The happiest day of my life remains Easter Vigil 1986 when I became Catholic. I’m 69 years old and now live in Trempealeau, where I care for my 94-year-old mother. My journey began in 1985 when I lived and worked in Ann Arbor, Mich. My friends, Mary and Ray, were going to “Renew,” an initiative by the Catholic Church to encourage Catholics to come back to the Faith. I was taking care of their little boy, Gabriel, who was one and a half, while they went to classes. They always came back very enthusiastic. I was raised Methodist and Presbyterian so I had a Christian background but had drifted away many years prior.
On Easter Vigil 1985, Mary and Ray invited me to come with them to their Catholic church, and I said ‘yes.’ I will never forget the experience when I walked in and immediately knew Jesus was present. I felt Him there. When I saw all the people, I said to myself ‘here they all are.’ And instantly, I knew I was home. That epiphany has sustained me over the years and will always be with me. At that time, I did not know anything about the Catholic Church, the Mass, Transubstantiation or that Catholics consume the actual body and blood of Jesus. But I knew Jesus was present, and I felt His astonishing love that Easter Vigil.
I attended RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) from September 1985 until Easter Vigil 1986, with Mary and Ray as my sponsors. On Easter Vigil 1986, I became Catholic, and this remains the happiest day of my life. I love that we waited to consume the host until we fully understood that this is the body and blood of Jesus; I was so eager for this grace.
Our family moved around growing up and ended up in Michigan, where I graduated from the University of Michigan and worked for the University of Michigan until 2015 when I came to Trempealeau to care for my mother. Trempealeau has always been home base for our extended family, and the thrill when I rounded the bend and first saw the Mississippi has never left me.
In the 1970s and 1980s, I wrote hundreds of poems. Then I began to paint and stopped writing poems. In the 2000s, I started taking selected poems I wrote in the earlier years and making paintings of them. A book of my poems with paintings is expected to come out in 2021. These poems reflect the darkness I experienced during those years. Since arriving here, I began to paint the beauty around me and recently began writing poems again. This area inspires me!
My life here in Trempealeau has been an incredible adventure, and St. Bartholomew Parish is at the center of everything for me. The first time I came to St. Bartholomew Church was for a funeral. A new pastor, Father Antony Joseph, presided. I knew right away I would be happy there. What I did not know was the miraculous changes it would bring in my life.
I had always been a quiet, shy and-in-the-background person. Soon, I became involved as a lector and an extraordinary minister of holy Communion.
I sang in the choir, assisted with CCD and worked in the kitchen. I also became secretary for the women’s group. The parishioners here are wonderful. In Ann Arbor, I had close friends, but now I not only have close friends and family but also a parish community.
Caring for my mother has been a gift for both of us. While I do not go to Mass at this time due to COVID-19 concerns, I stop by the church when I can and spend some time with Jesus. I light a candle by Mary or Jesus or Joseph and feel so loved and renewed. Also, a couple times, my brothers have driven from California and Miami to take care of my mother so I can go to the hermitage in St. Joseph for a few days. This oﬀering of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration is such a blessing. I leave there refreshed.
With the pandemic, we have been treating our home like a nursing home. I do not go out to Mass, only leaving for groceries, mail and walks. My mother is frail, and I am keeping her safe so far. Recently, I discovered Brant Pitre and his amazing insights into Scripture. He writes so that a lay person like myself can follow and learn from him. I am enjoying this quiet time, and my Faith now is less busy with activities and busier in quiet reflection. This is a blessing I hope to continue after the pandemic is over.
I am writing poems again, and this has been an incredible grace. I want to share my Faith and the beauty of it, without alienating people. I think that is how I came to my Catholic Faith with my friends, and I believe, if people see our love for our Faith and what it does for us, with acceptance for where they are in their Faith journeys, more people may be open to Catholicism.
Even the cat’s asleep and I was so tired
but sleepless now. The stars fading
while I keep my vigil,
the click of my rosary beads marking
It is alright if you do not believe
to the shepherd children at Fatima, coming with a message of peace.
Oh how this hope haunts our days.
I am a simple woman, my Faith
a simple Faith
a language, a way of touching the
face of God.
It is alright if we do not share the same language, the same Faith.
It is alright, not to worry,
there is enough love and hope in this world
for all of us,
the universe sheltering us under one wing.
I think about the astronauts
and the scientists who send them oﬀ.
I think about hunger and racism and violence and storms and discarded plastic and politics.
When it is all too large to comprehend
I turn to my simple beads and the
As the dark blue sky fades to light
I turn up the furnace, make the coﬀee, check on my mother. In awe I witness
the sun lighting the bluﬀs, God’s wondrous footprint, and so begins another day. – ANNE BAGLEY
By ANNE BAGLEY, Parishioner of St. Bartholomew Parish in Trempealeau
Main Image: View From Little Bluff, Summer – Painting by Anne
Published in April 2021 Catholic Life Issue