By Barbara Chenevert
The Catholic Commentator
For 16-year-old Brett, the Catholic Church feels like home.
Page 1 rossPS.tif The nine members of the Todd Ross family being baptized at the Easter Vigil at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs are, from left, dad, Todd, holding Joseph; mom, Samantha; LeAnne; Hayden; Blake; Hunter; Logan; and Brett. Photo by Barbara Chenevert | The Catholic Commentator

Fourteen-year-old LeAnne said simply, “I was meant to be here.”
And 13-year-old Hunter can’t wait to be baptized so he “can go into the water like Jesus did.”
Nine members of the Todd and Samantha Ross family of Walker – ranging in age from 40-year-old Todd to 10-month-old Joseph – will be baptized together at the Easter Vigil at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs. It is the largest family to be baptized at one time at Immaculate Conception.
“I never really went to church with my parents,” said dad Todd Ross. “When I got old enough to make a decision, I started looking around. I was exposed to non-Catholic viewpoints, but they didn’t make sense. When I explored Catholicism, it all made sense.
“I had been indecisive, but the kids were getting older and if I didn’t commit they would bounce around and be confused.” As a father, I have a responsibility for their spiritual upbringing,” he continued.
A prolific reader, Ross said he began reading everything he could about the Catholic faith. He called Father Jason Palermo, a friend of his aunt, to ask some questions and talked to him for more than an hour before deciding definitely to begin RCIA classes at Immaculate Conception.
Mom Samantha said she had been to Pentecostal and Baptist churches in the past, but decided to follow the lead of her husband into the Catholic Church and found, “It was the right choice.”
The Rosses and their seven children, ages 16 years to 10 months, attend Mass together every Sunday. “I love to see their faces. We sit right up in the front so they can see everything,” Todd said. All but the three youngest – Joseph, Hayden and Logan – are enrolled in RCIA or RCIC classes.
“They are a really neat family,” said Immaculate Conception RCIA coordinator Judy Graphia. “To get seven kids ready for 9 a.m. Mass every Sunday is a big commitment. But they are always there,” she said. “Todd has been diligent about getting the family into the program here.”
LeAnne, the only girl among the seven siblings, said, “I think the Catholic Church is much prettier. When I first walk in and see the stained glass, it feels like a church. It feels like I was meant to be here. It feels right.” A cheerleader and straight A student at Walker Freshman School, LeAnne said the Catholic Church is “different in a good way. Everything seems to flow better.”
Blake, 11, said the Catholic Church was “funner” than the Baptist Church he attended with a friend, because it does things that “relate to Jesus. When we go into church we genuflect, put down the kneeler and pray. I never did that before.”
Brett, a sophomore at Walker High School, said the Catholic faith was different from what he had expected. “I never went to church until I came here. I like it better.”
Learning about the faith has prompted the family to bring religious articles into the home, including an Advent wreath that Blake described as “Cool. We stood as a family around the table and lit the wreath every Sunday and said the prayers together as a family,” he said.
And dad brought home a prayer to say before meals, he added.
Samantha said studying the Catholic faith has made the family more positive, although both Todd and Samantha agree that they have always tried to instill goodness and principles as they reared their children. “I didn’t know until later that what I was teaching them was the Catholic teachings,” Todd said.
“The Catholic Church is the last bastion for families. Everything else is falling like dominoes. I hope the church never backs down from its moral standards,” he added.
Instruction in the Catholic faith has opened doors of friendship for them also. “People would always ask us if we were Catholic, especially at the ballpark, I guess because we were a large family. Now we can say ‘yes.’ ” Samantha said. And several of the children said they now talk about their faith with other Catholics, now that they have gained knowledge.
Hunter added, “I meet people now that I didn’t know were Catholics. I didn’t know anything about being Catholic. I didn’t even know what it meant.”
And Blake likes to “wear his faith on his sleeve,” his dad said. “He loves to tell everybody” about his new found religion.”
The wonderful parishioners of Immaculate Conception and Father Frank Uter have “flung open the doors for us with their support and encouragement,” Todd said.
Ross, a digital control technician, said after the Newtown Connecticut school shootings he started reading a Bible that his son, Hunter, had given him. “I had never read the Bible. I read it all. You cannot read the Bible without it pointing to Catholicism.”
He said he used to joke around about having 10 kids but he never really intended it. As for Samantha she wanted a boy and a girl. “But I love them all. Anytime one or two are out of the house you want them back in,” she said.
LeAnne observed that they all seem happier since discovering Jesus in the Catholic faith, but they are still the typical family. “We still have our arguments, just not as bad as it used to be,” she said.