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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Convert's path defies trend
Pentecostal to Catholic was no easy transition for a Puerto Rican.
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN and SHERRI DAY, Times Staff Writers
Published November 23, 2007
Fernando Casanova speaks to a group of Catholics on Saturday at Leto High School in Tampa. Years of Pentecostal doubts led him to convert to Catholicism, which strained family relations.
[ROSS MANTLE | Times]
TAMPA - Fernando Casanova grew up in a strong Pentecostal family in Puerto Rico.
By his 30s, he was a pastor with his own ministry and a loving wife who worked by his side. But in 2002 Casanova renounced his faith - and decided to join the Roman Catholic Church.
His congregation was shocked, his family was horrified, and his wife left him.
"I fought with God," said Casanova, now 43. "I told him, 'I do what you say, now you take my wife away.'"
Those around him could not have been more stunned. Many Protestants, particularly conservatives such as Pentecostals, don't like bedrock Catholic beliefs and principles. He also bucked a trend among Hispanics who convert the other way - from Catholic to Pentecostal.
Casanova's conversion was no overnight epiphany. Wracked with doubts about divisions among Protestants, his search for answers took four years, a story he now shares with Hispanic charismatic Catholics in twice-monthly lecture tours, including one this week in Tampa.
The more he dug into the New Testament, Casanova said, the more disillusioned he grew with the rift among Protestant sects and with what he saw as showmanship and varied interpretations of the Bible.
He came to believe in the Catholic Church as Christ's appointed institution. But Casanova didn't abandon his charismatic roots.
He founded La Alianza Formativa, a Catholic evangelism alliance in the Archdiocese of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Eventually, Casanova's wife converted, and the two reconciled. She and their three children accompany him on tours.
"The only explanation I can give after four years is that I became Catholic because there wasn't another option," Casanova said.