CHESTERTOWN, Md. – Missy Hollis is so familiar with Catholicism that when she told her father she was converting, he responded that he thought she was already Catholic. But, no, Hollis has not yet formally joined the church to which her husband and children belong, although she certainly feels Catholic.
The Eastern Shore resident is one of more than 200 people across the diocese who will join the Catholic Church this Easter season after participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
Hollis, 44, has been co-teaching religious education to second-graders at Sacred Heart Church in Chestertown, Md., for the past two years. Moving into the classroom “was kind of the final little step in my journey that I wanted to do. I took on the second-graders, which is the sacramental year.
“It was what I needed to do so that I could get the details of the final stages. I was very, very active in my Methodist faith. And then I married a Catholic and was fine with it. I was known as the favorite Methodist at our Catholic church in Fredericksburg. I’ve always gone to church. It’s been part of my life.”
Since moving to the Eastern Shore from the Washington, D.C., suburbs, Hollis and her family – husband Mike, 17-year-old daughter Brooke and 9-year-old son William – have become familiar faces at Sacred Heart. Hollis teaches religious ed, while Brooke is a Eucharistic minister and altar server. Brooke is also her sponsor for RCIA because Hollis’ children were the key factor behind her finally joining the faith.
Church has always been part of the family’s life. She joined her family each week at Mass, either in Fredericksburg or Chestertown. Often, after Mass, she would attend the local Methodist service by herself, “mostly because I was missing the music.”
She minored in music at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and it always drew her closer to her faith. She likes that Sacred Heart has added a contemporary music group, the Joyful Noise, and also that it has many activities for kids.
“The people are what draw you in. It’s just a building otherwise. We made lots of great friendships, and not folks that we knew otherwise,” she said.
Waiting this long to become Catholic was part of Hollis’ plan. She said she wanted to wait until her children were a little older.
“I wanted it to be important to them,” she said. “We got more involved, so I learned more. You become more a part of the community. The last several years … as I sat and pondered during the Eucharist, I just kind of pondered what was going on and ‘should I be there, should I not be there? Am I content?’”
“For the longest time, I was very content being in the pew. And then I started not being content, like ‘Wait a minute. I need to figure that out.’ And so by learning with Brooke and her first Eucharist and then William just did his last year, that kind of jumped me.”
Hollis, a native of Altoona, Pa., teaches English for Speakers of Other Languages at Sudlersville Elementary School, so, she said, it was natural for her to want to instruct others, so she signed up last year for Sacred Heart’s religious ed. William was in her class last year, one of six second-graders in the parish program. This year, there are 16.
“The teacher in me said if you want to learn something, you teach it because you dig deep into it, you have to find answers, you have to really question it,” she said.
There hasn’t been anything she hasn’t understood. Hollis said the Methodist faith is similar in a lot of respects. She’s spent a lot of time studying Catholicism because it was her husband’s faith and she wanted to understand what he believed.
They were married 18 years ago this month in a Methodist church, but a Catholic priest was there, and the ceremony incorporated elements of both.
“It was a nice way to bring the two families together and not have this dividing line,” she said.
With her final step into the Catholic Church, any dividing line will be permanently erased.