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Larry Lambert, Catechumen, Silently listening

Larry Lambert, a catechumen at Christ the King Church, Pine Mountain, attended Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, New Orleans earlier this month and heard something said by the celebrant that he has yet to forget. Equal parts storyteller and historian, there’s a good chance Lambert  “The words listen and silent are made up of the same letters. They are the same word. You can’t have one without the other.” Lambert enthusiastically told this story while explaining to the Southern Crosswhy he has decided to become a Catholic. “I feel our entire lives are spiritual journeys,” said Lambert who served in Vietnam as a flight medic after being drafted not long after his 18th birthday in 1971.

The Sarasota, Florida native and father of two adult daughters, jokes about how he had a “12-day summer” that year and that he’s “lived about five lifetimes.” He plans to live the remainder of his life as a Catholic, which means a lot to him as his daughters are Catholics. Living and worshipping in metro Atlanta and New Orleans, respectively. “There are a lot of reasons why I decided to become Catholic. One is the history of the church and its relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Lambert, 67. “I also love the way the church holds The Virgin Mary in such high spiritual esteem.”

During those lifetimes as a veteran he served for more than 18 years in the Florida National Guard, and more recently as a Professor Emeritus for Tulane. Becoming a Catholic was something he has always been interested in. Lambert’s late wife, Pamela Rollins, played the organ and helped with youth ministries while the family attended First United Methodist of Pine Mountain. Rollins passed away following an accident in 1996. She was just 42 years old. Her strong faith remains an anchor for the family. “I am learning a lot,” he said of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes. Lambert took RCIA classes with one of his daughters in New Orleans but didn’t complete the process. “I didn’t take the final exam,” he joked.

Lambert has been attending Mass at Christ the King Church  for “close to a year.” He attended Mass at other parishes in the past while in the military. Lambert credits the help of his sponsor Mary Elaine Thompson, a long-time parishioner at Christ the King Church, and parish RCIA instructor Neal Garn, who has been involved in faith formation at the parish for the past 15 years. “I give Neal a lot of credit,” said Lambert. Another reason Lambert listed why he is becoming a Catholic is simple, “I have always liked how the Masses end with the words ‘Go in peace,” he said.

Still learning: MiLinda Nguyen - Catechumen

Phillippians 4:6reads in part, “Do not be anxious about anything.” Sts. Peter and Paul Church, Savannah parishioner MiLinda Nguyen, a catechumen at the parish, is in the process of learning the Bible and its many books and verses during Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes and that in itself can make anyone anxious. The fact that Nguyen, 30, a Redlands, California native whose family moved to Savannah when she was a little girl, is learning to read and comprehend the Bible in Vietnamese makes things a bit more interesting. “I’m already familiar with the Bible because I grew up going to Baptist churches,” said Nguyen, whose parents are Vietnamese nationals and practicing Buddhists. “I just wasn’t familiar with the Catholic way.” And definitely not in Vietnamese, despite being fluent in the language and growing up with Vietnamese being spoken at home. “It’s been like I am learning a new language. I never read the Bible in Vietnamese until now, some of the terms are just different.”

 Sts. Peter and Paul is one of the Vietnamese parishes within the Diocese of Savannah. The parish has two catechumens making the transition into Catholicism.

 Nguyen is an only child and her parents wanted her to become a follower of God no matter the church, the designation, no matter the people she sat side by side with in the pews. “I asked my mom about taking the classes and going through the process and she said if it is good then do it,” said Nguyen. The decision to become Catholic began with visits to Sts. Peter and Paul Church and a relationship she began with a fellow parishioner. “I had always been interested but never took the steps to join the church,” she admits. She attended Mass at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Savannah as well and has always been comfortable celebrating in a Catholic setting. The next logical step was to begin the process and go through the experience.

 A nail tech and cosmetologist, Nguyen had to find a way to balance work with her RCIA studies and thus far all is going well. She is on her way to becoming a Catholic, something she is looking forward to. “It’s been tough but I’m studious so I am really enjoying learning new things.” New things like the Vietnamese pronunciation of the Holy Trinity, Thien Chua Ba Ngoi. “I was like, Oh, that’s how you pronounce it,” said Nguyen with a laugh. “I didn’t know what it was called in Vietnamese.”

She’s learning. Philippians 4:6 closes with … . “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known by God.” Nguyen’s request to become a Catholic is being answered, now if only she can get those Vietnamese pronunciations down pat. “I’m learning,” said Nguyen.

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