Atlanta, Ga., Jun 29, 2019 / 04:18 am (CNA).- Allison DeVine’s conversion began in a preschool classroom.
There, she met another woman named Allison – a Catholic. The two women started talking because their daughters had become playmates. Both girls had strong personalities, and neither Allison believed the preschool friendship would stick.
But it did. The Allisons laughed about the improbable friendship of their strong-willed daughters.
“It was one of those moments we knew that we had to be friends. Our daughters intimidate everybody, but they got along fine. We were astonished that they didn’t intimidate each other,” DeVine told CNA.
“We began talking, our friendship grew deeper, and we found ourselves having more and more conversations that came back around to faith,” DeVine said.
Soon the circled widened to include other women. Devine, a mother of three, describes the small group as “A Catholic, a Protestant, an agnostic, and a Mormon…it sounds like the set up to a good joke, but we had very in depth conversations about what we believed; we respected each other completely.”
As DeVine and her Catholic friend – the other Allison – grew closer, their conversations always seemed to come back around to spirituality and belief, and eventually focused on the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism.
“One Halloween, we were all out in a group, trick or treating. The kids were running around, going crazy, and in the middle of it all, my friend looks over at me and my husband and goes: ‘Y’all will eventually become Catholic.”’
“My husband Jason and I were both like, ‘whatever’,” DeVine recalled.
At the time, Protestantism was home for the DeVines. DeVine and her husband were small group leaders at their Protestant church, and DeVine had worked in Protestant churches for most of her career.
“But slowly, God began taking everything apart,” Devine said. Their small group fell apart. Things at their church “just weren’t right.”
“We started looking for another church. And what we found during I guess what Protestants would call ‘church shopping’ was that nobody was grounded in truth. And that’s where it all started for my husband,” she said.
As things further deteriorated in their current church environment, the new year found DeVine and her husband church shopping on New Year’s day, looking for somewhere to worship.
“All the churches were closed in observance of New Year’s Day. Which was just baffling to us. It was the first day of the year, but we couldn’t find a place to begin our year in worship,” DeVine recalled.
Their frustration over shuttered churches set off a “chain reaction” in DeVine’s husband.
“He started reading about every single different denomination, going through every single Protestant denomination. I am pretty pregnant at this point and basically was just asking him for cliffs notes,” she said.
DeVine noted that the pregnancy itself had been another seed planted in the family’s life that pointed them towards Catholicism. The couple had used IUDs for contraception, until Allison found out they were abortifacients. They switched to Natural Family Planning, and became pregnant during what seemed like an “impossible time,” based on their charts. Even before their conversion, God was calling the couple to trust him more deeply through the unexpected pregnancy, DeVine noted.
As DeVine’s husband continued his church search, “one night he woke me up in bed and said ‘I have to talk to Allison,” DeVine recalled. “I was like, ‘Okay…you can have her number,’” DeVine told her husband, “and he was like, ‘No, I think we’re going to become Catholic.’”
Devine remembered rolling back over and telling him: “I’m going back to bed.”
But for Jason DeVine, a fire was lit. He started reading “everything he could get his hands on” about Catholicism. It was during that same week that the family went to Catholic Mass on Sunday for the first time ever.
“We were totally lost, didn’t know when to stand or sit,” Allison DeVine said. “And at the end of the Mass, my husband looked over and was like, ‘Yes, I think this is it.”’
At that first Mass, the parish announced that later that day, they would be beginning a series of talks on Catholicism. Allison’s husband told her: “We’re coming back tonight.”
“I am so pregnant at this point, and I am exhausted, I was almost in tears at his suggestion, just because I was so tired,” she recalled, “but I agreed to come back.”
DeVine said the very first night of the parish mission answered “almost all of my questions” about Catholicism. Still, they decided to return for a second night.
During that second session, DeVine got up from the pew to stretch her legs and walk out some of her pregnancy discomfort.
“(A) little old man in the back of the church stopped me to ask when I was due,” she said. “I told him, ‘Not for seven weeks,’ and he said, ‘Oh, no, that’s not right, you’re having that baby any day now.”’
DeVine returned to her pew and shared his prediction, laughing about it with her husband. She joked that “maybe we should take him at his word since we are in a Catholic church, and they do seem to know their pregnant women.”
By the end of that second night, DeVine said, “All of my questions were answered. It was as if that little priest who came to preach was actually speaking directly to our family. Every single question. Everything we were wrestling with.”
As it turned out, they wouldn’t have been able to return for that third night anyway, because Allison went into labor that night and their tiny son was born the next morning – seven weeks early, but “perfectly healthy, defying every odd.”
“We had a priest come and bless him that night, at the hospital, and we looked at each other and said, ‘Well, I guess we’re in the Catholic Church now.’”
DeVine joked that “my husband read his way into the Church, but I birthed my way in.”
The DeVines started regularly attending Mass once their son was discharged from the hospital. They enrolled in RCIA, and they formally entered the Catholic Church this past Easter, in April of 2019.
The switch to Catholicism had its rocky moments, including the loss of several of the family’s Protestant friends, who disagreed with some social teachings of the Catholic Church.
“God has really provided, though, because that core group of women, the four of us, we’re still very close, and there is so much respect,” DeVine said.
Becoming Catholic in 2019, however, is not a move for the faint of heart.
DeVine acknowledged that while she and Jason were aware of the scandals in the Church surrounding the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and other serious abuse allegations against prelates at various levels in the hierarchy, they “weren’t fazed by it.”
“When you work in the church as I did, in various Christian denominations all my life, you already know about everything that goes on behind closed doors,” she said. “Nothing shocked us. The difference is, though, these other churches aren’t big enough, aren’t institutionally organized in the same way. So some of them may break news for about five minutes, but nothing seems to capture the headlines the way Catholic scandals do,” she added.
“It’s actually amazing to me, because Jesus says ‘you will be persecuted for my sake,’ and we can see that in the way the Catholic Church is constantly in the news, constantly under media scrutiny. For us it was truly a mark that this was the true Church,” DeVine said.
“Every one of us are sinners, we all have our issues,” said DeVine. “He [Jesus] is the only one of us that’s perfect.”
The DeVine’s chose Sts. Gianna and Simon the Zealot, respectively, as their confirmation saints. As a mother herself who experienced complications in her first pregnancy, DeVine feels very close to St. Gianna. Inspired by their pro-life convictions, the DeVines have also founded a nonprofit to benefit the unborn, called the The Bespoke Foundation.
“We’re not good at going down and sitting in front of abortion clinics and talking to people, but we can sure raise money. So we started a foundation to benefit the crisis pregnancy clinics around the greater Atlanta area.”
DeVine cited the rosary, the Eucharist, and the reality of there being “church everywhere, always, anywhere we go in the world” as some of the biggest gifts of becoming Catholic.
And Allison’s friend, the other Allison? She is now the godmother to one of the DeVine’s children.
“God had all the details worked out ahead of time. He really thought of everything, it really is amazing.”