Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
I spoke with three converts—two “reverts,” actually, who previously knew little of their faith and a third who began life as a nominal Muslim—who have become prominent speakers in the Catholic world and asked them to comment on their reversions/conversions.
Joseph Sciambra previously lived the “gay” lifestyle in San Francisco, but left and embraced Catholicism. He regularly speaks and writes about the change in his life, and shares his story in his book Swallowed by Satan.
“I was literally shocked out of the life. I was involved with porn the day I was converted. I got sick, was in the hospital and resigned with dying. But I realized that death would lead me to hell. I didn’t want to go to hell. I wanted out of the lifestyle.
“… [A few years later] it was still a traumatic time. I was wounded, and I was having a hard time coming back to the Catholic Church. A priest could sense I was struggling. He asked to pray over me privately. Afterward, I felt I was freed from multiple demonic influences.
“… Being in the “gay” lifestyle was a search for happiness. It was restless, frantic and unfulfilling. I believed I could find happiness there, and I couldn’t. Now that I have come back to Christ and his Church and embraced chastity, I’ve never been happier.”
Jesse Romero retired from a career in law enforcement and is now a full-time Catholic apologist. He shares his faith through a variety of avenues, including as co-host of The Terry & Jesse Show on Virgin Most Powerful Radio.
Jesse was a self-described “secular humanist” as a young man, but experienced a dramatic conversion when he was in his twenties. His parents attended a Cursillo weekend to revitalize their struggling marriage. The weekend had a profound influence on them. His dad, who had been an alcoholic and absentee father, stopped drinking and started reading the Bible. His parents joined the Legion of Mary and a charismatic prayer group. Friends would come over on the weekends and join his parents in prayer.
Jesse remembered, “It showed me that someone not practicing the Faith can turn on a dime. My parents have been living a vibrant Catholic Faith for 30 years now.”
Jesse was working for the Sheriff’s Department at the time, and was also favorably influenced by a fellow officer who was a Christian. He attended a Catholics Answers seminar featuring apologist Karl Keating, and was hooked. In 30 hours of seminars, he noted, he learned more than he had in all his years in Catholic schools. He told his wife, “I’m home. Jesus started the Catholic Church and we’re going to the Catholic Church for the rest of our lives.”
Sohrab Ahmari is a New York City journalist. He was born into a nominally Muslim home in Iran, and at age 13, immigrated with his mother to the United States. In 2016, he announced on social media that he was converting to Catholicism. He related the story of his conversion in his book From Fire, by Water.
Sohrab explained, “I was dismissive of all faiths, as I recount in my book. I start with the atheism I adopted at age 13, how I came to believe in God, and then a personal God, and then the God of the Bible. The hardest part was believing in a personal God. Once I believed this, my journey to Catholicism became much easier.”
People helpful to his conversion included Pope Benedict XVI. He said, “I read his book Jesus of Nazareth. I didn’t understand it all, but it did demonstrate that you can be intelligent and use reason and still accept the claims of faith and biblical religion. In Benedict’s telling, the story of Christ is really just one narrative spanning the Old and the New Testaments, with God drawing ever nearer to His creation.”
“He also makes a persuasive case that the witness of the four Evangelists is very credible, even though they didn’t use tape recorders or journalist’s notes.”