Sorry son, I’m not a Catholic

Max Grinsell-Jones enjoyed going to Mass with his Dad but could never understand why his Dad would not go up for Communion with him.

All Alan could tell his son Max was, “I’m not Catholic”.

But now, Max is happy, delighted in fact, because his Dad became a Catholic at Easter and can now receive Communion.

“After I was confirmed at the Easter Vigil Mass, Max turned to me and said, ‘Are you going up?’ and I said, ‘Yes’,” Alan says. “Max’s face just beamed.”

“It feels significant, for me personally as well as for the family. We’re closer as a family because we are now all Catholic – it really brings us together.”

A public servant from Curtin, Alan’s wife Catherine is Catholic and so are their children – 22 year old Jacqueline, 19 year old Claire and Max, 13.

A few years ago Catherine decided she would like to regularly attend Mass and Alan decided that he and Max would go with her.

There was no defining moment when Alan decided to become a Catholic. It was a gradual thing, which seemed a natural fit, as his children had all attended Catholic schools.

Catherine has also been an inspiration – the way she lives her faith impresses Alan.

“And this might sound a bit morbid, but there was another reason as well, a more practical one,” Alan says.

“I realised I couldn’t have a funeral at a Catholic Church when I died, and thought that would be strange for my family.”

It is interesting to hear Alan reflect that, while he always enjoyed going to Mass, he never really felt part of the community.

“I felt like I was a very welcome visitor, which was fabulous, but not really a part of it,” he explains.

Alan uses the word community a lot when describing his faith journey, which really started when the girls were at Holy Trinity Primary School in Curtin.

“I was on the school board and very involved with the school, and what struck me was the real sense of community and a genuine caring for one another,” Alan says.

When their children were making sacraments like First Holy Communion and Confirmation, Alan and Catherine hosted preparation programs for parents and children in their home.

“I remember one time we had four families and had to role play receiving the Host,” Alan says. “I said I couldn’t do it as I wasn’t a Catholic, and it turns out none of the other three Dads could either, as none of us were Catholic.”

Alan has been surprised and gratified by people’s reaction to his becoming a Catholic.

“It’s funny because so many people have congratulated me and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about it for years, and I might just do it now’,” Alan says. “I hope that my journey may have some influence on others who are considering becoming a Catholic!”

Alan prepared for his Baptism with Fr Tony Frey and also met up with about 35 other candidates (doing the RCIA program) and Archbishop Prowse at St Christopher’s Cathedral.

“The Archbishop asked each of us our reason for becoming Catholic, and I explained that my wife and kids were Catholic and I wanted to be as well,” Alan says.

“The Archbishop said to me, ‘It’s been a long journey but you’ve finally made it home’.

“And he’s right. I’ve always had a strong belief in Catholic values like love and respect for all people, but the thing that has struck me the most is that the Church is not just a brick building, or the priesthood. It’s a real community of people and I now feel entirely part of that community.

“I always felt I had a personal relationship with Christ, and that I could have that without being a Catholic.

“But as a Catholic, that relationship has deepened and strengthened with greater knowledge of the Church, its history and foundations, its Sacraments and so on.”

Alan urges people considering becoming a Catholic to explore it further.

“It was the right thing for me and I think people should explore it to see if it’s the right thing for them,” he says. “It has to be a personal decision and commitment.

“I think some people might have a sense of fear about it but I would encourage them to chat to a priest. I would recommend it to anybody. And Max is still very happy at Mass!”