New Catholic loves being ‘surrounded by people who care’

The conversion story of Raymond Martin of Decatur


DECATUR — The story of Raymond Martin of Decatur is proof sometimes God’s time is not always our time. Growing up, Martin said he was mainly part of the Nazarene Church but also participated in other religions. Now, the 84-year-old retired truck driver is proud to be Catholic, converting just last year, calling St. Thomas the Apostle in Decatur home.

“After years of going to church with my wife, I decided after hearing Father Peter Chineke (pastor) preach at Mass, to talk to him about the faith and to join the Catholic Church,” Martin said. “I just felt it was time, and the right person (Father Chineke) came into my life and made it happen.” 

Father Peter Chineke baptized Raymond Martin last year at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Decatur during the Easter Vigil.

The father of two who has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, remembers that Easter day in 2023 when Father Chineke welcomed him into the Church, receiving baptism, confirmation, and his first holy Communion.

“I felt good about being able to fully participate in the Catholic traditions and teachings, and being part of the Catholic community of which I have made many good friends makes me feel totally accepted by the St. Thomas community,” Martin said. “The day I became Catholic and received the Eucharist for the first time was a day that felt natural and right.”

“All Raymond did was follow his wife to Masses — daily and weekends,” Father Chineke said. “He never had any real encourager with anyone — priest or lay. He just attended. But when I came, Raymond, through my homilies and constant kind interactions with everyone, he began to feel God’s presence. Gradually and consistently, it was getting intense and more real. As if that wasn’t enough, I invited him and his wife for lunch. At lunch, I inquired why he doesn’t receive Communion at Masses. He explained that he is not even baptized let alone confirmed. I inquired if he would love to. He said ‘yes’ but that he didn’t feel worthy. At that point, I began meeting with and working with Raymond on a weekly basis. He grew stronger in his love and appreciation of the Church and of God, and eventually asked to be baptized and received into the Church. We did. God did.

Raymond Martin is surrounded by his wife, Jean, friends, parishioners from St. Thomas in Decatur, Father Chineke, and Deacon Kevin Richardson after the Easter Vigil last year when Martin became Catholic.

“Receiving Raymond into the Church is one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had as a priest,” Father Chineke continued. “Raymond’s story and his conversion experience is one that truly shows how God is always working in and through us.” 

As Martin looks back over his faith journey, he can’t help but smile and offers this advice: “No matter what age a person is, he/she will know when it is time to move forward, in faith, even if it takes 50 or more years like my journey took,” Martin said. “Going to church often can take away the pressure of everyday living. It’s good to see familiar faces and know that you are surrounded by people who care.”