| By Katie Camario

84-Year-Old is Welcomed into the Catholic Church

September 7, 2023 | Connie Marple describes the day she received the Holy Eucharist for the first time with a beaming smile and hands on her heart.

“I feel good. I did something I wanted to do,” she said.

After decades of contemplation, 84-year-old Marple became Catholic on May 21, 2023, at the St. John XXIII Residence Chapel located at Angels Senior Living at The Reserves of Idlewild in Lutz.

It’s a day that filled her with joy, “Why was it happy? Because I was accepting Jesus,” Marple said.

Marple’s spiritual journey into the Catholic Church began during the summer months of her youth. That’s when she would visit her cousins, one of whom would always invite her to Mass.

At first, Marple said she was hesitant to go because she was being raised in a Protestant church. However, eventually she accepted the invitation. When Marple traveled back home, she would share her experiences with her mother.

“I would tell my mother what we learned, and she'd say, ‘Well, that's nice.’ But, she wasn't too keen about it,” Marple said.

As she continued to attend Mass during those summer months, she found herself drawn into an encounter with Jesus.

“I always wanted to be Catholic, even if I was always afraid to say it in front of my mother,” she said.

For many years, Marple practiced in a Protestant faith tradition. However, a seed had been planted in her heart that would one day lead her to the Catholic faith.

She saw an opportunity to fulfill that calling when she met Deacon Peter Burns, Coordinator of Pastoral Services for the St. John XXIII Residence, which is next door to the Lodges of Idlewild, where Marple resides.

“When I introduced myself as a deacon, the first thing she said was that she wanted to become Catholic, and every time we crossed paths she would tell me again that she wanted to become Catholic,” said Deacon Burns.

“In these encounters, I would talk with her about what it means to be Catholic. When I took her to the chapel in front of the tabernacle, Connie stated that she believed that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament,” added Deacon Burns.

Marple was the first person to be welcomed into the Catholic Church at the St. John XXIII Residence Chapel. With delegation from Bishop Gregory Parkes, she was received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church during a Mass celebrated by Msgr. Frank Mouch, a retired priest of the Diocese of St. Petersburg who is a  resident of St. John XXIII Residence. 

“Because the ministry is here, because Jesus is present at this chapel, little things like this happen. God's presence has an impact,” said Deacon Burns. “It is never too late to join.”

About St. John XXIII Residence

Through a generous bequest from the Charlotte S. Rhodes Trust to the Diocese of St. Petersburg, the Diocese and Angels Senior Living collaborated to create the St. John XXIII Residence located on the third floor of Angels Senior Living at The Reserves of Idlewild, in Lutz. All 22 rooms of this community are reserved for priests of the Diocese, religious sisters, and Catholics who meet eligibility requirements. Charlotte Rhodes was a parishioner of St. Brendan Parish in Clearwater Beach, who worked as a nurse. She passed away in 2021. The St. John XXIII Residence features a beautiful chapel that provides residents with a dedicated space for the celebration of Mass, prayer, devotions, Bible study, and spiritual community. The Spiritual Care of the St. John XXIII Residence is a ministry of the Diocese of St. Petersburg and is funded through a joint effort of the Catholic Ministry Appeal and Angels Senior Living. To learn more visit https://angelsseniorliving.com/location/reserves-of-idlewild/.

This article appeared in the Fall 2023 issue of Gulf Coast Catholic Magazine.