Beacon of Hope: Journey of Grace


Editor’s Note: This is an on-going series spotlighting individual journeys toward initiation in the Catholic Church. This month’s story is from Stewart Van Horn, a member of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto.  At the Easter Vigil in 2018, after his son Dane was baptized, Stewart, already baptized, entered into full communion in the Catholic Church.

My journey to become a member of the Catholic Church began when my son, Dane, developed an interest in joining.  He expressed his desire to be baptized. This interest began when he began attending Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School.  As his interest blossomed, so did mine.  When Dane approached me about joining the Church as a father-son team, I readily accepted his invitation.

I had been raised a Christian, but, over the years, I had stopped attending church.  I believed that I could live a Christian life without participating in a Christian community.  While I could study the Bible on my own, the sense of community was lacking. 

When I approached the Basilica of Saint Michael in Loretto about joining the church, we were warmly welcomed by Cindy McMullen, the Director of RCIA.  She walked us through the steps of joining the church and acted as our mentor.  I fondly recall many mornings spent with Cindy going over the points of Catholic doctrines, and the wonderful snacks she provided.

At the Cathedral in Altoona on the first Sunday of Lent, I believe the sense of community was helped by the warmth radiated by Father John Byrnes, my pastor, as he stood by me and provided me with emotional support in the crowded Cathedral.  As I was presented to Bishop Mark and officially named as an adult Candidate for the sacraments I felt the friendliness that Bishop Mark exuded – much like the aroma of the incense – it made me feel welcome and happy to join the Church.

Since those days, as I continue to meet and interact with other members of the Church, my sense of Christian Community has been restored.  I suppose it is like many other things – the more I put into the Church, the more I get out of it.  However, the spirituality and warmth I get from this Christian community at Saint Michael’s Basilica somehow seems more satisfying.

Stewart and Dane were so inspired by their entrance into the Church they volunteered to be the Incense Bowl Bearers the following year for the 2019 Rite of Election at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona. For more information about Christian Initiation, please contact Jeanne Thompson at

[Photo: Dane Van Horn (front) and his Father, Stewart Van Horn, at the 2019 Rite of Election with Deacon Donald Gibboney.]