WILMINGTON – Katie Atallian remembers a day a while ago when she and her now-husband, Matt, were driving through Wilmington and Matt decided to show her his childhood church, St. Elizabeth.
Katie Atallian was not a member of any denomination, but religion had long been part of her life. She read the Bible when she was younger, and she attended church services with her grandmother and friends throughout her life. So she was no stranger to churches, but this trip to St. Elizabeth was different.
“I was like, ‘I love it in here. I just want to stay in here. This church is so beautiful,’” she recalled last week. “We started going to church more often, like every Sunday together. When we got engaged and decided to get married at St. E, we got even more involved with the church.
“At that time, I just wanted to do the conversion then, but it was too much work with all the wedding planning and everything.”
Atallian and Father Norm Carroll, the pastor of St. Elizabeth, decided it would be better to wait until after the wedding, which took place last May. She joined the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults last fall, and at the Easter Vigil, she will be one of three people to formally join the Catholic Church at St. Elizabeth.
Raised in Avon Grove, Pa., Atallian, 33, said her parents had bad experiences with their churches and didn’t want their children to go through the same thing, so they were never baptized. Religion helped her get through two traumatizing events from her childhood.
When she was 10 years old, her grandmother died after having a heart attack at Atallian’s house.
“That’s a very scary thing for a 10-year-old to see,” she said.
About two years later, she was on the phone with the father of a friend, and a few minutes after they finished talking, he killed himself.
“I was very close to her and her dad and her whole family,” she said. “That was pretty terrifying.”
She and her friends banded together to cope with that loss, and one of the ways they did was by going to church. Eventually, she joined a youth group that met every week.
“I didn’t have that experience with my parents. It’s not their fault. They didn’t do anything to stop me from going, it was just that I didn’t know how to handle all those things. Going to church and youth group was very helpful for me,” said Atallian, a graduate of James Madison University who works at Chubb Insurance in north Wilmington.
Feels at home
She said the Catholic faith is more structured than the Protestant denominations she has experienced. She likes that the Catholic Church can trace its roots all the way back to Jesus, while the Protestant churches have really broken off from Catholicism.
Her husband has been there to help. Matt Atallian went to St. Elizabeth Elementary School and Salesianum.
“She would pluck my brain about what do I get from certain aspects of the faith, what kind of stuff did you do growing up in the church,” Matt said. “Just to help her understand what’s going on.”
Katie said RCIA has helped her husband, whom she met at work, as well. “I think that it’s been a refresher for him.”
As the day approaches, Atallian is feeling a combination of excitement and nervousness. She said the nerves come from having to be up in front of everyone when she is baptized. There is also a sense of relief.
“It feels good. Finally, to be like, this is my church. I feel really good about it. I feel at home when we’re there,” she said.