Ms Wan XiaotianMs Wan XiaotianNew Catholics who joined the Church at the recent Easter vigil share their faith journeys with Lorna O’Hara

Fiancee’s Catholic family gave her a boost

“God had called me through my fiancee and his family,” said 27-year-old Wan Xiaotian from China.

“I watched his Catholic family embrace the Lord in their personal and family life,” she said.

Ms Wan shared that she followed her mother to Christian church services in China since young. But she “did not feel the calling to become a Christian”, she said.

In 2010, when she visited a Catholic church during a field trip, “that was the first moment in my life that I wanted to know more about the Catholic faith,” she said.

“I knew that I wanted to be God’s child since young but I was having a conflict with myself of whether to be a Protestant Christian just like my parents,” she said. 

After informing her parents of her decision to attend the RCIA programme at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, (SMOTA) Ms Wan was surprised when they were suportive, she said.

It was tough for Ms Wan to fully commit to the RCIA programme as she was working.

But “in early 2013, I resigned... and went for SMOTA’s ongoing inquiry for RCIA” in 2014.

Throughout the programme, Ms Wan said that she has felt her relationship with God strengthen.

Ms Wan says she wishes to  join a Neighbourhood Christian Community group and be a volunteer in SMOTA’s Five Loaves bakery just like her fiancee’s parents.

Couple baptised with their eldest child at Easter

Ms Caroline West seen with husband Marc Sin and their children (from left):  Amelia, Amberly and Alessandra.Ms Caroline West seen with husband Marc Sin and their children (from left): Amelia, Amberly and Alessandra.
After newly-wed couple Caroline West, 33, and her husband Marc Sin, 34, moved in together, everything went topsy turvy.

The couple had a traditional Chinese wedding in 2006 as Mr Sin’s parents were Taoists.
 
But Ms West shared that she was raised a Catholic while living in Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Due to the couple’s contrasting beliefs and differences, “we fought, quarelled and screamed at each other... Then we had children. We fought even more,” said Ms West, a Singapore permanent resident.

After five years of fighting, “Our marriage fell apart and we almost divorced,” she said.

Not knowing who to turn to for help, Ms West and her husband decided “that we should let God lead us”, she said.

She recalled vividly that when she lived in KL as a child, “I had a relationship with God”.

Staying with her grandmother and aunt, Ms West attended catechism classes and Mass with her cousins though she never got baptised.

“My grandma and aunt would even organise prayer sessions and Christmas carolling at home,” she added.

However, after moving to Singapore at the age of nine, Ms West was able to attend Masses only on “special occasions”.

She soon stopped saying the Lord’s prayer before bedtime.

Ms West shared that many times during her teenage years, “I wanted to go back to church.”

But after “going to my friends’ [Christian] churches, I did not feel comfortable there,” she said.

Ms West then decided to confide in a Catholic friend who then accompanied the family to Catholic Masses.

During that time, Ms West and her husband signed up for the RCIA course with the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour “as soon as they started handing out the forms”, she said.

Ms West said that it was a challenge to attend RCIA sessions as she gave birth to her third daughter a month into the programme.

Tending to “two school children and a newborn was no easy feat”, said Ms West. Most of the time, the couple was late for the sessions, she said.

Sometimes, they “had to bring all three children”, she said.

Despite this, “the RCIA core team at OLPS was the most helpful and they cared for our girls like their very own,” said Ms
West.

“I know sometimes my girls’ presence was rather disruptive to the others, but the core team never complained. They were extremely patient and understanding,” she said

Looking back at her journey, “I guess God never left me,” she added.

Ms West shared that once she, her husband and her eight-year-old daughter Amelia get baptised, the couple will prepare their two younger daughters for infant baptism in a few days’ time.

She said she also has plans to hold Bible sharing sessions every Sunday evenings with the family, as well as set aside time to pray together.

“Both my husband and I aim to join the RCIA again a year later as sponsors,” she added.

