783 Elect will be baptised and 58 candidates (those who have already been baptised as non-Catholic Christians) received into the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil celebrations. Following are three stories from those soon to “enter into new life” – Mimi Wong, Francis Ng and Joan Wong
Mimi Wong to be baptised after 16-year wait
IN 1987, MY parents enrolled me in CHIJ, Opera Estate. That was the beginning of my encounter with God.
My parents were from East Malaysia. They sent me to Singapore for a better education. Both my parents were “Catholic” in their own way. My father was brought up by an Irish priest in the 1950s in Sabah. He cooked and cleaned and also served as an altar boy. In return, the priest taught my father how to read and write. My mother was educated at a convent in Kota Kinabalu, which was run by “ang moh” nuns in those days.
After I was settled in Singapore, my parents left. I was alone. Like many other foreign students, I missed my family. Yet I sort of enjoyed the feeling of this new-found freedom. Thankfully God guided me.
Through various school activities, I got to know God better. I lived with a Catholic family. One day, my guardian brought me to Church of the Holy Family. Then I joined the church choir and attended Mass regularly. God became my friend. I prayed and talked to Him often, so much so that I even contemplated becoming a nun. (My father almost fainted when I told him that!).
After my secondary school education, I returned to Malaysia and I am ashamed to say that for the next 16 years, I turned my back on God completely. I stopped going to church. I told myself , “Oh well, there is no church in town, no need to go for Mass!”
Gradually, I prayed less. With no support from school and church, I soon forgot about God. I started to pray to other gods, dabble in fortune-telling, became increasingly self-centered and rebellious and I focused on money. Worst of all, I had no love in me.
I went to England to further my education with my siblings. It was a difficult period for my family because of the financial crisis. We took up a couple of part-time jobs each in order to survive. After graduation, I stayed on in London for a year or so. I had problems establishing a career and had no money. Outwardly I appeared confident and strong but inwardly I was deeply unhappy and frustrated. I clung on desperately to a relationship. It didn’t work out. My life was at its lowest point.
During my difficult times, I never thought of turning to God for help. Instead I continued to depend on my own strength. After some months of serious consideration, I decided that it was time to come home for good. I returned to Malaysia.
Sudden urge to go to church
Shortly after, I moved to Singapore to work and have been here ever since. About 18 months ago, I suddenly felt a need to go to church. But I dismissed this “need” immediately, thinking to myself, “Nah! It’s just my imagination!”
But I began to act a little strangely. For no apparent reason, I wanted to find out about God. I wanted to know Him. I found joy in listening to God’s stories. Slowly, I began to acknowledge and respond to this “need”, which was growing stronger inside me. (Now I know that when God knocks on our hearts, this knocking will not stop until we open our hearts to Him.)
A few months later, summoning all my courage, I went to a nearby church called Church of QueenMass. The guilt was overwhelming and God’s welcoming me home was too much to bear. This “crying process” continued for weeks each time I went to church. of Peace. I walked into it and ‘hid’ myself quickly in a corner. Shortly after I sat down, I started to cry. I cried throughout the whole
I was no longer satisfied to be an “outsider”. So once again, I summoned all my courage and approached Father Francis on becoming a Catholic. He explained that all “Catholic wannabes” must attend RCIA for a year. “Why so long…” I thought. Anyway I signed up.
Time passed by so quickly and my faith journey is now near its end. I realise that God never abandoned me during my difficult and agonising years. Through friends and family, God has always provided me with words of encouragement, support and comfort. In retrospect, He took care of me in every situation. I am learning to trust and believe in Him. If He could take care of me when I rejected Him, what more now that I am facing Him.
I learnt through the many activities at RCIA that being Catholic is not just simply about attending Masses. There are many ways to serve the Church and community. I will miss the Sunday sharing sessions and serving at the parish canteen as part of our community service. Sharing is a good way to know God better, enrich each other and build friendships.
By the grace of God, an amazing thing happened during my journey. My sister Susan followed me to the RCIA sessions sometimes and more frequently later on. She confided to me that God had opened her heart during those months. Coming from a Protestant background, she had always misunderstood the Catholic Church and its teaching. She initially tagged along to make sure that I was not joining a cult group! But God used me and my journey to touch and open her eyes. I am very proud to say that she will join the RCIA journey in 2010.
The one fear I had back then, was the one-year duration of the RCIA journey. I was afraid I might not have the strength to complete it but amazingly, I came week after week, with the same enthusiasm and eagerness to find out more about God.
In the beginning all I knew about RCIA is that it is a must if one is serious about becoming a Catholic. Now I feel it was my best Friday nights out in my whole life! It was a journey of discovery – learning more about myself and my spiritual life, something completely beyond my expectations.
I am now excited and counting the days to my baptism. I feel very blessed to be called by God to be part of His family. I look forward to receiving the Eucharist wholeheartedly and am very proud to tell others I am a Catholic.
After my Easter baptism, I hope to use God’s given talent and ability to serve Him. I also aspire, with God’s strength, to be the ‘fifth gospel’ to other people by living God’s commandments. My coming home to the Lord, after 16 years of wandering, is like a lost sheep being reunited with the shepherd. I am grateful that I shall wander no more because from this day on, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” – Psalms 23.
Francis Ng embraces Catholic faith mostly because of family and caring friends
I STUDIED AT Christian Brothers’ schools during my early years, and there I witnessed how the Brothers lived and participated in their daily prayers. Yes, those Brothers made an impact on my life. But my conversion to Catholicism didn’t happen earlier as I was open to all faith even though I had, without fail, been saying the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary daily.
