By Joyce Gan

051.jpgThe day after the Rite of Election on Saturday, Feb 24, 59-year-old Michael Lim, one of 44 catechumens from Holy Spirit parish, was baptized and confirmed, and given First Holy Communion and the Anointing of the Sick. Becoming a Catholic was a day he had wished 40 years for, and it happened, oddly, with the help of two surgeries.

Above, Father Andrew Wong baptizes Michael Lim. Altogether, Mr Lim received four sacraments at once - Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing of the Sick and first Holy Communion.

MICHAEL LIM'S RECEPTION into the Catholic Church took place just a day before a heart bypass and barely a year after his first angioplasty.

"My journey was a very long one," he said. He had gone through catechism and the RCIA at Novena Church back in the 1970s but family pressure prevented him from being baptized. "But it didn't deter me from wanting to know Christ more," he offered.

He kept going to novenas regularly, something he had done since his school days. Even now, if he cannot make it, he feels "unease, like something is missing from my routine", he said. Mr Lim carries his rosary everywhere he goes and recites it frequently.

His love for the Catholic faith never diminished in the last 40 years. He revealed that he "always wanted to get baptized at some point or another" even as he watched his brother, in-laws, cousins and nephews baptized in Protestant churches.

"One by one, they kept moving ahead of me," he smiled.

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A pain in the chest

Despite being a diabetic with high blood pressure and cholesterol problems, Mr Lim exercised regularly. But one morning in April 2006, he broke out in severe cold sweat. At the hospital, tests revealed that 80 percent of his arteries had narrowed. Angioplasty followed, as did a conviction that it was time he responded to God's call.

"From that moment, I told my wife (who will be baptized this Easter), I have to praise the Lord for what he's shown me," he recalled. Together, they enrolled for the RCIA journey at Church of the Holy Spirit.

Ten months later, Mr Lim felt stress around his chest again and after tests, his doctors recommended a bypass.

"At first I thought it was a regular surgery," he recalled. But when the doctors explained the surgical procedure to him he realized they were going to cut through his chest and he became fearful. "I worried about the complications that could come up because of my medical history too. This was when I first considered getting baptized before Easter."

He recalled how he had started the day of his baptism with a lot of anxiety and stress. "I was very caught up with thinking about what's going to happen to me next," he said. Then the Rites began.

"When I received my baptism, I felt very relaxed when everything was taken out of my mind," he said in amazement.

"As far as the confirmation went, when I received the holy chrism, I felt, at last, I was accepted as one of God's chosen son; with the anointing of the sick, I gained more momentum in my courage to go through the process," he shared. "I never once felt like I was going through final rites or anything like that. I have always told myself to surrender completely to God for whatever is happening to me."

The presence of his family, friends and the RCIA community who filled the parish chapel where he was baptized contributed to his positive experience. He added, "I was really overwhelmed by all the support of the people rallying behind me."

The feeling of peace Mr Lim received from the Rites lingered all the way to his surgery.

"The moment I saw light again when I regained consciousness, I was so happy," he said. "I just told myself, praise the Lord for all that has happened."

Mr Lim is currently on medical leave from work but staying idle is difficult for someone used to an active life of work and exercise. He regrets that he is unable to jog and admits that he sometimes feels envious when he sees others jogging.

Reading was something he never liked, but he reads a lot now - the Bible and books about the faith.

Mr Lim is looking forward to the Easter Vigil when his wife and fellow sojourners would be baptized.

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