Teen follows girlfriend to Mass and finds God waiting for him

ST. JOHN – Chris Somervell Jr. admits he was “pretty much an atheist” before he asked out Hanover Central High School classmate Gabrielle Anderson two years ago. Little did he know his life was about to change in more ways than one.
“I think we had one date before he came to Mass with me,” recalled Anderson, who lives with her family in St. John. “I told him I wouldn’t date him unless he came to Mass; my mom wouldn’t approve.”
Somervell, 18, responded, “I went the first Sunday or two just to impress her – and her family, but then I started liking it, and I kept going for myself.” Soon the teenager was asking his new girlfriend questions about the Catholic Church and her beliefs.
“My mom is very, very Catholic, and when I couldn’t answer (Chris’) questions, I asked her. She is very helpful, and she tells him everything about the Catholic faith,” Anderson explained.
“Gabby really turned it around for me, and I decided maybe there is a God,” said Somervell, whose mother was raised Catholic and father grew up Baptist. “We go to Mass every Sunday.”
By the time the two teens graduated from high school last spring, Somervell was ready to embark on a new goal – joining the Catholic Church.
“My family would attend church now and then when I was growing up, but my parents never stayed with it, so while I had been exposed to religion, I was never really taught about it,” Somervell said. “I had a lot of questions, like why does God require you to do certain things (in an organized religion)? Why can’t I just be a good person?”
He enrolled in Order of Christian Initiation for Adults (OCIA) classes at St. John the Evangelist with Anderson as his godparent/sponsor, and on Feb. 18 was accepted as one of the ‘elect’ at the Cathedral of the Holy Angels in Gary, moving a step closer to receiving the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation during the Easter Vigil liturgy on March 30.
“I wondered why I had to go through this whole RCIA process, why couldn’t I just be baptized because I wanted to be?” he added. “Then we were taught about the sacraments and why they are important, and I learned that if you don’t receive the sacraments and follow them, it’s like you are turning away from God’s gifts to you.
“The most profound thing I learned was about the structure of the sacraments and when Father Declan (McNicholas, associate pastor at SJE) explained the Mass to us,” Somervell continued. “I honestly thought that priests were unnecessary because after all they aren’t God, but then I realized that they are our connection to God, they represent him at Mass.
“I found out that the priest used to face the altar, not the people, and look up toward God, but now he faces the people – he’s teaching us,” he added.
“I was nervous at the Rite of Election, but it was also freeing, because I said to myself, ‘This is really happening,’” said Somervell, who found himself “very surprised and impressed by Bishop (Robert J.) McClory. I became even more excited for my baptism, and to receive Holy Communion.
“My parents, Chris and Stacey Somervell, are very happy for me – especially my mom – because I was becoming Catholic,” said the teen, who lives with his family in Cedar Lake and has two older sisters. Both he and Anderson are attending Purdue University Northwest in Hammond, where he is pursuing computer science studies.
“I attended St. John the Evangelist School before high school, but I had kind of drifted away from my faith before Chris started asking me all these questions,” said Anderson. “His excitement for Catholicism has brought me back to my faith, and learning with him and answering his questions brought me closer to God. Once he asked me why there was Noah’s Ark, and I realized I had learned about it in school, but I didn’t really know why. That sent me back to relearn my religion.”
During one recent RCIA session, catechumens were asked to record a short video introducing themselves and their faith journey to the SJE congregation. “Gabby brought me into the faith, and having someone who I do love bring me to the faith makes my journey more important, because my love for Gabby adds another layer to my love for God.”


Caption: Teenagers Chris Somervell Jr. and Gabrielle Anderson, who have been dating for two years, attended Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) instruction together at St. John the Evangelist in St. John, he as a catechumen and she as his godparent/sponsor. "I think we had one date, and then I started bringing him to Mass," said Anderson, while Somervell admitted, "I went to Mass the first week or two to impress Gabby, but then I started going because I wanted to." He was baptized at Easter Vigil services on March 30. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)