I married Doreen in September 1984. I was in the Army and she was a dental nurse. Both of us were free thinkers then.
As time went on, we decided to start a family and two sons, Calvin and Darren, came into our lives. As they grew up, I believed that they had to embrace a faith to give them strength. So I sent them for catechism while my wife Doreen attended RCIA at Church of Christ the King. Doreen was baptised in 1997.
In June 2008, I experienced a mild stroke and was hospitalised for nine days. During this time of solitude, I felt the special presence of love, care and concern around me. Many of my colleagues, friends, and relatives visited me. Some friends encouraged me to attend healing Masses while others said prayers for me to get well. My Catholic friends and colleagues, especially, prayed over and strengthened me. This touched me greatly and eventually led me to embrace the Catholic faith. I believe God’s love at that period in my life touched me so much that I was healed and recovered so fast from my stroke. Indeed God gave me strength through His people. It was then that I determined to answer His call to the Catholic faith.
After my discharge from hospital, I broke the good news to my family that I had decided to join the RCIA. They were overwhelmed with joy that their prayers were answered.
During my RCIA at Church of St. Stephen, I felt so touched by the sharing from catechumens, sponsors, catechists and Father Khoo. The journey became easy when I went with a determined mind and an open heart to learn and build my relationship with God, our Father.
I was apprehensive sometimes that I may not find the time to attend classes. But as I prayed and surrendered to Jesus, He provided me the means to journey in the faith. My wife was my greatest inspiration then, even making sure that I had my meals before every RCIA session. Every session made me a better person – I became more patient, loving and peaceful – and increased my faith in Jesus.
God chooses to do His work in His time. I have never been pressured to embrace the Catholic faith despite having Catholic friends and family. He set me free to pick the choices I made in my life. I could have been influenced to attend catechism classes when I was in school. Or Doreen could have influenced me to attend RCIA with her by pressuring me to be a role model for our kids.
Instead, God showed me His love through all these little happenings in my life: first, through the constant sharing of Doreen’s RCIA and my kids’ catechism lessons in our usual family conversations; then seeing God through the love, care and concern of those who visited me in hospital. I felt God’s open arms welcoming me personally as if I was His Prodigal Son.
As I ready for baptism, I thank and proclaim that God is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life. The baptism date, Apr 11, is special too because it is the birthday of my wife whom I love very much. I must thank my family for standing by me.
Joan Chong feels blessed to belong to universal Church
Joan Chong will be baptised at her parish of St. Mary of the Angels this Easter. Before becoming
a Catholic, she had already the experience of going for World Youth Day in Sydney last year
“THE FIRST TIME I heard about Jesus was when I was in Primary Five,” recalled Joan. “A lady came up to me at the MRT station and shared the Gospel with me. She called me every week after that to invite me to church, but I didn’t go. I stepped into a church for the first time only a year later, when a friend brought me there.”
In subsequent years, Joan continued to attend church services with her friends. “My Taoist parents allowed me to attend church, but my mother did not allow me to get baptised. They were worried that I would not be able to find a husband from the same faith,” she grinned. “They were also afraid that if I were to become a Christian, there would be no one to offer prayers for them after they passed away.”
Only when Joan had a boyfriend did her mother eventually allow her to get baptised. It was her boyfriend Raphael who brought her to the Catholic Church.
“My first time attending a Catholic Mass was the day that we got together in September 2007,” she recalled. “I was attracted to the Mass for its universality – the sequence of the Mass is the same everywhere. It is not like this in the Protestant churches that I’ve been to.”
Since then Joan continued to attend Masses with Raphael until one day, while attending Mass at the parish of St. Mary of the Angels, Joan responded to an announcement for the new RCIA cycle.
In her parish, RCIA is conducted through home sessions with a monthly enrichment class by parish priest Father John-Paul Tan.
“The home sessions were more of faith-sharing sessions, and through them, I’ve seen how everyone has grown, and my faith has deepened,” she said. “I’ve learnt a lot from my sponsor, who has been a great support to me in my journey to the Catholic faith. She is someone who has a lot of faith in God, such that she doesn’t worry much. I pray that I can learn to be like her and let go of my flaws.”
In sharing her conversion story, Joan frequently makes mention of Raphael, who has been her pillar of support in this journey. Despite being from a different parish, Raphael signed up as a sponsor at her RCIA course.
“He made the journey with me, and he tries to be with me as much as possible in the course. It helps that he is someone who is deeply rooted in his faith,” said Joan. “He lent me two books to read: ‘Rome Sweet Home’, a conversion story by Catholic apologists Scott and Kimberly Hahn, and another book ‘Catholic Answers to Fundamentalist Questions’. These two books helped me answer a lot of questions that I had about the Catholic faith.”
Coming from a Protestant background, Joan initially found it “weird” that Catholics pray to saints, angels, and Mary, the mother of God. “The only saint that I pray to is St. Anthony, the patron saint of lost items. He’s helped me find something twice,” the 28-year-old receptionist revealed.
When asked about her pilgrimage to Sydney last year to meet the pope, Joan said, “It was Raphael who told me about World Youth Day. He wanted me to go on this pilgrimage to experience for myself the richness of being part of the universal Catholic family, and yes, to see the pope too!”
“At World Youth Day, I saw how blessed it was to be called to the Catholic faith. It has affirmed me that this is the right choice for me. There’s something about so many Catholics, young and old, from all over the world coming together to worship God, which you won’t find in any other Protestant church because they are just so different from one another. It was amazing,” she beamed.