By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

SPRINGFIELD – Converts bring enthusiasm to the Church. Take Tammy Bell, who entered Catholicism 10 years ago and has become a real contributor to the faith life of St. Kevin Parish, Springfield.

She’s originally from Erie, which is just about as far away from Philadelphia as a place can be and still be in Pennsylvania.

She relocated to the Philadelphia area in 1986 after graduating from Penn State and married her husband Bill almost 21 years ago. He’s business manager for Msgr. Bonner-Archbishop Prendergast High, and she is district manager for Erie Insurance Co. They have two sons, Tim, 16, who attends Archbishop Carroll High, and Andrew, 12, who attends St. Kevin School.

Bell was by birth Methodist; Bill, Catholic. This wasn’t a problem for Tammy because they were both committed Christians. Early in their marriage she would sometimes attend Mass with Bill, and he would at times attend her church. The difference was she noticed whenever Bill went to church with her he got up early and attended Mass first.

When the boys came along they were baptized Catholic and eventually would go to Catholic school. Tammy sensed it would be better as a family if they were all the same religion, and that was her initial motivation for becoming Catholic.

RCIA was a big step; there were things in Catholicism she didn’t quite understand, for example Catholic rules about who can and cannot receive Communion, something that didn’t exist in Methodism. Catholics also place much greater emphasis on the Blessed Virgin than do most Protestant denominations.

In this she was helped by her sponsor, Nancy Hope, a dear friend.

“She described the Blessed Mother and I saw in her many attributes of the Blessed Virgin. She lives them every day,” Bell said. “RCIA was truly a journey for me and two young women who took it with me. We had a wonderful RCIA team, a very devoted group.”

As a Catholic, Bell’s greatest contribution to the parish has been promoting through practice the corporal works of mercy, especially through the parish Social Concerns Committee.

She’s organized children in the confirmation class to make breakfast bags for Aid For Friends; she is part of a group that takes turns driving women from spanine Providence Village to Sunday Mass; she takes school children to visit Harlee Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and to spanine Providence Village. Through the sixth grade and CCD confirmation class she collected art supplies to be distributed at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. She’s organized a collection to assist the parents of a sick child and chairs St. Kevin School’s Task Force on Catholic Identity.

“If there is a need, you pitch in and help,” Bell said. “I believe in acts of charity. They are a wonderful chance to show God’s love. By giving back you get much more than you give.”

Spiritually, Catholicism “has broadened my world in many ways,” Bell said. “I try to live my faith every day in my work and in my personal life. I try to do what God would want me to do.”

Yes, there have been trials, as in all lives. Periods of illness or family unemployment. Faith has helped her get through it all, especially through the rosary and a special devotion she has to Padre Pio.

And a very important aid, St. Kevin Parish itself.

“It’s a small, multi-generational parish and that makes it special,” Bell said. “I fit right into it.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.