SALT LAKE CITY Following Kenneth Johnson's conversion to Catholicism, he and his family became active in Saint Patrick Parish. Kenneth and his wife, Tracy, will chair the St. Patrick Parish Carnival in August; Kenneth is a Knight of Columbus, serves on parish council and ushers; and Tracy helps in the CCD program. Their children are altar servers.
Kenneth was received into the Catholic Church during the 2011 Easter Vigil at St. Patrick Parish, and Tracy joined him in RCIA to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
"After we had children we needed the support of a faith community in our lives," said Tracy. "In church, we found the right kind of people. I saw a lot of kids getting hooked on drugs and going down the wrong path. We can only do so much and then we need positive influences from others for our children and for ourselves to make right decisions."
Malik, 13, and Alexandria, 12, have made a lot of good friends through CCD.
Alexandria is glad her family joined the church "because it feels like we came closer together," she said.
Kenneth was born in Mississippi and attended Baptist services on a daily basis with his grandmother. "We moved to Utah when I was 10, and I went to church a few times, but that was all," he said.
Tracy grew up Catholic and has been a life-long member of Saint Patrick Parish. "I wasn't a strong Catholic, but I did attend church with my siblings and my grandparents," she said. "I went to CCD until I was in junior high and then my faith faded away."
Kenneth and Tracy met at East High School and when Kenneth wanted to date her, she had second thoughts. "I never skipped school and he did, and I didn't want to get into that," said Tracy.
"She straightened me out," Kenneth added.
They chose to be married by a justice of the peace because they weren't strong in either religion.
As life progressed, they saw situations in their daily lives when they needed God. "My grandmother passed away from cancer and I questioned why something like that could happen to a good person," said Tracy. "Then our son had heart problems when he was 3. So we found ourselves wanting God when we needed him and we didn't feel like that was right."
Joining the church was a slow process for the couple. The children noticed Kenneth wasn't attending church, so they started going to church as a family.
"That's when we met Tino Valles, the religious education director and his wife Mary," said Kenneth. "I felt lost, but when we started reading passages from the Bible in RCIA, it brought back good memories for me of my grandmother. I really liked learning about the Church and becoming a member. I wouldn't change becoming a Catholic for anything."
"Tino told us when we finish RCIA, we're not done; we have to stay involved," said Tracy.
Valles teaches in RCIA that a faith journey is ongoing for life, he said. "I tell them to show their reverence through prayer, to continue feeding their minds through study and to be involved in church ministry or service in the community."
Tracy and Kenneth realized they were making a big commitment when they joined the Church. "It has been tough at times with our work schedules and the kids' sports activities," said Tracy.
"We can tell when we miss church because we feel the weight of the world on our shoulders, but once we go back we say, ?We're glad we came,'" said Kenneth. "We need the spiritual guidance and positive reinforcement from the homilies we hear."
"The homily always fits with our struggles," added Tracy.