After I recently converted to Catholicism, a family member warned me: “Watch the priests.” She’d seen the news about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s resignation because of sexual abuse allegations, and in her own way was worried I’d fall prey to a predatory parish priest.

Despite my reassurance that the priests I have encountered on my journey of faith had dedicated their lives to serving God and the Church, she remains skeptical.

It is said that many people are leaving the Church amidst scandals, but this is just the moment when I have found my place in it. I’ve seen the scandals and the reports. I am appalled, but they have not scared me off. On the contrary, the challenges confronting the Church today are an opportunity for a frank assessment by the long-time faithful and by the Church’s newest members like me.

When I moved from Texas to Washington, D.C., I broke the ice by calling myself a born-again heathen. I grew up in a Baptist church with family members who either preach or teach the Gospel. Then I spent 27 years away from attending any church.

During those days as a born-again heathen, I realized something was missing. There was a void in my life which only God could fill. A year ago, I emailed St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Md., regarding the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, the process by which people from other Christian denominations convert to Catholicism.

I figured I would get some orientation about a different take on Christianity and quickly be told some Catholic principle with which I couldn’t agree. I’d wind up walking away from the process, but at least I’d have given it a try.

It turns out I underestimated God’s plan for my life.

The RCIA director, Olivia Crosby, met me during weekends throughout the fall, Advent and Lent, leading up to Easter. I will never forget the first time I met her. She was a whirling dervish in an electric wheelchair. As she opened the door to St. Mary’s School, I returned to the world that I had abandoned more than 20 years before. Olivia was kind and had an uncompromising insight about Catholicism.

Something drew me to the mass. My Catholic friends believe it was the work of the Holy Spirit. I believe I found a home for my faith in the Roman Catholic Church. For me, this is the best outlet for the proclamation of the Gospel and the celebration of the sacraments. The Church provides a vital sanctuary for rebuilding my relationship with God. During mass, moments of quiet stillness and tranquility take over in my mind, soul and heart.

“Once you are confirmed into the church you will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” Olivia told me. “These gifts include wisdom, knowledge and understanding. God is calling you off the bench and into his service. You’re going to love being a Catholic.”

Yet as much as I do love being a Catholic, it’s not without heartache, too. It’s been a painful season for American Catholics. McCarrick was the first American cardinal to resign after accusations of sexual abuse. His resignation hit especially close to home for me, because he had previously been archbishop of Washington D.C. including its Maryland suburbs.

Then a Pennsylvania-based grand jury found a cover-up by church leaders of child sex abuse. The report captured alleged abuse by more than 300 priests against 1,000 children over 70 years. The findings cast a shadow over the leadership of Cardinal Donald Wuehrl, McCarrick’s successor in D.C., who only just resigned last week.

This latest round of clerical abuse revelations has sparked a crisis of faith for the American Catholic Community. As a recent convert, I have been a witness to the pain, frustration and suffering due to the inadequate response of the see of Rome. I have been angry at the terrible acts and failures.

I did not expect a papal swat team to verify the grand jury’s findings and immediately root out the corruption. Yet I wish for swift action -- at least a plan to punish the despicable so-called shepherds for their abuse.

I am not here to cast stones. We are all flawed. But I am standing up for a community that has done so much for me in guiding me on my journey of faith. This crisis is not a public relations problem. I do not want to blow up Saint Peter's ship. I want to strengthen the Church based on the model of leadership found in the life of Jesus. When I pray the rosary, it is in imitation of Christ, not of McCarrick or Wuehrl. My faith is in God, not in men.

The Church can reconnect with people on a personal level, as it connected with me. But not if its leaders appear unresponsive to rightful criticism for their failings, and not if they do less than everything they can to root out the soul-destroying evil that has taken residence in our midst.

Donavan Wilson is a writer based in Washington, D.C.