A spiritual journey to the Catholic faith

BRIDGEPORT—Fifty-five years ago on a lazy Saturday afternoon, Debbie Moye’s neighbor started her on a journey that changed her life forever and led her down a new spiritual path.

As journeys go, it was a short one — a simple stroll down the streets of Bridgeport, from her home on Wheeler Avenue, down Main Street and up North Avenue … to St. Patrick’s Church.

But as a spiritual journey, it was a profound one that eventually led Debbie to the Catholic faith.

“I was only 12 and our neighbor asked me to go to church with her while she went to confession,” Debbie recalled. “I guess it was the Holy Spirit that touched my soul so deeply that afternoon. We walked into the lower level of St. Patrick’s, and there was a feeling that overwhelmed me — a feeling of peace. I can still remember the fragrance of the burning candles and the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I never forgot that experience. It always stayed in my heart.”

It was an entirely new experience for Debbie, who regularly attended services with her godmother at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, while on Saturday she went with her grandmother to the Seventh Day Adventist church, where she sang in the choir.

“It was the first time I had ever been in a Catholic Church,” she said, “And I realize now that God was leading me there.”

Forty years later, she entered into full communion with the Catholic Church at St. Theresa’s in Trumbull, and she believes that every step of the way God was directing her.

Debbie was born in Bridgeport in 1952. She attended Shelton School and Central High School, where she was a cheerleader and named the best female athlete in her class.

After graduating, she enrolled in an institute to learn hair dressing and began her first career as a beautician, working at Lane’s Hair Stylists at the Trumbull mall for four years. She had always wanted to become a nurse, but shortly after she began studies at Housatonic Community College, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the autumn of 1983, so she dropped out to help care for him until he died a year later.

From 1981 to 1995, she worked at Bridgeport Hospital as an escort and would transport patients around the hospital. In December 1990, she was voted employee of the month in recognition of the compassionate care she showed the patients, especially seniors. Although she never went into nursing, she believes her job let her show care and love to many people when they were the most vulnerable.

She, her sister and two brothers grew up on the lower north end of Bridgeport. She was baptized in St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Bridgeport and was raised in a faith-filled family. Her maternal grandmother was a devout Seventh Day Adventist who made sure her grandchildren went to church regularly. Her maternal grandfather was Catholic, but he didn’t attend Mass.

“I was surrounded by faith,” she says. Her mother was a Seventh Day Adventist and her father was a Methodist.

“When I was born, my mom decided her friends would be great godparents, and they were,” Debbie said. “My godmother Maud was a gorgeous holy woman who always took us to church.”

In 1985, Debbie met Leroy Moye, who was a Catholic and worked at Action for Bridgeport Community Development Inc. A year later, they got married and shortly after she became pregnant and gave birth to her son Ian.

When it came time for Ian to enter kindergarten, she wanted to enroll him at St. Theresa School in Trumbull, and the late Monsignor Louis DeProfio advised them to baptize him in the Catholic faith.

“I realized it was also time for me to enter this beautiful Church which Christ started,” she said. On April 19, 2003, she received the Eucharist and Confirmation and became a Catholic.

“It was my birthday,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. Talk about God’s Providence.”

She is enormously grateful for the people she met at St. Theresa’s who led her forward in her faith.

“I was so enamored by everyone at St. Theresa’s,” she said. “My brothers and sisters at that parish are phenomenal. The dedication and the love they have for Christ is just amazing, along with their generosity. My life has never been the same. They were role models for me, and I love them all.”

Their son Ian graduated from St. Theresa’s and went to Notre Dame High School, where he was president of the Student Council and captain of the track team. He got a degree in motor sports management from Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina and lives in Charlotte and has a job doing public relations for a NASCAR race team.

“We all grew up in the racing world,” Debbie said. “Ian’s grandfather was a mechanic and drag racer.”

Today Debbie is eager to share her faith with others, and since 2015 she has been active in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. “RCIA is one of the most incredible ministries the Church has because you get to see men and women follow their journey of faith into the Church,” she says.

She and others share their stories about what brought them to the Catholic Church.

“There are no words to describe it,” she says. “It is just pure joy.”

Eventually, all her siblings, except one brother, converted to Catholicism.

Her spiritual life is one of daily prayer and regular attendance at Mass, and even though her role as caregiver prevents her from going to daily Mass, she watches it every day on EWTN and prays the Rosary.

“If you came to my apartment, you would think you were in a religious store because it’s filled with statues and candles,” she said. Every day when she goes to the mailbox, she receives Mass cards from different religious orders, and one of her joys is having Masses offered for other people and praying for them when they have a birthday or are sick.

Her greatest joy as a Catholic is the Eucharist and the realization that she is receiving Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

“There is no other gift that can compare,” she says. “The Eucharist brings us salvation; it brings us closer to Him. At the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, when the priest consecrates the host, I believe angels and saints are with us, all around the altar. It’s such a wonderful joy that it brings me to my knees.”

By Joe Pisani