Glenmary Pastor Helps Lead Man to Conversion
Roger Roberts had a longer initiation period than most Catholics.
He’s now a full-fledged parishioner at Glenmary’s Divine Savior mission in Celina, Tenn. However, Roger’s first 2,000 or so visits to Mass were as a non-Catholic participant.
Roger married his wife Pat in 1968. He had been baptized in the Baptist tradition before later becoming Methodist, while Pat was a cradle Catholic. But they wanted to worship together. And throughout their marriage, Roger went to Mass on weekends with Pat and their three sons, whom they raised in the Church.
“We always wanted to go to Mass as a family,” he said.
Through it all, Roger was present. Despite years of attending Mass and becoming part of the Catholic community by his presence, though, he just wasn’t ready to become Catholic.
That changed as Roger got to know Father Vic Subb, the Glenmary mission pastor who came to Celina in 2012.
In early 2013 after a Sunday Mass, Pat was taking care of some church work in the parish basement, leaving Roger alone with Father Vic. After more than four decades of Mass attendance, Roger had a question for the priest.
“I asked Father Vic how long it would take me to become a Catholic,” Roger said. “He told me it wouldn’t take very long.’”
Roger met with him for an hour or two each week for six to seven weeks, and he was received into the Church that May by receiving the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and confirmation. While new Catholics usually enter the Church at the Easter Vigil, there wasn’t time to prepare Roger for that 2013 celebration. After 40-plus years, Father Vic felt there was also no need to wait a full year to bring Roger into the Catholic fold.
Though Pat remained a steadfast Catholic witness, and Roger was exposed to the Mass regularly, it was his relationship with Father Vic that was the turning point.
“I’d thought about (converting) for a number of years since that’s where I went to church,” Roger said. “When Father Vic got here, I thought it was a good time for me to join. He said, ‘It should be easy for you to do; you’ve been coming here anyway…’ I’d been around him and talked to him. We just got to be real good friends.”
Roger had positive experiences with a variety of priests in his time attending Mass, but his friendship with Father Vic made the difference for him.
“Glenmary always has the more personal touch of trying to put in time with people,” Father Vic said. “I was very supportive when Roger asked about (becoming Catholic). He knew a lot about the Catholic Church, but I wanted him to know more about the sacraments and what they meant... Glenmary’s biggest ministry is the ministry of presence. That’s very important, to be present for people.”
Father Vic’s presence, and Glenmary’s by extension, was felt from the beginning of his arrival at the mission. Among other efforts, Father Vic led a parish group from Celina to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2012 to see a touring exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Roger and Pat were part of the group on the trip, which included a visit to the Glenmary Home Missioners’ headquarters.
“Everybody in the Glenmary organization couldn’t have been nicer to us, to me especially,” Roger said of the experience. “We ate supper with them and got to know them. I was really impressed by the Glenmarians as a group.”
Though Pat and Roger had discussed issues of faith and he knew that she hoped he would become Catholic, the decision remained a personal one.
“It just was a point in his life where he was retired, he met Father Vic, and he decided it was his time to join the Church,” Pat said. “He made this decision all by himself. He was meeting with Father Vic on his own, and I didn’t even know about it.”
Becoming Catholic has left Roger feeling an even stronger sense of community.
“I’m a part of a group now. We go to church and we all help each other out,” he said. “I feel good about it. I enjoy being in the Catholic Church, and I enjoy everybody at Divine Savior. We pray for each other.
“I’m comfortable with Father Vic, too,” he added. “He led me down the path to becoming a renewed Christian.”
The benefits aren’t all Roger’s, though. Father Vic said Roger is also an asset to the parish community.
“He’s a nice person,” he said. “It is easy to like Roger because he’s a good man. He really just feels very much at home in the Catholic Church. He fits in very well… He’s one of our best evangelizers just for who he is.”
This article first appeared in the September 2016 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.