This is Makenzie Minge. A recent graduate of Powers Catholic High School in Flint; a new student at Concordia University in Ann Arbor; a recent Catholic convert and the front cover of this month's FAITH Magazine which carries a special section on how to survive and thrive as a faithful Catholic on campus. Here’s Makenzie’s story as told to FAITH:
Makenzie Minge, a recent Powers graduate and newly-minted Catholic, is ready for the future
Perfect love. Overflowing goodness. Abundant mercy.
All these strange feelings were being poured onto her.
Then she opened her eyes.
And for the first time, Makenzie Minge looked upon her Lord and Savior.
It was in a small white host, surrounded by a golden monstrance held aloft by Father Anthony Smela.
At that moment, Makenzie says, she knew the Eucharist was real — despite the fact she was not actually Catholic.
“I'd had a relationship with God for a while, so I’d felt his love, but I feel like this was so much deeper, and so much more complete than I'd ever felt before,” she says.
That set into motion a whirlwind series of events which culminated in her confirmation into the Catholic Church May 21.
Makenzie, of Mount Morris, graduated from Flint’s Powers Catholic High School in May. She will be attending Concordia University of Ann Arbor, majoring in biblical studies.
Makenzie grew up in a house divided by denomination, but united in love for Christ. Her father and grandmother are Catholic, while her mother and brother are Protestant, specifically Pentecostal.
She grew up attending services at Trinity Assembly of God in Mount Morris, and as a teenager she became a youth group leader at the church.
There, she experienced all the emotions of God’s love — the praise and worship music, the dramatic lighting design, the free-flowing sermons. And she was happy.
It might make sense, then, that once she transferred to Powers her sophomore year, she might find the weekly all-school Mass a little dull in comparison.
“Little did I know what God had in store for me there,” she quips.
At first, she says, she found Mass “redundant or boring and kind of confusing, because I had no idea what I was doing, what was happening or why.”
Over the years, she took theology classes at Powers, which helped fill in some of those gaps — and sparked a curiosity in her.
“I started to pay attention to it better, and over time I just fell in love with the Mass,” she says.
Her hunger for the Mass led her to seek out daily opportunities for it — fortunately, she was able to find that at the school, as Powers’ chaplain, Father Smela, offered Mass in the mornings before school. Sometimes, Makenzie says, she’d be the only one in the chapel for those morning Masses, but she treasured the opportunity to attend Mass, though she couldn’t actually receive the Eucharist.
“I really feel like that helped nurture my faith and grow my love for Catholicism,” she says. “A lot of his homilies were things I really needed to hear. It just helped me stay close to God and helped nurture the faith that I would eventually come to love.”
All those mornings of worship led to her transformative encounter with the Eucharist in the monstrance at a Powers retreat in the fall of her senior year. It was there where she came to believe in the Eucharist as the true presence, but that was not the end of her journey. After the retreat, she says she “left Catholicism alone” for many months.
“At the time, you know, I loved Catholics and the Mass and the Eucharist, but I never really wanted it for myself,” she says. “I never really thought it was something I needed in my life, because at the time, I didn't want the structure of the Mass.”
Fast-forward to this spring, when the Diocese of Lansing brought an exhibition of eucharistic miracles to the four diocesan high schools. Makenzie had told Powers’ campus minister, Patrick Brennan, about her experience with the Eucharist, and he had recommended she give that testimony at the eucharistic miracles event at Powers.
After the event had concluded, Makenzie spoke with Tim Francis, the presenter at the event.
He asked her: “Why aren’t you Catholic?”
“He encouraged me to seek truth, like how the early Christians worshiped, and at the moment I kind of shrugged it off,” she says. “That very next night, I was alone, and I just started contemplating what he said. And suddenly, my heart just broke. I was just like, ‘Man, I know that Jesus gave himself to us physically so that we can receive him into our bodies, and I can't receive that.’ I was just heartbroken by that thought, that he offered it to me, and I couldn't have it. And so, I just felt such a longing at that moment for the Eucharist, for the Mass.”
In response, she says she “swept those feelings under the rug,” expecting them to go away after a while.
Spoiler alert: they didn’t.
“I felt so desolate at that point, just so far from God, I guess, at that moment because of all the things he could offer me, and I was just here as a Protestant,” she says. “That Monday, I went to Father Tony, and I was like, ‘Hey, I think God's calling me to become Catholic.’ And so, it just stems from realizing Jesus in the Eucharist.
“And honestly, it was God who pulled down my stubbornness, tore down my pride and just really made me realize that I've kind of wanted to all along. I just didn't know I wanted it or that I needed it. I see now that I felt like a veil was over my eyes, like I just couldn't see something that was right in front of my face. Growing in my love of Catholicism was a very slow process, but my actual conversion itself was very fast.”
She had already taken three years of theology courses, so the discernment was made that she was sufficiently catechized to receive the sacraments. Father Smela penned a letter to Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea requesting that she be confirmed before leaving for college. That Friday afternoon, Makenzie got a call from Father Smela: “Hey, the bishop just called — want to get confirmed this Sunday?”
Makenzie was confirmed and received her first holy Communion May 23 at St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing.
“As soon as I received the Eucharist for the first time, I just cried because I was so happy to be united physically with Jesus,” she says. “I just feel like I’m complete — this is the fullness of my faith, the deepest I’ve ever been before. And God keeps surprising me. Before, I loved God, but as a Catholic I feel like I’m in love with God.”
Her college, Concordia University of Ann Arbor, is a Lutheran institution. Regardless, Makenzie says she is looking forward to bringing her Catholic faith to campus.
“It’s good to experience the Catholic faith here on a non-Catholic campus, because I had a lot of opportunities at Powers as a Protestant to explore my faith,” she says. “Maybe even discuss to other people here who may not be Catholic that this is what I believe in.”
With her biblical studies major, she says she “really feels like God is calling me to ministry.”
“Encouraging other people in their faith, no matter where they are — just kind of being there for them,” she says. “God’s done a lot for me in my life, so I feel like that’s prepared me to help other people, if he’s calling me to it.”
As a student at Concordia, she plans to attend Christ the King Catholic Church — after attending Mass there on Pentecost and being moved by the worship.
* To read more from FAITH Magazine go to: https://faithmag.com/