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The Deacon's Bench

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Nashville has an impressively large number of people about to join the Church this Easter — and the local secular press is even taking notice:

When she was growing up, Lori W. Caste decided not to get baptized.

Her father was a lapsed Baptist, her mother a Jehovah’s Witness. She followed her mother to Sunday services, but drifted away when she entered her teens.

As an adult, Caste went to different churches, but nothing stuck until her husband, Tim, a lifelong Catholic, encouraged her to explore the faith.

The 44-year-old Caste will be baptized a Catholic during the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday at Christ the King Catholic Church on Belmont Boulevard.

“Being at Christ the King is like being part of a big family,” she said.

She is one of about 400 converts in the Diocese of Nashville who will join the church on Easter, a remarkable number for a relatively small diocese of 75,000. That’s one convert for every 187 Catholics.

By contrast, Louisville, Ky., which has 200,000 Catholics, has 504 converts joining on Easter, or one for every 396 Catholics. Atlanta, which has around 800,000 Catholics, has 2,062 converts for the year, or about one for every 387 Catholics. In New York, which has 2.4 million Catholics, the ratio is one convert to every 1,500 Catholics.

In Nashville, church officials attribute the high ratio of converts to a number of factors. Some have rediscovered their Catholic heritage, while still others say they’ve finally found a spiritual home in the church.

A significant factor is the relatively small number of Catholics in the city. More and more marry outside the faith, creating a ripe crop of converts among spouses.

About half the marriages in the diocese involve a Catholic and a non-Catholic.

“Unlike Massachusetts, where I grew up, it’s not that easy to meet someone,” said Joceline Lemaire, director of adult formation for the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville.

Lemaire, a lifelong Catholic whose husband is Methodist, said that of the people she meets through the conversion process, some say they become Catholics because of the church’s long history.

“People tell me they really like the history, or they really like the tradition,” Lemaire said. “It gives them something to hold on to.”

It’s a long piece, and there’s much more at the link. Check it out.

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