I am Jesse M. Pancho,Jr , A Catholic convert from Presbyterian.
I was born and raised a protestant because my father is a protestant pastor and my mother a cradle catholic who became a protestant. Our church then was “Ellinwood Malate Church” which is affiliated with “United Churches of Christ in the Philippines” I still remember my childhood when my whole family used to go to church together. The Church service then was all good but I wasn’t that affectionate to my religion yet maybe because I was still a child then. Whenever we go to church most of the time I get bored because the church service there was too long which was more or less 2 hours. That’s why most of the time I go outside the church and go to the church’s playground to play. Since my father is a pastor, he fed my mind with a lot of anti-catholic thoughts like houses of devout Catholics that looks like a house of a witch because of the statues of the saints on the altars. But because my mom is a cradle catholic she was telling me that there is nothing wrong with having statues and images of saints.
Until in 1997, when my parents separated and I stayed with my mom, I was at that time a non practicing Christian. I was in high school at that time and even if my father doesn’t live with us anymore we still get to see each other. Until one time when my father started discussing about religion, he was like giving me some sort of catechism, I pitch in the topic about The Blessed Virgin Mary. I said that it is just proper to give her honor and respect because she was the one who gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ. And then my father said, it’s not like that but he never actually explained why. My father finished a degree in divinity in a protestant university and what I only had was “Common Sense”, that we really have to pay respect and honor The Blessed Virgin Mary because she is the mother of Christ.
In 2000, when I step into college my father was asking me where am I going to study, and I said I chose a school already and I like it there and it was Colegio De San Lorenzo, a Catholic School named after the first Filipino saint San Lorenzo Ruiz. My father was telling not to go there because he is saying that that school would mislead my faith. A faith which I wasn’t practicing anymore. Summer of year 2000 months before college starts, when my mom brought me to a Catholic church to hear the mass. When my mom told me to do the sign of the cross, I was hesitating to do it because I was not accustomed to it but then my mom oblige me to do so. My mom has been yelling at me because I had no interest in attending Church.
In college in a Catholic School, Of course together with all academic subjects we had “Theology” subjects. That was the first time that I encountered the concept of original sin, purgatory, canon law, heresy of Martin Luther and many more. Over all I had 6 units of basic Catholic theology. But still, the interest wasn’t there yet. I wasn’t taking it seriously, I was just taking it for granted for the sake of adhering to the schools curriculum. Plus also that our theology professor then was one of the terrors for being so strict. In the Catholic School, we have a regular first friday mass. Receving communion in the Catholic church wasn’t a problem with me since in the presbyterian church we also had it.
Years after, 2008 when I first attended “Simbang Gabi”(English: Night Mass) in spanish it means “Misa De Gallo”(which means “Mass of the Rooster”) which is an early morning novena(9 days mass) prior to Christmas. Of course there is a belief that if you completed the novena and you make a wish it will come true. But I still refused to believe that but then I completed it. Then after that, again back as a non-practicing Christian.
Almost considered becoming a Jehovah’s witnesses.
I was a salesman before in a construction supply company in 2008 when I met a girl who is a member of Jehovah’s witnesses. And because I liked her then I started pursuing her until she eventually became my girlfriend. During that time since I used to think that all religions are the same so I thought there won’t be any problem converting to her faith. I attended their “pulong” twice and there I’ve learned Jehovah’s witnesses bizzare doctrines. Eventually as time passes by and I realize that our relationship is going nowhere because of our religious differences, we decided to break up.
Spiritual turning point
And then a year after 2009, again Christmas season, another Simbang Gabi. But for some reason after Christmas and new year, something crosses my mind asking me to go to mass every sunday on a regular basis because I am craving for more gospel reflections. And then I did, out of my free will I started attending the mass regularly. And by the way, our church is named “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish”.
More than a year after, when our parish was going to celebrate its golden jubilee anniversary, my mom ask her friend who serves in our parish’s “mother butler guild” about the conversion process and she told my mom that there is going to be a mass confirmation so my mom went to the parish to inquire. And then I had my profession of faith and the same day the confirmation was also held. And that friend of my mom also became my “ninang”. And since then I became passionate in practicing and studying my faith. I started to have a devotion of praying the rosary and I started to have an interest in reading the bible.
Interest in Catholic Apologetics
In this day and age of the internet wherein you can look for anything that you desire to see online, this form of new media has also become a new channel for anti-catholicism. Whenever I watch videos about the catholic church on you tube and read the comments it’s filled with anti-catholic rants which bothered me a lot. And worst thing about it is “I only have a little knowledge about my faith”. Even if I had units in theology in college, something like apologetics was not discussed then. Plus the fact that I didn’t taked it seriously.
One time I was in a store of “St. Paul’s” looking for somethings, I saw this strange word on their shelf “apologetics”. I didn’t know what that word mean so I did a research to find out what it means. Until I found out that it is a branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines. So then I started researching about catholic apologetics and whenever I learned new things I just can’t get enough and I always crave for more. Knowledge in apologetics also made my faith stronger because I already understand why do we believe in what we believe into.
Desire to be an apologist
I also aspire to be an apologist to be able educate cradle Catholics who never had a chance to study their faith. Despite the things that I’ve learned about the Catholic faith, I still can’t claim that I am an apologist. And I mean is “not yet” an apologist. It breaks my heart to hear about cradle catholics being lured into the folds of other sects and cults because they don’t have knowledge about their faith. And by being an apologist (in the future) for sure I could do a lot of things to help the church in evangelization.