Becoming Catholic

Categories: Around the Diocese

Adam Valeski has a hunger for the faith that others notice.
Billie Kneip can’t wait to receive Communion for the first time with her husand and son.
Matthew Pilgrim grew so much from the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults that, once he’s baptized, he said he’d be happy to be an RCIA sponsor for someone else.
Valeski, Kneip and Pilgrim are among dozens who will be joining the Catholic faith in 2014.

Family and friends play an important role in conversion of faith

February 28, 2014, edition
By Kristi Anderson

This year, across the Diocese of St. Cloud, 23 catechumens (those to be baptized, confirmed and receive first Eucharist) and 61 candidates (those already baptized) are preparing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.

As a crucial step in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion will be held the first Sunday of Lent, March 9, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.

At this Mass, candidates and catechumens will be presented to Bishop Donald Kettler in preparation for initiation, which usually occurs at the Easter Vigil. The catechumens sign the Book of Elect and from that moment are called “the elect.”

He never thought he’d join a church


Matthew Pilgrim, catechumen, St. Mary Parish, Alexandria. Photo courtesy of Missy Haugen

Matthew Pilgrim never imagined being part of a parish, much less becoming Catholic. But with encouragement from his girlfriend, Miranda Novak, and her father and stepmother, Joel and Susan Novak, Pilgrim began to attend Mass regularly with them at St. Mary Parish, Alexandria.

After just a few months, Pilgrim approached Father Steven Binsfeld, pastor of St. Mary’s, who introduced him to the RCIA program.

“I love the program,” said Pilgrim. “Miranda, Joel and Susan broke the ice when it came to church and Catholicism and Father Steve was the one to put everything in motion for me.”

Pilgrim is most excited about being baptized.

“Being ‘reborn’ in Christ sounds amazing,” he explained. “Deep down, I feel like after I become baptized, it will be much easier to steer clear of the bad things in life and maintain a relationship with not only God but Christ Jesus as well, which I have been lacking almost my whole life.”

Pilgrim plans to be a regular at Mass after becoming Catholic, to try his hand at being an usher and one day, a lector. He would also like to accompany others on their journeys of faith.

“If I ever get a call to be someone’s sponsor for RCIA, I would be more than happy to help them,” he said. “I would also enjoy helping plan things for the church like block parties or lock-ins because it would be fun not only for me but for everyone involved.”

At Mass for 10 years, she’s becoming Catholic


Billie Kneip (top center) with her family, (front row) Aaron, 2, Andrew, 4, Thomas, 5; (middle row) Steven, 7, her husband, Joseph, and Nicholas, 9. Photo courtesy of Jennings Photography

Living in Opole in her younger years, Billie Kneip recalls spending time with her childhood friend whose mother would wake them up early on Sunday mornings to attend Mass, which she remembers warmly.

Eventually, Kneip moved away and lost contact with her friend and with the church. When she began dating Joseph — who later became her husband — the couple attended Mass together.

For the last 10 years, Billie has had a constant presence in the Opole parish with her husband, his family and now, their five sons. Last September, she began RCIA classes.

She receives encouragement from her husband and his family, particularly, Joseph’s mother, Linda.

“Linda is an inspiration to me,” Billie said. “She is an example of what it means to really live out your faith.”

What Billie appreciates the most about becoming Catholic is the strong sense of community. She is eager to become involved in parish life.

“Last year they were looking for teachers for faith formation,” she said, “but because I wasn’t Catholic I wasn’t able to volunteer. I hope that in the future, I might have opportunities to help with things like faith formation.”

Billie is also anticipating receiving the sacraments.

“I am excited about receiving Communion for the first time, with my husband and oldest son,” she said, “and also to be able to share that with our other children as they come to experience their own first Communion.”

Sergeant knew it was time for a change in his approach to life


Sgt. E-5 Adam Valeski (center) with Afghan natives during his deployment to
Afghanistan in 2012-13. Photo courtesy of Adam Valeski

When National Guard Sgt. E-5 Adam Valeski returned from Afghanistan after being deployed there for nine months in 2012-2013, he knew he had a calling to make a change in his life.

After many conversations with his fiancée Lindsey Martin and her family, Valeski decided to look into becoming Catholic. While at work one day, he was discussing the possibility with coworkers.

“There was a guy at work who was always smiling, always in a good mood,” Valeski explained. “He didn’t get involved in the typical work drama that sometimes goes on.

“When he heard me talking about becoming Catholic, he approached me about RCIA and offered to be my sponsor,” he added. “And that is how it all began.”

Valeski’s confirmation sponsor, Frank King, is a member of St. Mary Parish, Milaca.

“Adam is always seeking information and the truth,” King said. “We carpool to work together. I’ve learned a lot through Adam’s questions. It’s very fulfilling to have a friend to share the Catholic faith with every day. We learn from each other — his hunger for Christ is contagious.”

Valeski is especially excited about the sacraments, specifically the sacrament of penance.

“It really makes a lot of sense to me,” he said. “I think it makes a big difference in helping to change one’s lifestyle.”

Valeski also looks forward to being married in the Catholic Church, having the opportunity to celebrate daily Mass and an appreciation for the universal church.

“It is pretty amazing to think that I could travel almost anywhere in the world and celebrate the same Mass,” he said. “This experience is life-changing.”