At first, Joshua Longworth was content just attending Mass with his Catholic girfriend, Joy Layug. But, once he got engaged and started to think about marriage and having children, he started to consider becoming a Catholic.

“My fiancée was a cradle Catholic who was really devout in her faith,” Longworth, 34, said. “We started to get more serious, and Joy told me she wanted to raise our kids in the Catholic Church.”

He said at that point, “I started thinking about it and praying about it, and I thought I wanted our kids to have the base of both their parents being Catholic. Without both of us Catholic, it would be easier for our kids to drop out of the Church.”

Longworth began taking RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes, and at the April 20 Easter Vigil Mass at St. Edward the Confessor Parish in Bowie, Maryland, he will officially become a member of the Catholic Church. He is one of the nearly 1,100 people across Archdiocese of Washington who will receive the sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church that evening.

Longworth and Layug are both in the Navy. He is a lieutenant commander serving with the Fleet Cyber Command. Based at Fort Meade, Maryland, the command coordinates the Navy's information network operations.

“Joy was amazing and attends RCIA with me,” Longworth said. “Even though she was raised Catholic, she said there were certain things that she did not know. She is learning a few new things like I am.”

After beginning the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Longworth said, “I remember the exact class when I thought this is the real deal – it was when we learned about Purgatory.”

The Catholic Church teaches that purgatory is for the “imperfectly purified” who “die in God’s grace and friendship” and are assured of eternal salvation, but must “undergo a purification after death, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1054)

“In the Protestant faith, we really don’t talk about that, so I asked a few questions in class, started doing my own research and I came up with other questions,” he said. “It wound up with me doing about five hours of research and reading about the Catholic faith, and that is when I knew this was the real deal.”

“Ever since then, it (the desire to become a Catholic) is like a fire that was lit inside of me and it hasn’t stopped, it hasn’t burned out,” he said.

Another thing he learned in RCIA that he said had a profound affect on him was the nature of the Holy Eucharist. He said in his former faith, “anyone can get Communion. I would go to Mass with Joy and wonder why I couldn’t get Communion. I never understood until class that it is truly the Body and Blood of Christ.”

“Transubstantiation is something that I did not grasp right away. I get it now, and it is amazing,” he added. “I’ve now become so deep into what Communion really is.”

Longworth’s journey to the Catholic faith came after his exploration of several other Christian faiths. “I was quite Protestant,” he explained. “I was baptized Presbyterian, and then at 12, I started attending a Baptist church. When that pastor retired, the new pastor was non-denominational, and I was that all the way up until I entered RCIA.”

He said that when he was a member of those other denominations, “I believed in God, but I was just going through the motions – I went to church because that is what you are supposed to do. But my eyes were opened when I started getting into the Catholic faith.”

“Before, depending on the denomination, if you did something bad or if you did not do something right, you heard, ‘you’re going to hell,’ and I heard that a lot,” he said. “But the Catholic faith teaches that God is a loving God, God is a merciful God and Jesus loves us all more than we know.”

Of his decision to become Catholic, Longworth said, “my mom was pretty open to the idea right away, and it prompted my Dad to read and learn more about it (the Catholic faith).”

Longworth said he realized he had several misconceptions about the Catholic faith that were not true.

“It is amazing on the outside and being non-Catholic the things you hear that are not true and how little you know about the Catholic faith,” he said. “It reminds me of what (Archbishop and evangelist) Fulton Sheen said, ‘There are not one 100 people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.’ ”

Longworth said the abuse scandal that made media headlines in the past year has prompted non-Catholic friends and relatives to question his desire to join the Church.

“People can be a little hard on the Catholic faith,” he said. “Unfortunately we are all a fallen people and sin happens everywhere. There have been attacks on the Catholic Church, but that has been happening since Jesus was alive. He was persecuted and He said those who follow Him will be persecuted.”

As he prepares for his reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil, Longworth said, “I just can’t wait – I am looking forward to it so much. Going though this process, I have grown in my faith.”

And, Navy man that he is, Longworth likens his faith journey to a sea voyage: “We are all trying to cross the ocean to get to the Promised Land, which is heaven. Some churches are like a rowboat where you have to row and row and work hard all by yourself. The Catholic faith, by comparison is almost like a cruise ship because you have all these sacraments that help you get there.”