MJ Santa Ana

What brings me to the pew? In a nutshell: my family.

I was raised by a single mother who brought me to my first pew. My mom sang in a choir for thirteen years, so we would arrive early. As the choir practiced, I recall Sunday after Sunday before Mass reading the back of the Missal where there were explanations of Catholic teachings. I also watched a lector serve and wanted to become one myself. The desires to know and to serve that were formed in these moments are the starting point of a journey – possible because my mom introduced me to a pew.

The lives of my mother and I were enriched when my stepfather became a part of our lives. For many years, my mom and stepdad would serve together in the music ministry of both our Catholic parish and the Protestant church my stepdad was a part of. Experiencing how another Christian community worshipped helped me appreciate the uniqueness of the Catholic faith. One time at the Protestant church as they were reciting the Lord’s Prayer, I asked my Mom if this church prayed the Hail Mary. I learned that recitation of this prayer, which growing up in a Catholic school felt like breathing, was not practiced everywhere. In that moment, I had my first realization that the Catholic faith was special – which kept me coming to the Catholic pew.

With my parents’ blessing, I went to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid as a 17-year-old. At one of the Catechesis sessions, Jason Evert inspired me with words I will never forget: “People will say to you, Mass is for people with nothing better to do. They’re right, because there is nothing better than the Sacrifice of the Mass.” Since then, I’ve incorporated Daily Mass into my spiritual life, including at St. Basil’s for a time when I worked nearby. This happened because my family, although protective, were willing to let me venture beyond the ordinary – even as a minor – to chart my own course.

So, what brings me to the pew? In a nutshell: my family.