By Jacqueline Burkepile
Special to The Texas Catholic
Jesus tells us in Matt. 11:28, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
James Bailey, an Operation Iraqi Freedom war veteran, felt heavily burdened after returning from overseas in 2009. The husband and father of two withdrew from society as he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. However, Bailey says after receiving an abundance of healing grace, he finally found rest in the Catholic Church.
Bailey was raised Baptist, but did not attend church much of his adult life. This changed as he felt drawn to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Frisco. He later researched the Catholic Church’s history, learning that Jesus appointed Peter as the church’s first leader. He also discovered that the church is universal.
“I never felt comfortable in the other churches like I do in the Catholic Church,” Bailey said. “The first time I went to daily Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, I knew I was home.”
Due to his PTSD, Bailey was withdrawn and irritable. When he began the Rite of Christian Initiation in August, his wife Megan joined him merely as a means of support. He did not speak much and was extremely shy during the meetings. He said that because “of the burdens I carried around, I did not feel worthy…to have friends.”
Bailey’s perception changed after he attended an ACTS retreat in September 2016. He said he believes he experienced God’s healing, and is now joyful, outgoing, and full of God’s love. He is also involved in several parish ministries at St. Francis of Assisi.
Bailey added that because of his drastic conversion, his wife also committed to joining the Catholic Church. Bailey, his wife and two daughters will all be baptized into the church at this year’s Easter Vigil.
Melissa Silvestro, the parish’s director of Adult and Family Life, said she is excited for Bailey and his family.
With tears of joy, she said he experienced a “total transformation” over the past several months, and is a “powerful witness to anyone who encounters him.”
“The Holy Spirit worked in his life and healed him…He now has a light in him that shines so brightly,” Silvestro said. “It’s almost like God freed his soul.”
St. Francis of Assisi Deacon Gregg Kahrs works alongside Silvestro within the RCIA program. He said that it is very unusual for a member of the RCIA elect to become so involved in the church so quickly.
“His hunger for information about the Catholic Church has been an inspiration to the men in our prayer group,” Deacon Kahrs said. “It has…had us take another look at our faith.”
Bailey said there are no words to describe this upcoming chapter in his family’s life.
“This has been a huge journey for my whole family. We are ready to spread the love and joy that Jesus gives us,” Bailey said. “There are a lot of people from the parish planning to attend the Easter Vigil just to see our family come into the church. There is so much love in our community at St. Francis.”
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