College Convert: ‘Mary Interceded on My Behalf’

Amazing Conversion, With the Help of a Friend — and the Blessed Mother

Kyra Lerner (in pink sweater), a 22-year-old college junior, was baptized and received confirmation and her first Holy Communion at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Connecticut, on March 30. Her sponsor was her friend Alyssa Mancini (wearing veil).
Kyra Lerner (in pink sweater), a 22-year-old college junior, was baptized and received confirmation and her first Holy Communion at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Connecticut, on March 30. Her sponsor was her friend Alyssa Mancini (wearing veil). (photo: Courtesy photos)

At this year’s Easter vigil, Kyra Lerner, a 22-year-old college junior, was baptized and received confirmation and her first Holy Communion at St. Theresa Church in Trumbull, Connecticut.

Since she had attended daily Mass frequently for a year, no one realized the young woman was coming from a Jewish and secular background. 

“I realized getting closer to baptism that a lot of people who I thought knew did not actually know,” she said. 

Nor did they know the heavenly aid she received along the way.

“Growing up, religion in general was just not a huge thing for my family,” she told the Register. “My dad was raised a Jew. He comes from a generation of Jews. I only found out throughout this journey that my mom was raised Catholic.”

Growing up in suburban Connecticut, Kyra and her younger brother were always told by their mother, “Oh, I was just a Christian.” 

“Ironically,” the new convert said, she transferred to a Catholic university and met classmate Alyssa Mancini in chemistry class. When Kyra heard her new friend and their professor talking about Holy Week a month before Easter 2023, she had no background knowledge of those sacred days, but she was curious and wanted to learn more after they left the office. Mancini explained what she was going to be doing for Holy Week. The conversation was “the starting point. We talked, and I went to my first Mass,” Lerner recalled.

“It was a Latin Mass, which was a very interesting choice by her,” the new Catholic explained. “I didn’t know what they were saying. But because I took Latin for one semester in middle school, I was able to recognize a few things. It just absolutely blew me away. I felt so much power. I felt so much truth. I genuinely enjoyed it, just in that one Mass. And I thought, ‘I want to learn everything I can, and even more, about this, because I don’t even have a 5% clue of what was said in this Mass, but it was amazing.’ I continued to learn more from there.”

That included joining her friend, who would become her baptism sponsor, regularly for daily Mass at St. Theresa Church. By last summer, “I decided to make the choice that, no matter what came, I am going to do this,” Lerner said of when she began thinking about the conversion process. 


Mary’s Intercession

But getting in the way were obstacles — one being the need for a new place to live near campus.

“That’s when Alyssa suggested to me, ‘Pray to Mary,’” she explained, admitting that she first thought, “Who? What do you mean? How do I pray to Mary? I don’t know Mary. Why would she help me?” Then, she said, her friend “explained Mary, Mother of Jesus, [as] intercessor, to me.” Lerner looked up several Marian prayers and “started praying at night to Mary.” 

And she was blessed by Mary’s intercession.

“One night, I just straight up asked her in prayer: ‘I’ve been house-hopping. I could use a hand with this. I could use a place of my own. If it is the Lord’s will, would you help me?’ Two weeks later, completely out of the blue and completely out of my comfort zone, I managed free campus housing, and it was perfect. I got into that apartment, and I stood there, and it struck me like a bus, that this was a prayer answered. I was heard. And this would not have happened to me alone. I would not have been able to succeed in this if I had tried to go it alone. I was just so certain of that, that Mary had interceded on my behalf and helped me to do something I never thought I would be able to accomplish or do.”

She continued, “I still think of it so clearly, standing in that apartment space and knowing with 100% certainty that Mary had fully interceded on my behalf to the Lord. That is a key thing that holds my faith to this day. … I’m so sure of it. It’s just so amazing.”

“I made the decision then and there,” she emphasized. “I started talking to people about RCIA and joined the RCIA group at St. Theresa’s, and that’s what led to my baptism. From that point forward, I never looked back. It’s honestly just been such a help, so comforting to know that I am no longer alone and to know that I have found the truth. That is something I have always thought. I just grabbed on tight, and I never let go.”
She added that “no outside secular forces were going to stop me. And they didn’t.” 

