WHAT THEY SAID
As thousands of Catholics and other Christians celebrated the final week of the life of Jesus and his resurrection, many parishes witnessed examples of people who found God’s call too strong to ignore ... This is Melanie's story...
Melanie with Fr Ray Chapman SM,
parish priest of St Patrick’s.
I think I actually began this journey when I was a child; however, I just didn’t know it then. I visited different churches
with family and friends and had a keen interest, although I just couldn’t find the right place for me. My parents
separated before I was born and I grew up in a house where there was a great deal of love. My sister came along and
my mum married my stepfather, a very kind man of Italian heritage. I have a very vivid and warm memory of Sunday
morning Mass with my nonna.
We moved houses and I changed schools a couple of times and my sense of community and engagement constantly
shifted. Faith settled deep within me but without a context; my shepherd was yet to find me. Years passed and I grew
into adulthood filled with a burning desire to succeed: university, work, marriage all filled my life until I thought there
was no more room, no more time. But then, a miracle – the miracle of life. Aside from the odd bout of morning sickness,
my pregnancy was remarkable for how perfectly normally it was progressing but suddenly after only one birthing class
on an otherwise ordinary evening life threw me the most amazing challenge and gift. After a week in hospital going in
and out of labour our baby was eager to come into the world and an unexpected journey opened up before us. On
19 November, 2012, three months before her due date, we welcomed into the world a beautiful baby girl named Kennedy. At just 1.32kg she had a bit of growing to do. We spent the next 84 days with her in hospital supporting her growth and development so that we could bring her home. We saw so much sadness and so much joy; in my heart I prayed and prayed. It was a time of reflection and a true test of us as a family, a time to discover hope, a time when I heard God. We supported each other and just focused on getting her home. Bringing my girl home was a joyous occasion, a corner turned, new hope and endless joy; in my heart there was a new drive, a voice, a calling.
While walking one day on maternity leave, I suddenly found myself standing in front St Patrick’s, Church Hill, only a few minutes from our home. I noticed the RCIA program flyer on the notice board. I rang the number on the flyer and it was answered by a kind and gentle voice – Sr Fidelis. I had found my shepherd. Sr Fidelis was wonderful. I was unable to attend the weekly classes at 6pm as it was a tough time for feeding and bathing the baby. However, every week she allowed me to come on a Friday morning so that I could attend the class on a one-on-one basis. I found this truly valuable. She is a very passionate and a fantastic teacher. I was fortunate to have my mum visit on a Friday to look after Kennedy while I attended class; on weekends I did my homework. I found the reading, exercises and video assignments insightful.
We baptised Kennedy at St Brigid’s at Millers Point in September and we have her on the list to – hopefully – attend the local Catholic primary school. I look forward to being able to help her with her homework and to give my perspective on her religion studies as she undergoes her own journey.
On Saturday evening after months of study, I was privileged to be baptised and confirmed at St Patricks, Church Hill. It was a wonderful service filled with joy led by our parish priest, Fr Ray Chapman, SM. My favourite part was the confirmation when I received the sign of the cross on
my forehead. It was a magical feeling. I had a wonderful baptism sash which Sr Fidelis provided me to work with
and my mum gave me so wonderful sparkles and I decorated the sash with the initials of those who contributed
to my journey.
My sponsor was Sue-Ellen, Kennedy’s godparent. She is a devoted practising Catholic, who gave me useful
tips and insights along the way. It was a privilege to have her support on my journey. She lives in Rockdale
and travelled into Sydney city on many occasions to support me and I’m truly grateful for her kindness
Matt, my husband, also a Catholic, came to many Sunday Masses with me and we took turns holding Kennedy, a
nice family thing to do on a Sunday.I think I gave him insights on the theory and history behind the scriptures and
also it was nice to get another perspective along the way. From his perspective I always felt warmth and one of the
things he said to me is that it’s about “what’s in your heart”.
So now I hope I can be as charitable as others on my journey. I look forward to having a continuing presence in our parish community and hope to participate where I can.
Melanie Evans attends St Patrick’s parish, Church Hill.
" RCIA was an incredible journey of discovery and deepening of faith.
I would recommend it to anyone who is exploring Catholicism and any
Catholics who can, should get involved as a sponsor." Chris said
This is Judith's story.....
‘I don’t need a theologian – all I want is someone to travel the journey with the group,’ Sr Fidelis.
A JOYFUL JOURNEY – THE RCIA
I admit to having misgivings when Sr Fidelis invited me to become a sponsor.
While I agreed immediately to her invitation to mentor a candidate within the RCIA, the misgivings quickly
followed because I had to admit my knowledge of Catholic lore was dated. When I revealed my doubts to
Sr Fidelis, she replied with her usual good humour that she did not want a theologian – all she wanted was
someone to travel the journey with the group!
