal wave of joy swept over me that I could hardly contain. That’s what it’s like when you discover hidden treasure.

My prayer is that together with all of you, my new Catholic family, we will discover and rediscover the beauty of this treasure that is ours, the incomparable treasure of our Catholic faith.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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