She also marveled at God’s Providence along the way: how she struggled to find, then found, a school where she felt comfortable, discovered the biology major that was right for her, and then met “this wonderful friend who was a wonderful Catholic and an excellent guide to me in the faith. I just thought, ‘Oh, I see what you’re doing up there. You timed this out perfectly.’”

“That was the most incredible thing, and I am still so deeply honored by it to this day, because I didn’t even fully know who Mary was and even know who he [Jesus] was. But I know that I went in with an open heart,” she continued. “I was just genuinely curious and wanted to get to know him and get to know her better. And, sure enough, she still completely interceded on my behalf. She went to Jesus. That was a huge thing for me.” 

Even when she heard the misconception that “Catholics worship Mary,” her newfound faith did not waver, as she knew, she explained, “That’s not what’s happening here, nor is that how this works.”

This act of faith prompted her to learn more. “I was so sure of it: [Mary saying] ‘We want you here. We’re going to do this, and I’m going to intercede on your behalf to my Son. And then you’re going to grab on and learn everything you can.’ I was like, ‘Yes, ma’am, you got it.’”


Faithful Roots

How did her parents, Eric and Amy, react to her conversion? 

“In the beginning, it was a little bit rocky, less so with my mom. My mom was a shocking aspect of all of this because I had no idea she was Catholic. And in this return to her faith, I genuinely have sensed excitement in her, and I do believe that she is proud of my choice. My dad, however, in the beginning, had a hard time understanding: Why would I walk away from his Jewish roots? I think he blamed himself — what did he do wrong?”

“They were there for my baptism. I knew my mom would come about a month or two out, but my dad was 50-50,” she said, adding, “My dad did tell me after that he found it very beautiful and that he recognized I have not completely thrown away all of the Jewish tradition — I mean, the Old Testament. Those first readings of the vigil [from the Old Testament] really showed him, and he recognized the stories. He did tell me later that he thought it was very nice and that if I was happy, he was happy. He’s trying really hard, my dad. I am chasing, if you will, the same God. The Trinity is one. I have not abandoned his God, I think is how he looked at it.”

It was important to her that her dad could see that she was not rejecting his tradition, she said, given the Jewish roots of Catholicism: “There’s such a beautiful fulfillment of that tradition, to me, and it’s still just as important to me.”

She drew a beautiful connection between her Jewish roots and her new faith. Growing up, she and her brother were bar and bat mitzvahed, went to Hebrew school and temple, and learned all of the Jewish stories. “One of the most amazing things about Catholicism to me is, ‘This is the fulfillment of everything they’ve told us to be sitting around and waiting for. What are we waiting for? Jesus is such a perfect fulfillment of the Torah and the Old Testament. So it’s literally like waving my hands around and saying, ‘Hello! We don’t have to keep waiting.’ It’s beautiful. It’s incredible to me.”


Looking to Mary and the Saints

Has her devotion to Mary grown, too?  

“I definitely looked to Mary and Joseph both as standard guiding parental figures because, at least in this journey, my parents couldn’t really help me, although they were such wonderful parental guides to me and still are to this day. I definitely take that with me in prayer to this day, and it is just a blessing, for sure.”

Added to RCIA (also known now as OCIA) and attending weekday Masses frequently throughout the year, the new Catholic has been following Father Mike Schmitz’s The Bible in a Year podcast, calling it “a really wonderful experience,” with his The Catechism in a Year next on her list. This summer, she plans to learn more of the stories of the saints because those she has heard and read “are awesome. I love them.”

Looking back at her journey, she reflected, “The Lord is wanting to share in our burdens with us and genuinely wanting us to present our burdens and offer them before the Lord. You can’t tell me that that is not a God who loves us, because that is what we need — the Lord knows what we need. It’s amazing.”

“It’s still a journey, and I’m actually so excited about that,” she concluded. “I can tell the difference. I’ve even grown as an individual in the year of discovering my faith and growing in my faith. It has made such a massive positive impact on my life and given me strength that, if my experience can help anybody to really have a similar experience, then the story is worth telling.”