Mother’s fear of losing child drew her close to God

Ms Elizabeth Lim and her husband Timothy Seow seen here their twin children Caleb and Alicia. Ms Elizabeth Lim and her husband Timothy Seow seen here their twin children Caleb and Alicia. Ms Elizabeth Lim, 43, who was formerly from a non-Catholic church, said she had felt out of place there when she was a teenager, as all her Christian friends “could speak in tongues” while she could not.

Later, she “was moving from one church to another but I never actually felt as if I truly belonged anywhere”.

She shared that while working in a restaurant company, she would go into her Catholic boss’ office to ask her questions related to Catholicism. 

She had been working for this boss for almost 10 years.

“I would go into her office whenever I had a question about God,” she said.

When Ms Lim was pregnant with twins at the age of 38, she and her husband were given a scare when “doctors told me that I might lose one of my twins.”

“My husband who was a freethinker prayed to God to save my child.”

Thus when her twins were born healthy, “I wanted to make sure that my children would not be like mummy,” not belonging to any church, she said.

At work, her boss advised her to attend Mass at the Church of St Mary of the Angels (SMOTA).

Heeding her advice, on Christmas day, Ms Lim strapped her kids into the car and headed to SMOTA.

Upon arrival – 55 minutes late for Mass – Ms Lim broke down.

“I can’t remember if it was a song or a prayer but in five minutes, I was so overwhelmed because I found God and automatically connected with Him,” she said.

After Mass, Ms Lim told her boss that she wanted to become a Catholic and her boss willingly “became my sponsor”.

Ms Lim said she enjoyed her RCIA programme.

“It felt as if I had picked up from where I left off at Sunday school,” she said.   

“Even when I asked questions like, ‘How is Santa Claus related to Christmas?’, I am happy to be in a community which can answer my questions with respect,” said Ms Lim.

Recently when Ms Lim’s father passed away, she “did not cry during his cremation. Instead, I prayed the Hail Mary and as I prayed, I felt myself grow stronger,” she said.

Mr Jimmy LowMr Jimmy Low
‘Maybe God wanted me to live’

Mr Jimmy Low recalled that during his mother’s funeral eight years ago, different prices were charged for the types of religious chants recited.

The same thing happened at his father’s funeral in 2014.

“So what will happen to people who cannot afford to pay for the chants?” the 61-year-old freethinker asked himself.

Another incident in life made a deep impression on him.

While fixing a socket and plug which had caught fire in his home last year, “I didn’t notice that there was a live wire right beside me,” said Mr Low.

“If I had touched it, I would have died.”

After the incident, he came to the realisation that “maybe God wanted me to live”.

But in that same year when his father passed away and he faced challenges with his son, Mr Lim asked himself “Why on earth am I suffering?”

“I was at the lowest point in my life and I felt depressed,” he recalled.

A few days after his father’s passing, Mr Lim passed by the Church of the Holy Trinity which is right behind his home in Tampines.

“Since I have been living behind this church for 16 years, why not attend this church and see what’s it all about?” he said.

He stepped into the church to attend Maundy Thursday Mass and “in the middle of the song, I felt a chill run down my body and I immediately felt comfortable,” said Mr Low.

That was enough for him to want to return to the church.

“The more I wanted to find out about the Catholic religion, the more I came to church,” said Mr Low.

Mr Low shared that in the end, his neighbour encouraged him to attend the RCIA programme.

He settled in and felt “at home”, he said.

Since enrolling in the RCIA programme in June 2014, Mr Low has been going to church to pray at 8.30 am daily.

“I also volunteer at Willing Hands [a group that cleans the parish every week] and clean the church once a week,” he said.

“Even though the journey was long for me, I now feel much happier,” he said.
 
Intrigued by ‘black crosses’ on foreheads on Ash Wednesday

In 2011, Ms Charlene Lim, her husband and their eldest son went to the Church of St Mary of the Angels to admire its architecture.

There, they “saw a group of people talking to each other with black crosses on their foreheads”, Ms Lim recalled.

After finding out that Catholics were celebrating Ash Wednesday, Ms Lim got curious.

