Meet Betty Baker of Kentucky, Who Just Became Catholic at Age 87

The lifelong Protestant began attending Mass with her daughter and hearing Church teaching on Mary, Confession and the Holy Eucharist — and says simply, ‘I believed everything I heard’

Betty Baker (r) with her daughter, Lisa Baker Graas.
Betty Baker (r) with her daughter, Lisa Baker Graas. (photo: Courtesy Photo)

You’re never too old to become Catholic, according to Betty Baker of Clarkson, Kentucky, who entered the Church this past Easter at the age of 87.

“I can’t kneel, and I can’t remember the prayers, but being Catholic is the right thing for me,” she told the Register. I had caught sight of Betty’s white hair and sweet smiling face alongside her daughter Lisa who had posted on Twitter @CatholicLisa that her mother became Catholic during the Easter Vigil. Mother and daughter agreed to a phone interview to talk about this momentous event.

Betty had spent a lifetime following Jesus as a Protestant beginning in a small country church in Poplar Grove, Kentucky, where she was baptized at the age of 13. “I always felt God’s presence in my life,” she said.

After her husband died in 2000, Betty began spending more time visiting Lisa and would join her for Sunday Mass at St. Elizabeth of Hungary in Clarkson.

“I believed everything I heard,” Betty said. “When my daughter and granddaughter, Bethany (Wagner), asked if I would like to become Catholic, I prayed and asked God what he wanted me to do, and I knew it was the right thing for me.”

But Betty was concerned, given her short-term memory problems and inability to kneel. She brought her concerns to Father Steve Hohman, the pastor of St. Elizabeth’s.

“He explained that kneeling was a sign of humility,” Lisa said. “My mother has to use a walker, and not being able to kneel is very humbling for her.”

Betty enrolled in the OCIA program. Everything she learned resonated with her including the Blessed Mother, Confession, the Eucharist and Purgatory.

“It all felt right in my heart,” she said.

Her experience of visiting beautiful Catholic churches had also drawn her to the Catholic faith.

“I sat in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, and felt the presence of God,” she said. “I have always had a special feeling for cathedrals and classical music. I’ve never understood why some faiths don’t understand that beautiful cathedrals are for God’s glory.”

It was Lisa’s example, according to Betty, that especially led her to Catholicism.

“I saw the faithfulness of my daughter and granddaughter, Bethany,” she noted. When Lisa became Catholic in 1992, her parents had been there to support their only daughter, the youngest of their six children.

“We were happy that she found Jesus,” Betty said. “My husband was a wonderful person. He had given her a Bible when she was young and told her to read it. That’s why I always say to lead by example.”

Betty has 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her granddaughter Bethany is married and lives in Houston with a 1-year-old named Betty (after her beloved grandmother) and a baby girl on the way this summer.

At the Easter Vigil, Betty joined five others receiving First Holy Communion and Confirmation; two babies were also baptized. Betty took the name of St. Monica as her Confirmation saint.

“I felt the presence of God so strong,” Betty said. “It gives me tears in my eyes just talking about it. I had tears during the service, realizing that I was entering into a new life.”

Lisa shared her perspective on her mother’s entry into the Church. “I was happy for her that she came to the fullness of the truth and that she knows now that Dad in heaven can hear her,” she said. “Before, she believed that, but the churches she went to didn’t teach it.

“All the things that people have problems with — like Confession, Purgatory and the Blessed Mother — were so easy for her to believe. I never debated with her, pushed her, or anything like that. I just simply invited her to Mass and shared what the Catholic Faith means to me personally.”

As Lisa shared in her own conversion story, the faith came to her suddenly at Mass one day, but it took time and a lot of reading to wrap her mind around some of the teachings, especially Mary as the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

“It didn’t take time for my mother,” Lisa said. “There was a lot of grace there.”

Lisa is divorced, has four grown children and lives with her mother now.

“My mother and I rely very much on each other,” she said. “We both have severe neuropathy and I have cancer. I accept my cross and rejoice in it because, through it, I am participating in the sufferings of Christ. He loves me enough to share in that with him. Several years ago, I became a Passionist Oblate Associate. I am attached to the cloistered Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery in Whitesville, Kentucky.”

Lisa offers her suffering in joy for her many intentions (including her children) and for vocations. She shared that prayer requests can be sent to the sisters at [email protected].

Regarding her mother, she said, “She wants to share now that as elderly people lose their ability to pray, they are actually closer to God in their sufferings. She has fallen several times. She knows what it is like to suffer.”

Betty added, “No one should let their physical and mental limitations keep them from doing what God is asking them.”