‘We’re all trying to get closer to God’


(Credit: David Maung)

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SAN DIEGO — Three individuals in the San Diego region recently shared their story of why they are preparing to join the Catholic Church this year. Read more stories at

Jonathan Justin Fer, 26, is a catechumen at St. Charles Parish in Imperial Beach.

Originally from Orange County, he attended a Catholic school for one year as a kindergartener but was never baptized and only recently felt a strong pull toward becoming Catholic.

“From the ages of 6 to 23 … I wasn’t as close to Him as I should have been,” Fer said of his relationship with God.

He joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2016. His four years and two months of service included a six-month deployment to Iraq.

In spring of 2021, he moved to Turkey to live with his father and stepmother, who had relocated there. It was while living in that Muslim country that he “felt compelled” to start reading the Bible.

In early 2023, he returned to the U.S. to attend college. He befriended the Catholic couple across the street and asked them if he could attend Mass with them at their parish, St. Charles.

“The more I look back and reflect on the chain of events of the past two and a half years, there’s really no doubt in my mind that there is a God,” he said, “because … it’s inconceivable to think that I was thousands of miles away, and then I picked the exact location where I would find the exact right people to be in my life … to bring me closer to God.”

Fer said the highlight of the OCIA (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) process, which he began last summer, is “the people that you meet.”

“You see people that are sort of on a similar journey. … You can see that they’re seeking something that’s beyond themselves, and we’re all trying to get closer to God.”

Jacqueline Moreno, 29, is a candidate at Christ the King Church in San Diego.

Moreno was baptized and, at age 10, received her First Communion — but that’s when her connection to her faith stopped.

“I strayed far away from the Church,” she said. “It sounds bad, but that’s what happened.”

As a young adult, she felt that something was missing in her life. She decided, “I need to go and do my confirmation.”

When she began the OCIA process last July, she figured she would receive the sacrament and that would be the end of it.

“Once I arrived, I saw that what God is really about is super different than what you hear on the street. It’s something beautiful. I said to myself, ‘I have to come here.’

“One of the things that has stuck with me is that God loves everyone. All people are His children.”

When she was growing up, adults would tell her that God  would punish her if she behaved poorly. “They put ideas in your head that make you fear Him,” she recalled.

“It’s not like that. I opened my heart, listened, read and discovered how different He is from what I was told.”

She has gotten to know her fellow companions on their faith journey.

“I feel peace here,” she said on a recent break from the class. “That’s why I like coming here so much.”

Anthony Zúniga, 30, is a candidate from Christ the King Parish.

Anthony Zúniga said that he believed in God when he was a child and remembered going to Mass at Christ the King Church. But he never finished his preparation for First Communion, and stopped going to church altogether as he grew older.

Then came difficult years, he said, when he abused drugs.

He spent five months in rehab, he said, followed by a month at a hospital, where he was treated for a serious illness that left him blind.

“I got scared,” he said.

About a year ago, he decided to go back to church, encouraged by a friend who plays music at the parish. He urged him to sign up for OCIA instruction.

“I feel good that I’m going to class,” he said, noting he now goes to the church three days a week.

Sober for 18 months, he hopes to resume work soon. And he plans to stick around his parish.

“After I do my First Communion, I look forward to learning more. I look forward to meeting new people. My vision is coming back. And I thank God for that.”

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