An interview with Catarina Ramos
Why did you come to Christ in the City for a spring break trip?
My sister converted to Catholicism in high school and was part of the Newman Center at my college. The Newman Center was going to Christ in the City, and she knew I would be interested since I was studying to be a Social Worker. So I took this opportunity with Christ in the City as a time to build my resume. When signing up I didn’t ask a lot of questions, all I knew was that we were going to be talking to homeless people, and I didn’t make the correlation that it would be a Christian group, let alone a devout Catholic organization.
What surprised you about Christ in the City? Why did you come back after that first visit?
When first coming to Christ in the City, I was taken aback by their way of living, the simplicity of becoming poor themselves, as well as living on small means. The aspect that surprised me the most was the amount of praying they did. Morning prayer, Mass, rosary, evening prayer, Divine Mercy Chaplet, night prayer, etc.
Coming from a life centered on praying on Sundays and in times of need, praying six to seven times a day was very overwhelming. I avoided it as much as I could; I didn’t want anyone to know I didn’t know the prayers, let alone that I wasn’t Catholic.
I was also surprised by the amount of love they had for the poor, each other, as well as myself — an almost stranger. They had the love of Christ, something I had never experienced and was attracted to and wanted to experience more.
The joy that the missionaries experienced in working with the poor surprised me. I was questioning — “why are they so joyful?” This is a really hard mission. I wasn’t sure what the correlation was.
The joy and love they had was definitely what brought me back; it made me want to know what stirred them to serve.
Did you experience this joy?
I found joy when I came back for the year of service. I saw that my work on the streets was different than before. Truly living a life centered on Christ, prayer, and the sacraments was what made it different. The Holy Spirit leads me in my work on the streets, and I know I bring Christ out with me. Before I brought myself, and that was never enough, they needed Christ.
You almost left during your summer at Christ in the City, why?
Someone on staff asked me to do the Summer of service, and she knew I wasn’t Catholic, so I again thought: “Why not?” So I came back, and after a week of going to Mass, praying intensely (with prayers I didn’t know), it had sunk in that I was going to be there for a whole summer. My first thought was, “Man, I have to go home. I can’t go to Mass everyday, pray a rosary, I don’t believe in any of this, they do worship Mary (insert any common Protestant argument here)….etc. I don’t know if I can do it.”
I felt like I didn’t have anything in common with any of the other missionaries. I had a different faith. I didn’t want any of the other missionaries to know I wasn’t Catholic. I thought I would ostracized. Pretty much all irrational thinking….That’s what led me to think I need to leave. I closed myself off from all the other missionaries and tried to get out quietly…but God had other plans.
Why didn’t you leave?
Another summer missionary came to my door and wouldn’t leave me alone. At that time I really was set on going home, and didn’t think anything or anyone would stop me, but she kept knocking. I rejected her so many times, but she kept coming back. She kept knocking until I finally talked to her about how I wanted to leave.
When I finally talked to her about my situation I felt accepted in knowing someone would be accompanying me through my struggle so that I wasn’t alone. I often reflect on that moment and think of what Christ says in Mother Teresa’s “I Thirst” mediation: “Behold I stand at the door of your heart, day and night, even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be me, I am there.” If she would have given up and stopped knocking, or not even tried to get to know this stranger I don’t know where I would be. She has been a blessing in my life and became my sponsor when I joined the Church seven months later.
If I would have left, I would not have been this happy or this joyful or experienced this much life.
I am immensely grateful for Christ in the City. I know that if it wasn’t for this organization I wouldn’t be Catholic or have come to know truth. After three years of working with them and not being Catholic they never tried to pressure me into converting to Catholicism, they just loved me. That love, witness and truth, that is what led me to Christ.
“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure” -Saint John Paul II