The Easter Vigil at St Teresa’s in Upholland promises to be quite an occasion for Siobhan Ackers and her family. Not only will she be standing at the front of the church for her baptism and first communion, she will also be accompanied by her three daughters – Lottie, Ruby and Georgia – who will be received into the Church.
Becoming a Catholic is something that Siobhan, 45, would never have dreamed of when she was the age of Lottie, nine, her eldest daughter who will also be making her first communion.
Back in her days at Christ Church CofE primary school in Bootle, it was "them and us" when it came to mixing with Catholics, recalls Siobhan (pictured with Lottie), but today she could not feel more at home in the community of St Teresa’s parish, where her daughters attend the local primary school and where she embarked on the course of learning that will lead to her Easter initiation.
"My Irish grandad was a Catholic but I was brought up in a non-religious house," says Siobhan, one of 38 catechumens to be baptised this Easter across the archdiocese. "With the girls going to the Catholic school I started thinking I should do something but it is a very big step when you are older and not christened. It has taken me a lot of years to think I really do want to do this and I need to do it."
Reflecting on the path taken towards the Church, Siobhan cites a period of soul-searching prompted by several miscarriages – "you question faith and God" – and the subsequent unexpected arrival of Georgia, now three. Yet it was not until Lottie’s classmates began preparing for their first communion last year that Siobhan decided to act.
The fact Lottie, baptised a Methodist like her sisters, could only receive a blessing led her to a significant conversation with Father Tony Sligo, the parish priest. "Initially I had my head down thinking, ‘We’re not Catholic, I’m not really sure what we’re allowed to do.’ But when I eventually approached Fr Tony, he came to the house and talked me through things and was very welcoming. There were no barriers – it was just, ‘Come along and see what we do’.
"It’s like stepping into the unknown if you’re not from the Catholic Church but I started going to the ASK [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults] classes just to find out more. Before I would go to church services and see everyone doing things but I didn’t know why they were doing them. I have really enjoyed it because it has opened my eyes and made me think this is the right thing I am doing. I feel it has woken something up in me.’
And Siobhan, formerly a teacher at Farnborough Road primary in Southport but now a full-time mother, cannot speak highly enough of the welcome she has received in the Church. "I thought there were rules and it was all very mystical and mysterious but I have found it so welcoming. You can ask questions and you don’t feel silly. It has not been like I’d imagined it at all. It has been so welcoming and so lovely."
Easter weekend, with that special family outing to the Vigil, should be lovelier still.