Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), who is exploring a run for president, has written a guest piece in the National Catholic Register, explaining how it was that he, a former Southern Baptist, converted to Catholicism. As part of his journey, Gingrich largely credits the influence of his wife, Callista.
“I am often asked when I chose to become Catholic,” Gingrich writes. “However, it is more truthful to say that over the course of several years I gradually became Catholic and then decided one day to accept the faith I had already come to embrace.
“My wife, Callista, is a lifelong Catholic and has been a member of the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., for 15 years. Although I was Southern Baptist, I had attended Mass with Callista every Sunday at the basilica to watch her sing with the choir.”
Gingrich married Callista, his third wife, in 2000, following a relationship between the two that began several years earlier during Gingrich’s second marriage.
In addition, Gingrich says that a key turning point came from seeing Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to the U.S. in 2008:
Catching a glimpse of Pope Benedict that day, I was struck by the happiness and peacefulness he exuded. The joyful and radiating presence of the Holy Father was a moment of confirmation about the many things I had been thinking and experiencing for several years.
That evening I told Msgr. Rossi I wanted to be received into the Catholic Church, and he agreed to join Callista as my sponsor. Under his tutelage, I studied the Catechism of the Church over the next year and was received into the Church in March of 2009 in a beautiful Mass at St. Joseph’s on Capitol Hill.
After a decade-long — perhaps lifelong — faith journey, I was finally home.