“I wanted to know more about Lent and how Catholics prepared for it” and went online to do some research, she said.

While online, she chanced upon the Jesuit website, Pray As You Go (PAYG), which offers a “10-15 minute audio track consisting of a song, a scripture reading, and questions to facilitate reflection on the reading”, she said.

After Ms Lim’s Protestant church closed down, she “decided to take the leap to join a Catholic community”.

She enrolled in the RCIA programme at the Church of St Mary of the Angels (SMOTA) in 2014.

“At first, several alarm bells went off in my head because I disagreed with some of the topics discussed in the inquiry stage,” she said.

Many Protestant Christians believe that if people do not believe in Christ, they “will go straight to hell”, said Ms Lim.

“However, in the Catholic Church, I found out that people did not make such fixed conclusions.”

After attending more sessions, she realised that Catholics “could see expressions of our God in so many other ways other than through the Bible”, said Ms Lim.

Ms Lim admits that throughout the journey “towards being received into the Catholic Church, I had my doubts.”

But she was certain of her decision once she heard Archbishop William Goh’s homily during the Rite of Election on Feb 22.

He delivered his homily with “conviction and fire that helped me feel like I was in good hands,” she said.

Ms Lim said she would like to be a parent volunteer for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She also hopes to join a neighbourhood group at SMOTA.

Christ ‘gave me strength’

Growing up, Ms Immanuella Lim, 22, described her family life as “complicated”.

Family ties became strained when she was just seven years old, and things escalated until Ms Lim, at 16, found herself being separated from her younger brother and sister.

During that time, Ms Lim felt that “the situation was very bleak.”

But during that time, Ms Lim recalled her grandmother bringing her to Novena Church to pray. There, she found out about the RCIA programme.

She told her grandmother that she wanted to become a Catholic but when she enquired about the programme, she was told that she was “too young”.

Ms Lim admitted that along the way, she got “caught up with my education and forgot about the RCIA journey, till I heard that the Church of St Mary of the Angels offered RCIA when I was 21”.

Throughout the programme, her friends, family and boyfriend “supported me by accomodating me in terms of blocking out times and dates so that I could commit to the RCIA”, she said.

Ms Lim realised that joining the Catholic family filled up that missing part of her life.

“God supported me. He journeyed with me, He answered my prayers, He gave me strength,” she said.

Ms Lim plans to become a Chinese lector. She also would like to create mobile apps related to the Catholic faith.

Doctor wanted to ‘stop sitting on fence’

Medical doctor Choong Siew Foong, 56, was born into a strict Taoist family.

Ms Choong shared that from young, her father told her that she was “never to become a Christian. He feared any conversion would stop me from practising Qing Ming [a festival to honour the dead]”, or visiting and sweeping the tombs of relatives who have passed away, she said.

Thus throughout her primary and secondary Catholic school education, “I remember attending compulsory Bible studies with detachment,” she added.

In 2006, when she was struck with ovarian cancer, she felt “resentment against God”, she said.

During that time, her Catholic friends would bring her religious medals and would “pray over me”, she said. This went on throughout her chemotheraphy, surgery, and when she was down with anxiety and on medication for a-year-and-a-half, she said.

They also brought her to see several priests but her encounter with one priest turned sour when “the priest said, ‘Why is it that you come only when you have problems?’” recalled Ms Choong.

After being cleared of ovarian cancer, Ms Choong felt that somehow, “God had been with me.”

She decided to attend Mass at the Church of St Teresa and soon after, she told her friend, now her godmother, that “I wished to stop sitting on the fence.”

Her friend encouraged her to attend the RCIA programme at the church.

Throughout her journey to become a Catholic, Ms Choong said that she learnt how to “turn to God and pray” whenever she needed strength to overcome obstacles in life.

“My RCIA team has become my confidantes and friends. Their efforts in helping a group of strangers get to know God has touched me and shown me the true calling of being Christian... I can say that I can feel God’s presence and love more often,” she said.

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