From Calvinism to Catholicism

By Grace Ostuni
Staff Writer

On Tuesday evening, theology professor John Bergsma spoke about the role Opus Dei had in his conversion from Calvinism to Catholicism.  

Growing up in a Protestant household, Bergsma became a pastor in Michigan. At the end of his seminary education in 1999, Bergsma said he was encouraged to study under a Protestant theologian at Notre Dame and received a doctorate.  

“I didn’t mind going to study at a Catholic university. I believed he might even be able to convert a few Catholics before I graduated,” said Bergsma. 

“I had met Catholics before … but I figured they just stayed Catholic because they didn’t know very much,” said Bergsma. “I only had two cubby-holes for Catholics: ignorant or indifferent.”  

Bergsma went on to say that one of the first Catholics he met at Notre Dame was Michael Dauphinais. They became friends and would often meet and speak about theology. 

“Michael was three years younger, and yet when we got into discussions, it was clear that he had a greater spiritual maturity about him, even though I had run a church,” said Bergsma.  

Dauphinais later told Bergsma that he was passing on the theology he had received at Windmoor, an Opus Dei residence adjacent to the campus, explained Bergsma. 

Opus Dei is a Catholic organization formed in the early 1900s that follows the philosophy and theology of St. Jose Maria Escriva.  

About six weeks into the semester, Bergsma said that Dauphinais invited him to an evening of recollection at Windmoor. 

“It touched my heart because coming from a Protestant background, we placed a lot of emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus … I wasn’t sure Catholics had that,” said Bergsma.  

Bergsma then started receiving spiritual direction from Rev. David Cavanaugh. He said he had no intention of becoming a Catholic but wanted someone to keep him accountable about his prayer life.  

Eighteen months later, Bergsma and his wife decided to become Catholics. 

Because their friends all belonged to Opus Dei, Bergsma said it was logical that they should also join. It also gave Bergsma the discipleship structure that he had been desiring.  

Therese Bertotti, a junior philosophy major, said, “The testimonies were deeply moving because the love of God and commitment to living for Him were evident.”