Walking in faith

Feb 22, 2024
Jorge Montes, Parish Catechetical Director of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud, presents the Book of the Elect to Bishop John Noonan who blesses it. (ANDREA NAVARRO)

ORLANDO | Her family was running late for services on Easter Sunday. Arriving at the chapel on Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas, Madison Lincoln saw the word “Mass.”

“What’s Mass?” the 13-year-old asked herself. She walked in to investigate. It was there that Lincoln first discovered the Catholic faith.

“I noticed they had incense, altar boys and girls. They were holding a big cross and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. This is so beautiful.’ I was intrigued, enthralled by it all,” she recalled.

Just then she heard her father behind her, “We’re not Catholic. You’re not going to go over there.” But Lincoln would never forget what she had seen. “From that day on something captivated me and gravitated me toward the faith,” she shared.

Her parents never went to church again after that Easter, and Lincoln was left longing for something more.

“My soul was searching for God,” she recalled.

Madison Lincoln waits expectantly for Bishop John Noonan’s blessing at the Rite of Election, Feb. 18 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando. (ANDREA NAVARRO)

While still living on base, Lincoln would sneak into the chapel on her own or with her friends, seeking her own relationship with God. It wasn’t until some years later when she moved to Orlando and met her fiancé, A.J. Campos, that the seed of faith really blossomed.

The couple was talking one day about “(their) morals, ethics and beliefs,” she recalled. She mentioned she was Christian, but didn’t belong to any particular denomination. Campos told her he was Catholic.

“I thought, oh my goodness. It took me back to when I fell in love with the Church when I was 13,” she said.

At that point Lincoln hadn’t been to church in years, mostly because the COVID pandemic forced the base’s chapel to shut down. Then there was the move to Orlando after her father’s retirement. Looking for a spiritual home and still feeling conflicted, she considered her options. When Campos shared he was Catholic, she saw it as a sign.

“It confirmed what I saw in the Catholic Church. It’s beauty. It’s truth. It’s essence. And the worship was beautiful. It felt right,” she explained.

She began to join him for Mass at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Winter Park. Excited by all she was learning, Lincoln also visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, bought a rosary and learned how to pray through the beads.

Soon she met Marty McClain, Sts. Peter and Paul’s director of adult and family faith formation. By fall 2023, she became an inquirer joining the Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults.

Ever thirsting for knowledge, she read books and learned more about Catholicism and the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. When she first announced her conversion last year, her mother supported her decision. Lincoln admits her father had some challenges accepting it at first, but he is now supportive of her faith journey.

“It’s really cool to see how that’s turned around since it all began. I feel like God is working in their hearts as they are seeing my conversion. I hope one day it inspires them,” she said.

On Feb. 18, 2024, Lincoln joined the Elect, those chosen to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. She will receive the Sacraments of Initiation — Baptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish at the Easter Vigil.

Campos is Lincoln’s sponsor. For him, the Rite of Election is “coming full circle.” As he sat next to her at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Feb. 18, he recalled his own journey. Ten years ago, he sat in a pew at the Basilica as a catechumen about to become Elect with his grandparents’ support. He was 10 years old.

Lincoln beamed as she waited for the service to begin. “I’m a little nervous because there are still parts of me that worry about what other people think, like my family,” she said. “But God has not let me down and I believe it will fulfill my relationship with God even more by being in communion with the Church.”

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, February 22, 2024