Every morning before she heads out the door to protect the United States’ national security, Lesley Gore wakes up at 3 a.m. to make her bed, say a rosary and read the daily readings.
Gore, who is preparing to enter the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil, is a member of the D.C. Air National Guard, and works on a mission that began following the 9-11 terror attacks to protect the skies over the National Capital Region. She helps monitor for suspicious aircrafts in the area, and begins the communication for fighter jets to go examine the threat, escort the plane out, and if necessary, to shoot it down.
On her days off, Gore goes to daily Mass and Adoration.
“It’s not that I do it just to do it,” Gore said about her routine of praying and attending Mass. “It is because I want to do it. It helps me to better assess my own flaws and be more forgiving of other people’s.”
Gore’s love for the faith began about a year ago, when she heard an advertisement on the radio for Barack Obama’s pastor coming to speak at Howard University in Washington. Even though she was raised in a secular family and had only been to church a few times in her life, she felt she should give it a try. While she was comfortable in her life, she felt that she was missing something, she said.
After hearing him speak, she decided to continue to “shop around” and look at different churches. One day around Easter last year, she decided to go to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, and the Mass that she attended “just moved me,” she said.
While she didn’t know much about Catholicism, she kept attending Mass at the cathedral and started reading more of what the catechism said about different things and thinking “wow, this stuff all makes sense…it is all kind of true.” On Pentecost, she went to St. Augustine Parish in Washington, which she said, “changed my life” because of the welcoming community she encountered.
She had already explored other faiths such as Buddhism and Islam, but said, “None of them got their hooks in me,” so when she started to understand Catholicism, she knew the Catholic Church was where she needed to be.
“I had already kind of dabbled in other things out there. I knew that other things weren’t for me, but this one just touched me in my soul,” she said. “The Holy Spirit was like, ‘This is where you need to go.’”
Soon after Pentecost, she joined the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program at St. Augustine, and said the catechists and her fellow candidates have been great. When she had to go to Mississippi for work for a month or two, she attended RCIA classes in Mississippi, which taught her to appreciate the universality of the Church.
“It had a whole different point of view, but it was still the same thing, and I really liked that,” she said. “No matter where in the world I was, I could just go to a Catholic church and go to Mass and it is the same everywhere. I love that. St. Augustine feels like home to me, but I still can go anywhere and appreciate their service.”
Prior to moving to Washington, Gore attended college at Hampton University, and afterward worked overseas as an education contractor on military bases in Afghanistan and Kuwait, where she would help deployed soldiers earn their college degrees. When she returned to the United States, she worked in Human Resources in downtown Washington and joined the National Guard part-time, before taking a full-time job at Joint Base Andrews.
Gore is originally from Chicago, and her mom, dad and several other family members are traveling from there to Washington to see her be baptized. Gore’s grandmother is Catholic, but her father does not practice the faith, and often asks her questions to challenge her. Gore said she is thankful for these exchanges, because it helps her better understand her own faith, and even though he questions her, Gore says she knows her dad is proud of her.
“His heart is warming up,” she said. “Every time we talk, it is warming up.”
Gore said she appreciates the intellectual structure of Catholicism, and the combination of learning about that and seeing how it relates to her lived experience is what led her to believe that the Catholic Church holds the truth.
“It’s hard to articulate how you know something’s true,” she said. “When you see it, it is like a light bulb is turning on.”
Gore said she had seen the effects of sin in her life, and that since she started following the teachings of the Church and trying to live a Christ-like life, she has seen the positive effects.
“In the year that I’ve been in RCIA, I can see where I was at the beginning and where I am now, and it is just a tremendous change,” she said. Things that used to bother her, stress her out, or cause her to despair before no longer do, she said, because even during hard times she is able to turn to God in prayer.
Before she began the RCIA process, Gore would read the Gospels and find wisdom in them, but now she realizes, “it is really not about the worldly wisdom. It’s about a personal relationship with Jesus, and that is what I found here.”
“And you see it in the faces of everybody on the street of course, but just within the walls of St. Augustine or St. Matthew’s, you see it on the faces of people every day,” Gore continued. “You see the Christ within them.”