So now, misgivings and all, I am on that journey.
I delight in it. I love the diversity of peoples. My fellow travellers come from all different countries, backgrounds
and philosophies. The size of the group ebbs and flows with life’s outside demands. And, I have been linked up
with Georgia, a charming and generous candidate. So it is partly like a personal development course for me as
well as for Georgia. We are encouraged to use a journal to record whatever we like. It can contain feelings,
emotions or our gratitude for blessings received as we travel the journey.
We are learning a lot about the Church and the Bible. My particular interests are meditation, contemplation
and prayer. Our ideas of praying are being enriched by the examples of prayer from our Catholic heritage
.Some of the examples date from as early as the fourth century and have been written by people such as St Benedict, St Richard of Chichester, and St Catherine of Siena. They are simple prayers expressing the same life concerns and yearnings as we have today.
Although I had always prayed, it now is a highlight in my life. At home I now have my own small prayer group consisting of myself and the atheist from next door. We started praying for his sons and our list has been extended with the additions of others who are sick, or jobless, or burdened in some other way. Every morning we meet and read our prayer together. It is dynamic, and changes all the time, sometimes daily, when we become aware of new troubles afflicting our circle of friends. And, we always give thanks for blessings received. It is not formal but conversational and sometimes even contains touches of humour. My non-believing friend enjoys it and feels it is a positive thing to do.
And it works!!!
We of the RCIA are really only at the beginning of our journey. It provides my life with belonging, meaning, and an opportunity to grow in many ways. It is a joyful journey.
I am in exactly the place I want to be and I am grateful.
Jonathan found the RCIA process at Saint Patrick's very helpful; he says:
RCIA program has been an amazing experience and a wonderful aid in my journey to a deeper
relationship with God.
It helped me with answers and misconceptions about the Catholic faith.
It was also comforting to have others alongside on the journey and encouraging to be able to share
with each other.
T here was a genuine feeling of support, advice and experience from the program.
MY BAPTISM EXPERIENCE - Cecilia's story
My story is quite a complicated one. A few years ago, I was officially baptized as a member of the Catholic faith. However, growing up, I was being told that I was baptized as a baby in church and then at the end of my teenage years, I was told that it was the opposite. Until then, I was a practising Catholic. All of a sudden, all I had known about myself was wrong. For a while, I was in shock.
At this point, I realized that I also had a choice. The choice to choose the path of being an atheist. Life for me has been quite difficult. What I love and want to do keeps getting obstacles in its path and as hard as I tried, I never got far enough. Things usually looked bad for me. This started giving me a little bit of doubt. And I had to admit that the idea of not worrying about sin and not dedicating myself to God had crossed my mind. The temptation was there.
Suffice to say that I immediately dismissed it. There is no doubt in my mind that the Lord has created our world in his universe. Our world, with all its faults, also contains God's various beauties, miracles and wonders which in my view are 'magic'. Examples of his magic (aside from those I've read in the Bible) I have come across include: faith, love, kindness, friendship, music, nature and art.
I want to spread the word and indeed the 'magic' that I have heard and seen from God.
I believe that the Lord gives us all a unique gift for us to discover in ourselves to use for good purposes. My gift from the Lord happens to be my voice.
As a cantor soloist for my Catholic high school, I absolutely loved singing sacred music in church and for all events for the Lord. I especially love the music of Mozart and all the other brilliant composers God has graced with his 'magic'. I love sharing with others my God given gift. Singing truly makes me feel much closer to the Lord and Jesus, it's a wonderful feeling, and I also believe that everyone should sing for the Lord as well.
I had learnt a long time ago that Jesus and God do love us all, individually and all together. I do want to be a part of that love, that 'magic' of love that unites us together under the trinity of the Lord.
So Baptism was definitely for me. It took courage to go through everything as I did, to renew my faith. Even though I was a little afraid, the Baptism itself felt completely right to me and it was a wonderful experience to have it as an adult and remember it all. My confirmation was equally a wonderful experience. It was really exciting and I loved every moment. My faith is strong and I will always praise and thank God for all the good things.
I'd have to say that being sure that I am baptized and confirmed makes me feel so much more connected to God than before, and our relationship is going great. I invite everyone to discover the 'magic' that comes from the Lord, whether it is from faith, love, friendship, kindness, music, art or nature.
The following are statements from some of other people who have gone through the RCIA process at Saint Patrick's.
James(right) says: I have found the RCIA experience enlightening. I was pleasantly surprised with how it lifted my understanding of the history, traditions and teaching of the Catholic Church and, in turn, deepened my faith.
This is a life-changing experience.
And from Leon (left): The RCIA at St Patrick's was a great experience. You will meet people who are at a similar stage in their own journey with Jesus and are about to take the same step .
A fulfilling experience with many laughs on the way!