Catherine Bellis was baptized at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church on Ingleside Avenue. She met her husband, Walter, singing in the choir. They were married there and raised eight children in the Catonsville parish where she taught Sunday school and served in the altar guild.
And when the congregation gathered in the parish auditorium Feb. 10 and voted to leave the Episcopal Church and to join the Roman Catholic Church, the 101-year-old parishioner voted with the majority.
The Episcopal Diocese of Maryland issued a press release Feb. 20 announcing the vote, saying 80 of 100 parishioners were present for the vote.
Of that group, 55 were voting members. Nonvoting parishioners included children and members who have not been active enough or belong to other faiths
Of the voting members, more than 80 percent voted in favor of leaving the Episcopal Church and more than 75 percent voted to join the Catholic church as part of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, according to the release.
The ordinariate is similar to a Catholic diocese and designed for Episcopalian and Anglican communities in the United States and Canada seeking to join the Catholic Church, according to Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
As part of the ordinariate, established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009, the group retains its Episcopalian traditions and heritage, while it is still considered fully Catholic. Other ordinariates have been established in England and Australia.
Catherine Bellis was among those who voted for the change.
"I've been here all my whole life," she said at the fellowship after Sunday services Feb. 24. "My decision was given to me by the Lord when I did not know what to do."
Bellis said she had searched her soul and prayed for an answer about whether to leave the religion of her birth and join the Catholic Church.
"The Lord said, "Do it,'" she said. "Whatever the Lord says, I do my best to carry out."
The vote came after months of study and prayer and was followed by a show of solidarity, said Lydia Temoshok, a parishioner for five years.
"After the vote, everyone joined hands in unity," she said.
A motion was made to accept the two proposals.
"It was unanimous," Temoshok said.
The vote was held in the presence of the Rev. Scott Slater, canon to the ordinary (bishop) for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, and Rev. Scott Hurd, vicar general for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
"It's been a long time coming," said Emory Stagmer, senior warden at the church.
St. Timothy's is the third congregation in the Baltimore area to join the Roman Catholic Church in this way. Christ the King Anglican Church in Towson and Mount Calvary Episcopal Church in Baltimore joined in 2012.
In addition, four former Episcopal churches were ordained for the ordinariate, according to Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
The Episcopal nuns of All Saints Convent in Catonsville joined the Catholic Church in 2009.