CATHOLIC CHURCH WELCOMES WOMAN BEFORE SHE DEPARTS FOR HOLY LAND
February 7, 2020
by Kristina Shaw
On Nov. 4, 2019, Linda Freund decided that after 10 years of discernment, she was ready to be received into the Catholic Church.
The trouble was that she, along with the rest of a group from St. John Vianney Church in Gallatin, were at the gate in the Nashville International Airport about to depart for a nine-day trip to the Holy Land. Regardless, she immediately sought out St. John Vianney Pastor Father Stephen Gideon.
“I saw Father Gideon sitting over there and I said, ‘Father Gideon, I want to be Catholic so I can receive communion in the Holy Land,’” Freund said. “He about fell out of his chair.”
Father Gideon estimated that the plane was half an hour from take-off and wondered, ‘What do I do now?’ He did not have chrism oil to complete the sacrament of Confirmation and he did not have the proper liturgical books.
“Providentially, Father Hammond answered the phone,” he continued.
Father John Hammond, JCL, is the diocesan Vicar General and also the Judicial Vicar. The two discussed Freund’s religious formation through involvement with the Church and her years-long participation in weekly Bible studies as well as RCIA classes.
“She knew what it meant,” Father Gideon said. “She knew what she was doing, and I knew that she did, so I felt confident that if she was ready, I was ready to receive her into the Church.”
Freund’s previous religious affiliation was with the Church of Christ and she had therefore already received a valid Christian baptism.
Father Hammond advised that she complete the Rite of Reception and gave the delegation for Father Gideon to do so, since he was outside of his own parish boundaries. The airport is in the boundaries of neighboring Holy Rosary Church and her reception into the Church would be registered in their records.
Because Father Gideon did not have the proper liturgical materials, Father Hammond texted him a picture of the page of a book with instructions and the proper exchange of phrases for the rite.
To complete the Rite of Reception the individual says, “I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.”
The priest finishes the exchange by saying, “The Lord receives you into the Catholic Church. His loving kindness has led you here so that in the unity of the Holy Spirit you may have full communion with us in the faith that you profess in the presence of this family.”
This exchange normally follows the renewal of baptismal promises at Mass and the celebration of confirmation occurs after. Father Hammond also gave permission for her confirmation to be postponed and occur when she returned.
To further complicate matters, the Reception had to be done before they left the airport and while they were still in the Diocese of Nashville.
“It gets sticky because it would have been even more unusual if Father Gideon were trying to receive her into the Church outside the Diocese of Nashville,” Father Hammond said. “We just wanted to avoid any of the complications that might have arisen because of that.”
Freund’s first Holy Communion was made at the first Mass on their trip itinerary – the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
She admitted that while being focused on being reverent and wanting to participate in taking the Precious Body correctly, that she did not “feel it.” However, back at home on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, she was overcome with emotion during Luke’s Gospel during which Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel.
“I started bawling,” she said. “It was like the Holy Spirit came down on me. It was unbelievable, so I know that I have done the right thing.”
Freund started attending Mass regularly with her now-husband and St. John Vianney parishioner Ken, when they were dating 10 years ago. The two met at a water aerobics class and have been married for three and a half years.
Curious about the Catholic faith, she attended RCIA classes, but still also attended her Church of Christ. She later joined a Methodist church when her church closed. The couple began attending Father Gideon’s weekly Bible study sessions in 2013.
“I prayed to God all the time, ‘God I am willing to worship you any way you want me to, just make it evident. Make it evident to me what I need to do,’” she said.
Additionally, she participated in the church’s Lace and Grace program, hosted the pilgrimage information sessions, and was married by Father Gideon at St. John Vianney. It was not a Catholic Mass but she did insist on Ave Maria being sung.
The more Freund came to learn, the more that teachings of the Catholic faith made sense to her, citing John 6:53 and words spoken at the Last Supper.
“And too, when He said to the apostles at the Last Supper ‘This is my body and this is my blood,’” she said. “Now if he can call it that, it’s what it is. … I just kept thinking about that.”
She also said that she was drawn to the faith because of the Mass.
“Mass is a praise and I had never seen that much praise in any other church, in that the whole Mass is praising God and Jesus,” she said.
However, she was still hesitant about the reaction she would get from one of her sisters who was a Church of Christ follower.
Her youngest sister, Margaret, spoke to her as she drove her, Ken, and a few members of the pilgrimage group to the airport.
“She told me that that was her problem. You’ve got to do what you feel like you’ve got to do,” Freund recalled.
The conversation spurred Freund to speak to Father Gideon and turned into what he called “a very happy occasion.”
“Whether she decided to take the step to become a Catholic or not was something that we had been hoping for because many people in the parish know her and love her,” he said.
Parishioner Shirley Lafferty is a convert and was one of the 24 parishioners who went on the pilgrimage.
“I told her that once you know and understand the truth, there is no going back,” she said. “It could not have been more special for all of us to have seen that.”
Another St. John Vianney parishioner Jim Opalek remembered Freund’s giddiness on the final night of the trip.
“It was very nice to be around the enthusiasm of a new convert that’s contagious,” he said.
Freund recalled nothing but kind words at the airport and once she returned to St. John Vianney before and after her Confirmation.
“That’s the kind of people they are,” she said. “I’m home.”