Raised as a Christian in an evangelical denomination, Peggy Kastner recalled that, as a young girl, her parents took her and her brother to church on a regular basis. This foundation was crucial, she believes, in her faith formation.
As she grew older and ventured on her own, she continued to call herself a Christian.
“I traveled quite a bit, as I was in the military,” Kastner explained. “Moving around a lot made it difficult for me to maintain consistency in expressing my faith. But what I enjoyed about that was the experience of meeting people of all different religious and ethnic backgrounds.”
When she was in Germany, Kastner had the opportunity to grow in awareness of Germans’ Christian perspective. This exposure became a vital piece of her faith journey.
Once Kastner returned to the United States, she joined a Christian church in Texas and became a schoolteacher for about 15 years. Then she and her husband, Rob, moved back to Indiana, where she chose to sink her spiritual roots a bit deeper.
Her exposure to Catholicism had been sporadic while growing up. “But I had strong Christian roots in the churches I attended, so I stayed with what I knew,” she shared.
“This changed after I married Rob. He’s a cradle Catholic. Because he is very faithful to the tenets of the Church, he would attend Mass weekly. But I didn’t go with him at first.”
Kastner continued her daily devotions and prayers, but felt she wasn’t getting enough spiritual nourishment from these alone. She looked to her husband and his practice of faith and started thinking about the importance of being committed to what one values.
“I believe in being involved in something that you care about 100%. So, I wanted to share my husband’s faith.”
Coming from an evangelical faith that was spontaneous and not as structured as Catholicism, Kastner discovered delight and joy in the liturgy of the Church. In fact, it was an aspect that attracted her. While traveling worldwide during her service in the military, she noticed the consistency of the celebration of Catholic Mass. She found comfort in knowing that no matter where she would travel, the structure of the liturgy would be the same.
Kastner had changed her workplace when she and Rob married. She found new employment at Residential and Family Services, a 170-year-old Christian ministry that takes in children who have entered the juvenile corrections system and places them in programs to counsel the teens.
“I’m accountant, so when I was hired at this organization, I became a big part of this ministry, including being prayer partners with one of the children,” Kastner explained. “I got to build a relationship with these kids. As part of our monthly routine, we have staff chapel. This was the first work environment I’ve ever been in that was so Christ-centered.”
Kastner said the experience led her further to act on her decision to join the Catholic Church.
At one point in time, she approached her pastor because she had some questions about a book she was reading. He told her, “ ‘Peggy, you know right from wrong. When you read these books by Christian authors, chew up the meat and spit out the bones. Know what’s good and what’s not.’” She remembered this piece of advice as she continued her journey toward Catholicism.
She began preparation classes for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and realized how much she enjoyed studying the faith. “I appreciate that I’m able to learn the background of Catholicism and Church history — why everything is done the way it’s done and its purpose,” Kastner shared.
“You have the opportunity to continue studying about the Catholic Church if you’d like to once you complete RCIA, which adds to my confidence that I’m following God’s plan.”
Kastner described her relationship with God in terms of attunement to the Holy Spirit’s movements. She believes her evangelical roots contribute to her ability to determine how and when God is calling her to do something important.
“I look at the world as a whole and realize that secularism doesn’t have a place in my spiritual walk,” she explained. “I am at peace and confident in where God is leading me.”
Father Levi Nkwocha at her parish, St. Bernard in Wabash, gives homilies and his own commentary in a way that Kastner feels are relevant to the parishioners. It was his inspirational and encouraging delivery of God’s word that had strengthened Kastner on her journey to joining the Church, she said.
“I’m most excited about learning more as I approach my entrance into the Church,” she reflected. “We are always learning and growing, no matter where we are in our spiritual walk. I feel as if this is a new chapter for me, a new beginning that will open my heart in a way I haven’t yet experienced.”
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