Catholic Herald staff
When Jean-Maré Möller moved from her native South Africa to the United States to work as an au pair, she didn’t realize her faith, too, would shift dramatically.
At the Easter Vigil, Saturday, March 26, Möller, 23, was among those received into the Catholic Church at St. Patrick, Hudson. Her decision to convert from the Dutch Reformed Church happened a year earlier, around April 2015, when she went to Mass for the first time with her then-boyfriend, now fiancé, Peter Gagliardi.
The universality of the church – the feeling of being in communion with Catholics across the planet – struck her during that first Mass.
“Whenever I’m at Mass, I love the comforting feeling of other Catholics all over the world learning the exact same thing about God … like I am learning,” she said. “It’s nice because that’s what heaven is like. Only one. There’s no such thing as divisions there. It’s one place, and that’s what I feel like being in the Mass.”
Her decision to convert also had a visceral, intuitive element.
“I have decided to become Catholic because once I realized that the Eucharist is not bread but actually Jesus’ flesh, it felt right,” she said.
Although Möller describes herself as a “blind faith” kind of person, she’s also curious and wants to know the reasoning behind Catholicism.
“I’m just so grateful to my sponsors and team leaders … the RCIA program and my almost family-in-law for going through this process with me, teaching me about the faith every day,” she added. “They go out of their way to explain things and reasons why Catholics believe certain things and do certain things.”
Even before she officially joined the church, the decision to convert had already drastically changed Möller’s life.
“I have never been so deep and open about my faith,” she said. “I keep thinking that ever since I converted God took such good care of me and doesn’t let anything bad happen to me anymore, but then I realized that bad things have still happened, I just didn’t notice them as much because I’m not alone anymore.”
Receiving the Eucharist for the first time “was so overwhelming,” she said.
“I thought I built up too much anxiety and (would) be disappointed, but the moment I received it, everything in my body went ice cold and I was alone in that church with God.
“I didn’t hear or see anyone else, just went back to my bench and kneeled down again with my fiancé and as we started praying together I broke into tears when I said the words, ‘Everything I have I will give up for you, all I need is you, God.’”
For Möller, the realization that she could give up her beloved for God was the ultimate profession of faith.
“I realized how powerful our Lord is and how much I love him that I will sacrifice my true love if I had to,” she said.
Although leaving her parents and her country was difficult – Möller’s brother died 11 years ago, so she is an only child – she has truly found an extended family here in the States. She and Gagliardi plan to marry in April.