As Breana Erickson prepared to become a Catholic, she turned to the one person who inspired her the most, her grandfather Henry Lucht, and asked him to be her sponsor. He happily agreed and though separated by many years and 174 miles, the two would discuss their faith by phone. He lived in her hometown, Klamath Falls. She was a freshman at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

Two months before Erickson was to be baptized a Catholic, Lucht contracted pancreatitis and, after only four days, died. As planned, Erickson returned to Klamath Falls to be baptized, receive first Communion and be confirmed at St. Pius X’s Easter Vigil service. At the sign of peace, a family friend took her hand and said, “Your grandpa would really be proud of you.”

“It almost made me cry,” Erickson said.

As a child, Erickson didn’t have much exposure to organized religion. “We were basically raised kind of agnostic, although we believed in God, [religion] wasn't really ever a thing.” But for her senior year of high school she transferred to a local Christian school for scheduling reasons. She became interested in Bible study classes, the Old Testament in particular. “I got myself a Catholic Bible because I knew my grandparents are Catholic and I wanted to know what those extra books in the Bible were,” she said.

This led to theological discussions with her grandfather, who was raised a Baptist and converted to Catholicism eight years ago.

Erickson received RCIA instruction both at the Newman Center in Eugene and her parish in Klamath Falls. The St. Pius instructor also worked with her grandfather and noticed some parallel traits. “He joked about how my grandpa would always have really in-depth, intense conversations and questions… and how I'm really similar to him in that way.”

The 19-year-old says the whole Easter Vigil experience was “Unbelievable…” And now, “I feel like I don't mess up as much anymore, like sinning-wise… and I feel more supported and I feel like I can pray better—if that makes sense. I feel like I can hear God better.”

Her advice for anyone thinking about becoming Catholic? “You'll never feel as truly whole and loved as you do whenever you're part of God's family. It just gives you this utter sense of belonging.”

Along with the spiritual connection, she will always have an official reminder her grandpa’s contribution. His name is in her baptismal certificate as her godfather.