VANCOUVER — Though she could not comprehend the Latin, something about a powerful, building song the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir performed at a Christmas concert two years ago captured Emma Larson’s full attention.
Even after the show was long over and Larson had left the Orpheum Theatre, that single composition continued playing in her mind. It was the “Ave Maria.”
“I had no idea what that meant, but ever since I heard it, it stuck in my head,” said Larson
The stirring in her heart made her want to hear the song again, and she was soon looking up various versions online.
She soon discovered a second Catholic hymn, “Ave Maris Stella.”
“That’s when I just couldn’t get enough. It was just so beautiful. After hearing that one, I started looking more into Catholicism. What was this about? Why was this music so beautiful?” she said.
Not long after, the pandemic set in and Larson found herself with plenty of spare time to read about Catholicism. She started with the rosary and soon learned of Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral.
In her early 20s, Larson was also facing a personal crisis. She had ended a relationship and was seeking solace and new beginnings. She turned to a popular Anglican church in downtown Vancouver, but kept researching Catholicism and teaching herself to pray the rosary.
“Something that I found really cool about Catholicism is there are so many names or titles for Mary. That was something I didn’t find in any other church. Everything about Catholicism rang really true to me.”
She discovered the cathedral’s YouTube channel and watched Mass for the first time, and while not understanding it, “it immediately drew me in.”
It took some time but she finally reached out to Holy Rosary Cathedral. Reflecting on Mary’s “yes” to carry Jesus in her womb also gave Larson the strength.
“That always stuck out to me, how she was scared and uncertain of what the angel was telling her, and the way she just said, ‘let it be done to me according to your word,’ gave me so much courage, how she just said yes to God without knowing how it was going to work out.”
In September 2020, she entered the Rite of Christian Initiation program at Holy Rosary Cathedral led by Deacon Richard Chau.
“Every time I thought it was going to be too hard — I am going to change my life too much, I don’t know if I can do this, the thought of being the only Catholic in my family — every time I had those doubts, I would discover something else about Mary and it would bring me back,” she said.
In April, in a small, private ceremony at the Cathedral, Larson was baptized a Catholic.
Chau said she looked overwhelmed with emotion.
“Mary was drawing her into the Church and pointing her to Christ, and she responded to that. It’s wonderful,” said Chau.
Larson said since her conversion many family members have become curious about various elements of Catholicism and talk with her about them. Her mother was especially moved.
“Ever since I became Catholic it has deepened my relationship with my mom. Talk about God with my family is more than I could have hoped for.”
She looks forward to the day she can attend Mass in person and become a volunteer at one of the parishes in her neighbourhood. In the meantime, she participates in livestreamed Masses, reads prayer books and prays the rosary on a set of pink beads every day.
“I don’t know what I would do without it,” she said.