Geronimo Melqui came to Australia on a working holiday and was surprised to find God waiting for him in Bondi.
“I came with friends looking for the beaches and party lifestyle but I had been seeking the truth,” he said.
“In Sydney I have really practiced surrendering everything to God who has given me peace in worldly matters as well as spiritual.”
After backpacking his way with friends around Vietnam and Thailand the 24-year-old business graduate was living near St Patrick’s church at Catholic Parish Bondi.
He started attending Mass and parish social events for young adults.
He quickly made new friends who shared his desire to fully live his faith and was offered the opportunity to live in the Catholic men’s sharehouse in the parish.
“There was a moment where I found myself altar serving at Mass for the first time, receiving the Eucharist at the altar and thinking ‘How did I get here?’” Geronimo said.
“I still struggle as a human being to change my old self but I’m learning about trusting God’s will for me.
“As long as I have God I have everything.”
Geronimo was one of 47 adults confirmed at St Mary’s Cathedral last month by Bishop Daniel Meagher, choosing St Augustine as his confirmation saint.
Although confirmation is normally received in the parish where one lives, the cathedral hosts one or two special confirmations each year for adults who have not yet received the sacrament.
Geronimo was baptised as an infant, and while his parents were not regular churchgoers he said he received good Catholic values from them.
“But my friends and I acted in ways that are so normalised in our society but are really not good,” he said.
“In Argentina I went through many phases of trying to fill that void in my heart which, when you do not have the objective truth in your life, you follow idols—whether it is money, fitness, or something else.
“For me the philosophy of Stoicism gave me a sense of meaning but in the end I admitted to God that nothing was working for me.
“At one low point in my life shortly before leaving Argentina I started praying very deeply.
“The next day, I believe God gave a grace to help me break off my old habits and lifestyle and render myself to him entirely.
“But I was worried about being away with my non-Catholic friends.”
A good friend in Argentina encouraged Geronimo in his newfound faith, but here in Sydney the friendship and support from parish priest Fr Anthony Robbie and Bondi’s young Catholics, including his sponsor John Sparksman, made the biggest difference.
“In Bondi I found friends who really have the will to live their faith,” he said.
“And with my old friends, I want to be an example for them, to preach without words and not judge them because they are good people and I once was where they are.”