An act of faith

| April 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

Conversion inspires local playwright to bring experience to the stage

Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit

Dianne Towalski/The Catholic Spirit

The path leading K.D. Howells to Catholicism didn’t begin smoothly.

The 25-year-old from Coon Rapids was raised as a non-denominational Christian and grew up thinking Catholics worshiped statues and drank their own blood. Then, as a college student, her first experience at Mass left her embarrassed and alienated after being reprimanded for receiving Communion.

“I didn’t know the importance of the Eucharist, and the people I was with didn’t tell me I shouldn’t take it,” Howells said. “From then on, I didn’t want anything to do with Catholics.”

But a lot has changed since then.

Howells will be baptized, confirmed and receive her first Communion at the Easter Vigil April 19 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.

K.D. Howells (center) prays during the third scrutiny April 6 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where she will become Catholic at the Easter Vigil April 19. The scrutinies serve to examine one’s life and as an opportunity to pray for the grace to overcome sin. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

K.D. Howells (center) prays during the third scrutiny April 6 at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, where she will become Catholic at the Easter Vigil April 19. The scrutinies serve to examine one’s life and as an opportunity to pray for the grace to overcome sin. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Open arms

It was witnessing people living out their Catholic faith that brought Howells to it. She met her fiancé, Thomas Bauer, at Bemidji State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in theater history. She started examining her life after meeting Bauer’s mom, who works with children with disabilities at an elementary school, and his dad, who directs youth faith formation at a Catholic parish in Owatonna.

“I’m looking at these people who have so much talent and so much love, and they choose to help people in their community at the risk of making less money, and doing the right thing,” Howells said. “That intrigued me. [I thought], what do they have that I don’t have?”

Howells started going to Mass with them and learning what Catholicism was really about. After graduating from college in 2012, she moved across the street from the Basilica and began attending Mass there. She was amazed how open and welcoming people were.

“Father [John] Bauer opens each Mass with, ‘Wherever you are on your faith journey, we welcome you.’ It’s what I needed to hear,” Howells said. “If he didn’t say that at every Saturday Mass we went to, I probably wouldn’t be here.”

Howells wanted to get more involved, and she yearned to receive the Eucharist. So last spring, she looked into the Basilica’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. She met with the Basilica’s director of learning, Paula Kaempffer, who reinforced that God has a place for her.

“She said [entering the Church] wasn’t about forgetting who you are and where you came from,” Howells recalled. “You can keep your experiences and who you are. It was refreshing and inspiring.”

Open minds

Last September, Howells began weekly RCIA classes with some doubt. But she turned hopeful after hearing guest speakers break down complicated Church teachings and beliefs.

“All of my really hard questions that I was too scared to ask were answered within the first five or six weeks of classes,” she said.

Howells’ sponsor, Terra Otto, has helped guide her. And, the RCIA retreat went further in introducing Howells to a faith community, something she never experienced growing up without belonging to a church.

“I always thought my relationship with God was very intimate,” she said. “Without that [community] element, I could not be the person I am today. Having a relationship with God is essential, but it’s about the relationship with the people of God as well.”

At the retreat, participants bonded, prayed and contemplated where they are with God.

“It was an amazing experience for me,” Howells said. “Coming back from the retreat, I felt empowered and that my whole life had changed. And, I told everyone about it.”

The inspiration Howells found at the retreat might have raised more questions than answers. She was motivated to be more like Christ — to stop ignoring people on the streets and reach out to people on the margins of society. She asked herself if she should quit her job at a restaurant in order to do so. But practical concerns sank in, and she realized she already could help people in her daily life.

“God isn’t just in the moments when I’m free from work,” she said. “He’s in every moment.”

The retreat also gave Howells the confidence to get back into writing. Her conversion process has turned into an opportunity for the aspiring playwright to help others examine their faith. As part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, Howells’ play, “It Only Takes One,” was chosen through a lottery system to be performed at its 11-day event this summer. Minnesota Fringe is a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that connects artists with audiences.

“I’m very excited to be able to produce, direct and write my own show,” Howells said. “I prayed about it: ‘God, I’m trying to tell a story that I think you’ll want people to know.’

“[Faith] is about taking action and doing things, not over-thinking it,” she continued. “That translates to what this play is about — a musical that encourages audience members to live out their own dreams, provokes audiences to be better people so they can understand their own mini conversion. I never had the determination to do this until God was in my life. God and I formed a new identity together. He gave me the strength.”

Howells is in the process of editing her play. Auditions will take place later in April and rehearsals will start in June. She will enlist the help of friends in the performing arts industry for set and costume design, among other essential elements.

“The overall goal for this play is to help people do what they’re meant to do,” Howells said.

Open hearts

Howells’ fiancé and his family, her parents, and two sisters and two brothers will witness her entrance into the Church April 19 at the Basilica. Although Howells is the oldest of her four siblings, she is the last to be baptized.

“We each have chosen to get baptized in a different community,” she said. “We’re all different denominations, but we all believe the same thing, essentially. It’s just beautiful.”

Howells said that while her parents never envisioned her converting to Catholicism, they’re proud of her.

“I think they see how happy I am and the things I can accomplish, and it just excites them,” Howells said. “And I’ve been able to straighten out some misconceptions as well.

“I had no idea that [converting to Catholicism] would be a death of my insecurities and my failures and my doubts, and a resurrection of the purest form of myself and what God wants me to be. I’m so ecstatic inside.”

 

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Category: Featured, Holy Week/Easter