As published in Horizons, April 16, 2017
TUCSON, Ariz. — Joshua Mangels and his family were to celebrate their first Pascha in the Byzantine Catholic Church this year.
At press time, the 40-year-old former Assembly of God pastor, his wife, Teresa, and their three children were to be received into the Byzantine Catholic Church at St. Melany Parish during Easter Vigil liturgy, April 15.
Mangels said he and his wife wanted to start their catechumenate this June, but their desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist led them to hasten their decision.
Last summer, Mangels said he realized he could not continue in good conscience as pastor of his 150-member congregation.
“I was already Catholic in my heart,” he told Horizons, and he resigned in September.
His witness impelled others to follow suit. He said within a week, several members of his congregation told him they had been reading Catholic material secretly and wanted “to join the true church,” too.
Together, they followed a Christian formation program; all 13 were to be chrismated and to receive first holy Communion at Easter Vigil.
Mangels said leaving his congregation, which he had served for four years, was “very difficult.” Both he and his wife had been involved in ministry, mission work and church planting for the Assembly of God since their college days.
“I loved pastoring. It was a wonderful church, a wonderful congregation and community,” he said. As well, the couple knew that joining the Catholic Church would mean losing family, friends, their church and their jobs.
But Mangels said they could not deny the pull of Christ in the Eucharist, spoken about by the Church Fathers.
Ordained a minister in 2006, Mangels said he was motivated to study church history, working his way backward and finally coming upon the Catholic Church.
Talk of the Church Fathers on Catholic radio piqued his interest. He said he “loved” what he heard, but he remained “resistant because I was against all things Catholic.”
Nonetheless, he pursued his reading of the Church Fathers and came upon St. Justin Martyr.
“The way he described the Eucharist floored me, it gave me chills,” he said. He noted how all of the Fathers spoke about the Eucharist and about the authority of the bishops. He said for the first time he was “taken aback by how emphatic Jesus was about the Eucharist.”
After prayer and study, he and his wife decided to take the plunge.
“We had never been to a Catholic church,” he said. “But we decided that if that’s the Body of Christ, that’s where we have to go. It was very scary though.”
He was referred to a Byzantine Catholic priest, Father Robert Rankin, and they set up an appointment to speak.
“My expectations were very low,” Mangels admitted. But Father Rankin “was warm, disarming and built trust and friendship right away. He put the best face on Catholicism.”
Mangels also thought he wouldn’t enjoy Divine Liturgy. “But when the cantor began, I cried almost the whole time,” he said. “When I saw the priest lift the host, I crumbled. I thought, ‘That’s the Lord, what I’ve wanted my whole life.’”
Mangels said God allayed his concerns about joining the Catholic Church in matching him with the Eastern Church.
Pentecostal Christians are very demonstrative in their praise and, similarly, “the Divine Liturgy is very involved and intentional and pulls you in,” he said.
Being received in the Byzantine Catholic Church is “the culmination of everything I have ever wanted my whole life but not expressed,” he said.