A friend's gentle nudge encouraged William Dabelstein to investigate Church after 18 years

Editor's note: This story is the third in a series on new Catholics who entered the Catholic Church at Easter. New articles in the series will run every Friday throughout the Easter season.

STERLING HEIGHTS — When William Dabelstein got his hair cut by his longtime friend and hairdresser, Renate Grusling, he remembers teasing her about how he was going to convert her to the Baptist faith. She would always respond, “I was born Catholic. I am going to die Catholic.”

The good-natured teasing would eventually lead to an invitation from Grusling and a faith journey for Dabelstein. And on Easter, he received the sacrament of confirmation alongside nine others at SS. Cyril and Methodius (Slovak) Parish in Sterling Heights.

SS. Cyril and Methodius is Grusling’s parish. She convinced Dabelstein to come to Mass with her in November of 2017. 

“The Lord kind of moved me to come to St. Cyril’s,” Dabelstein recalls now. “I liked it. The people were nice, and they greeted me. I told them I was Baptist, and they were still very nice and very welcoming. This was different than what I’m used to.”

Dabelstein had been attending services at Bethel Baptist Church in his hometown of St. Clair Shores for about 18 years. After the invitation from Grusling, he would continue to go to evening Mass with her, while still attending morning services at Bethel. In August 2018, Grusling invited Dabelstein to volunteer with her at the Slovak Festival at her parish.

“I helped set up,” Dabelstein said. “I was really impressed. I was impressed with the Church. I was impressed with the festival. I offered to come back and help take down the chairs and things.” 

By that time, he had decided to start the process of becoming Catholic.

Dabelstein contacted Steven Piskorowski, director for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), who invited Dabelstein to come to an introductory conference for those interested in learning more about Catholicism. Dabelstein joined Piskorowski’s class in September, describing his new teacher as “very thorough.” 

William Dabelstein, right, joined the RCIA class at SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish taught by Stephen Piskorowski, left, after attending Mass at the parish with a friend.

Dabelstein, for his part, was the type of student who is “really interested in all the details. He really gets down deep into the why and the what,” Piskorowski said.

Even now that he's a Catholic, Dabelstein admits he still has a lot to learn about the faith. 

“I went from like nothing, to 18 years at Bethel, and now to the Catholic faith,” Dabelstein said. “I consider myself one of the furthest persons away from the Catholic faith. I feel if I can come to the faith, anybody can come to the faith.”

Dabelstein is quite vocal about his Catholicism. He has not been shy about sharing his conversion experience on his Facebook page, and plans to continue to do so now that he is confirmed. 

“I am going to advertise it to the world,” he said.

One moment that stands out is when Dabelstein first discovered the devotion to the Stations of the Cross, although he didn't know it at the time. During a visit to Resurrection Cemetery in Clinton Township on Good Friday last year, he watched as a family visited statues representing each station. 

“I wanted to observe each one of those stages,” Dabelstein said. “They let me join them. Once I got through the 14th station, I felt like I had accomplished a lot. It made Good Friday really mean Good Friday. It wasn’t just another day.”

He also has found a new love for the Catholic Bible, which played a pivotal role in his conversion, he said. During his preparation classes, he learned the Catholic Bible has 73 books — seven more books than the Protestant version. 

The Catholic teaching on purgatory is another factor. 

“In the Catholic faith, I feel closer to people who have died. I feel closer to my parents who passed away,” Dabelstein said. “In the Catholic faith, you can pray for the dead, which I agree with.”

He also enjoys the preaching from the Catholic pulpit, especially the emphasis on love. 

“The preaching in the Catholic faith is more optimistic,” he said.

Dabelstein also likes the sacrament of reconciliation, which allows him to focus on his personal journey toward holiness. 

William Dabelstein, center, said his newfound Catholic faith allows him to appreciate teachings like praying for the dead and confession. 

“The Catholic Church shows a lot of interest in my spiritual growth,” Dabelstein said. “Time is set aside for confession, and to talk if you have any problems.”

Finally, he appreciates the Catholics belief in the Holy Eucharist as not merely symbolic, but the true Body and Blood of Christ. At Baptist services, he could only receive once a month, but “in the Catholic faith, whenever you have Mass you can receive.”

Now that he has joined the Catholic faith, Dabelstein feels a deeper call to service, as well. One of the first activities in which the class of newly initiated Catholics will participate will be a visit to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, Piskorowski said.

“We have so many wonderful Catholic charities,” Piskorowski said. “As a class, we are going to go down together and serve the poor, and get an opportunity to present the food to the people coming in. It is really a beautiful, humbling self-sacrifice.”

As a cancer survivor, Dabelstein also wants to help those suffering from the disease. 

“I had prostate cancer in 2015. A very severe form, but we caught it early enough. It took the entire year to fight it,” Dabelstein said. “What I went through, it was a dramatic event of my life. I try to relate myself to people who are suffering from cancer. I understand. It affects me deeply, in my heart.”

Dabelstein took as his confirmation patron the name of St. John XXIII, who died from stomach cancer.

“I could have died too,” he said. “But I believe the Lord has something yet for me to do.”