BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
For many years, Charlie Dawson attended Mass at Blessed Mother Parish in Owensboro with his wife and children, though he was not Catholic himself.
“Our kids would ask why I was not Catholic,” said Dawson, who is a catechumen in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation), which means he is learning and currently preparing to be baptized into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil on April 20.
Dawson was raised Baptist, and said that as a young person he experienced a lot of “confusion” about his faith.
He told the WKC that his childhood Sunday school placed a great deal of emphasis on knowing when it was the right time to be baptized – that he would receive a very specific sign from God.
Most of his peers were being baptized around the ages of 10 or 11, but Dawson had heard from a Sunday school teacher that it was “a sin to get baptized if you didn’t hear a call from God.”
So, “I kept waiting,” said Dawson.
Through his childhood and into his adult life, he never received a sign.
Eventually, Dawson met and married his wife, Angie, at her home parish of Blessed Mother in 1999. For his wife, who has been Catholic her entire life, it was important to raise their children Catholic.
They also started going to church as a family, and later enrolled their two boys in the Owensboro Catholic School System.
Dawson became known and welcomed in the Blessed Mother community – even though he was not Catholic – which he appreciated.
He also started seeing the fruits of his sons’ Catholic school education. Dawson and his wife noticed that their boys were recognizing religious imagery – even when visiting Dawson’s parents’ Baptist church.
“Our son knew every single one of them,” said Dawson of the religious symbols, which had been part of a children’s quiz during an Easter presentation at the Baptist church.
And while that was not the literal sign from God that he had grown up seeking, for Dawson, it was significant to see his sons’ growth in their Catholic faith.
Dawson enrolled in Blessed Mother’s RCIA, knowing that RCIA does not mean a person will become Catholic, but is instead an opportunity to learn more about Catholicism.
“You understand that RCIA is not a commitment to join the Catholic Church – it’s a way to learn more,” he said. But over time and through the weekly classes, he felt a strong tug to fully embrace Catholicism.
Dawson admitted he had been worried about the reaction from his father when learning Dawson was planning to become Catholic.
“I was worried it would hurt my dad, but he was thrilled,” said Dawson. “He cried, he was so happy.”
Dawson said he and his wife believe a big reason for that is the witness of their children’s Catholic school education.
“I’m looking forward to my baptism,” he said.