From Mary-hater to Marian devotee: A Protestant pastor turns Catholic
MANILA, Dec. 5, 2015—A news post by ABS-CBN dated Nov. 14 claims a growing number of Filipino Catholics toy with the idea of leaving the Church, that is, if they have not already done so.
Citing a survey made by Social Weather Station (SWS) in April 2013, which shows that as many as 9.2 percent of Filipinos, or one out of 11, reporter Gigi Grande echoes the sentiment of Jesuit priest Fr. Joel Tabora that that the Church in the Philippines is “in trouble”.
Former Protestant Pastor Noe Dora (left) tells his conversion story to Know The Truth host Marwil N. Llasos. (Photo: Raymond A. Sebastián)
What Grande has failed to report — if only for sake of fairness — is that while there may indeed be an exodus of the faithful into either one of the tens of thousands of Christian and semi-Christian movements sprouting here and there over the last few decades, or who simply forsake organized religion altogether, there is a brighter, more hopeful side to the story — the conversions of non-Catholics to the Roman Catholic faith, often unreported in media.
If hundreds or even thousands of Catholics, many of whom Catholics only by name, bid their Church goodbye, then the reverse is just as true: non-Catholics are entering the Roman Catholic Church to get baptized, one of them is Brother Noe Dora of Cebu whose story, simply put, is one for the books.
Dora, who credits the Blessed Virgin for his conversion, is no ordinary convert who had “issues” with the Catholic Church.
According to him, he was a cradle Protestant preacher who has found the Truth after years of intensive study and discernment. Raised in a devoutly Protestant family, he loathed anything “popish,” that is, Catholic. From his father, he learned how to break statues of Catholic saints into pieces, considering them “idols,” and held anything “Roman” in contempt.
He had finished his ministry studies at the Asia Pacific Bible Seminary in Cebu City where he also spent 15 years as pastor and was founding president of the Pure Gospel of Jesus Christ International Ministries, Inc.
Loving Jesus’ Mother
For five years before his baptism in 2007 by no less than then Cebu Auxilliary Bishop Joselito Cortes who now oversees the Diocese of Dumaguete, Dora was secretly devouring various books, researching on the True Church Christ founded, and came to the conclusion that it’s none other than the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.
He credits the Blessed Virgin as well as the Divine Mercy for giving him the courage and the understanding to finally cross the Tiber. Noe wondered, “If Protestants profess to really love Christ, how come they refuse to accept the Woman who gave Him birth? Why do they keep maligning her?”
To which he himself gave the answer: “A love for Jesus cannot be complete without a love for His mother.”
Dora also lauded the beauty and majesty of Catholic prayers. Before his conversion, he shared he was big on the “personal-relationship-with-God” thing, and therefore could not bring himself to pray for the salvation of other people.
The Divine Mercy changed that.
Quoting a part of a prayer St. Faustina Kowalska recorded in her diary, Dora declared: “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and the whole world.”
Persecution from family, friends
His path to Catholicism, as one would expect, came with a price.
Like John Henry Cardinal Newman, J. R. R. Tolkien, Edith Stein, Charles Dawson and so many other converts before him, renowned and obscure alike, “Pastor” Noe had to deal with persecution, mainly from “disgruntled” kin and followers.
Fellow pastors accused him of receiving money from Catholic authorities. As a founder of his own church, the erstwhile pastor led a comfortable enough life. After his conversion which also meant the loss of his job, he had to make do with living in a humble hut, planting root crops to survive.
Visiting him once in his “bahay-kubo” on the countryside, the pastors only saw, much to their embarrassment, the Cross Dora had to bear for his new-found faith.
He was poor, penniless.
Unsurprisingly also, his own family practically disowned him as soon as word of his “betrayal” reached them. By his own admission, his father was a “church planter” and veteran debater, who groomed him into becoming his successor. One could only imagine the shock of the Elder Dora on learning that Little Noe had espoused the “Whore of Babylon”.
Despite the trials he had to go through, Dora said he is happy because he knows he made the right choice.
By a twist of fate—or more correctly, by the power of the Holy Spirit—his whole household, including his “Catholic basher” of a father, impressed by his courageous witness, took the road to Rome.
Today, Dora, now “Brother Noe,” heads the Association of Pastors Converted to the Catholic Church of the Philippines, a group that prides itself for having a membership of over a hundred formerly anti-Catholic Protestant preachers.
To visit the group’s page, click https://www.facebook.com/convertedpastors. Noe tours the country giving testimonies of his conversion in different Churches.
On Jan. 31, he is scheduled to give a talk to the Children of Light (COL) Charismatic Community from 1:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 851 Oroquieta St., Santa Cruz, Manila where he will discuss the “Biblical and Historical Reasons behind His Conversion to the Catholic Faith”.
Dora’s full televised interview with Catholic lay preacher and lawyer Marwil N. Llasos on the apologetics program “Know The Truth,” is set to be aired soon over TV María. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)