87-year-old receives new spiritual life with Confirmation, Holy Eucharist

by Lance Murray

North Texas Catholic

November 28, 2017

Edward Geisel (seated) and his confirmation sponsor Art Huber (NTC photo/Lance Murray)

ARLINGTON — You’re never too old to become a Catholic. Just ask 87-year-old Edward Geisel.

A native of Dallas, Geisel spent most of his life as a Protestant, the son of a Protestant mother and a Catholic father who worked for the railroad when Geisel was a child.

“He had very little influence, my mother was the one who had the influences on me,” Geisel said.

He married his wife, Nila, in 1961, and they were wed for 55 years until her death on July 3. Edward worked for Sun Oil, and Nila was a Methodist minister.

Geisel and his wife had two sons, Bob and Howard, and in retirement, the couple moved nearly a year ago into Waterford at Pantego, a senior living community not far from the University of Texas at Arlington campus.

Nila and Edward attended a Methodist church nearby in Arlington. But after passing St. Joseph Parish in Arlington on the way home one day, Edward told his wife something important.

“I was going to the Methodist church with her, but on occasion, I felt the need to go to a Catholic church,” Geisel said.

One night at dinner at Waterford, Edward and Nila told their new friend Art Huber, who is Catholic, about Edward’s desire to attend Mass. Nila encouraged Edward to pursue it.

Father Daniel Kelley anoints the forehead of Edward Geisel with oil during his confirmation. (Photo courtesy of St. Joseph Catholic Church)

Huber connected Geisel with Father Daniel Kelley and Dawn Ward, director of evangelization and adult catechesis at St. Joseph. They helped Geisel navigate the process of conversion —catechesis, followed a few weeks ago by confirmation and receiving the Eucharist.

Geisel realized his dream after his wife’s death, but he feels blessed with his new spiritual life.

“God works in mysterious ways, and he was working in my life,” Geisel said.

Huber became Geisel’s sponsor and has helped guide him along his path in Catholicism, and that’s just fine with Geisel.

“We are just good friends,” Geisel said of Huber.

“I had an opportunity to work with him, and that was gratifying,” Huber said. “He’s very willing to learn.”

Ward said working with Geisel was fun because he is a happy person.

“He is an extremely genuine person who was determined to become Catholic,” Ward said. “God has blessed me to be able to work with people like Eddie who are seeking greater relationship with Christ through his Church.”

Geisel is one of a number of older people who choose to convert.

“While converting to Catholicism is not extremely common for persons Eddie’s age, it does occur about 1 in 1,000 conversions,” Ward said.  “Many of those who convert at that age have similar stories to that of Eddie and were introduced to Catholicism at an earlier age.”

She said that Geisel, “shared many stories of his childhood and told me he was a ‘closet Catholic,’ which he defined as a person who would sneak out and attend Mass when his family did not know.”

Ward said that the first time she attended Mass with Geisel, no one knew he would be at St. Joseph that weekend. 

“Father Dan told me that Eddie was standing in the middle of the sanctuary not sure where to sit,” Ward said. “I had other plans that morning, but rearranged my schedule to celebrate Mass with him. He knew the Mass responses and was eager to participate.”

Geisel plans on regularly attending Mass.

“I’m 87 years old, and I hope to be in church every Sunday,” he said.

When asked what the next big thing would be in his life, Geisel responded with humor.

“Well, when you stop and think about, I already did something big,” he said.

ARLINGTON — You’re never too old to become a Catholic. Just ask 87-year-old Edward Geisel.

Published (until 11/28/2033)