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Sydney’s baptism boom has us beaming with pride

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Photo credit: Alphonsus Fok

At the Paschal Eucharist mass on 21 April, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP joyfully described the “bumper crop” of 250 new Catholics as “international stars,” relaying news that this year’s record number of new Catholics had made global headlines.

In what Archbishop Fisher called “great news for our city”, the Archdiocese of Sydney’s boom in conversions, as reported by The Catholic Weekly in late February, made headlines in Italian newspaper Avvinere, apparently delighting the Vatican.

Beaming with pride, Archbishop Fisher welcomed the neophytes no longer as “Catholics to be” but “fully fledged brothers and sisters in Christ” into their new “one spiritual family.”

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For the many new faithful who gathered in the Cathedral College Hall after Mass to meet the archbishop and celebrate with their families, it was the culmination of months of deep preparation and anticipation.

Qantas Pilot Gary King with Archbishop Fisher and wife Andrea. Gary became Catholic after seeing Andrea draw on her faith during her father’s passing. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Qantas Pilot Gary King began his journey to faith when he witnessed the strength his wife Andrea drew from her Catholic faith, after her father’s passing last year.

“I could see how Andrea’s faith helped her through that. So I signed up for RCIA last year through Holy Family at Menai,” Gary said.

“What a ride! It’s been awesome. I’m flying with extra wings now.”

“I want that. I think this is the right time. I want to become a Catholic,” Andrea, a flight attendant, recalled her husband saying—tears welling up in both their eyes.

With ages ranging from those nearing their 70’s to those just inching into their 20’s, the diverse demographic of new converts to the church was on full display.

Many if the young catechumens and candidates were surprised by the number of Generation Z coming to the faith.

Twenty-year-old Justin Sommers is one of them. Raised without faith he began searching for a greater purpose last year, when he felt the Holy Spirit guide him to the church.

“It’s great to see so many young people who, when faced with the reality of the world they’re growing up in, choose to turn to Christ,” Justin said.

“Especially in an age where it’s easier to turn your brain off and pursue worldly vices.”

Photo Credit: Alphonsus Fok

Rebecca Mahony, a 28-year-old from St Brendan’s in Annandale, believes the number of young people joining the church reflects a thriving archdiocese.

“There’s always something on. Every Sunday morning, church is full. And if you want to go to adoration or a procession there’s always something to participate in the life of the archdiocese,” she said.

“It’s been a long time coming but it’s really nice to finally be in full communion with the church. I love being Catholic!”

Maxwell John Vincent de Paul Taplin, age 20, is studying a bachelor of marketing but now intends to switch to theology at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney.

“It’s been life changing. I never expected this to happen, but my conversion shows that Christ is really working through this generation and that young people are really longing for God and are not fulfilled with secularism,” he said.

“I was a Protestant but stepped back, when I realised the Catholic Church was the fullness of what God wants for all of us.”

“It was an amazing witness for the hope of our church to see so many Catholics welcomed. What was more beautiful was the archbishop’s presence and continued support and prayers for the neophytes,” said Hazel Lim, Mission Manager with the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.

“It’s a celebration not just for the neophytes but also for the RCIA co-ordinators, sponsors and the parish priests who walked with them through this process and are still journeying with them.”

Photo credit: Alphonsus Fok

One of those attending with her RCIA sponsor is 29-year-old marketing professional, Eden Cox, from All Hallows at Five Dock.

“I was baptised Anglican, but I’ve always been called to the church and aspired to be a part of the church, but I was too scared,” Eden said.

“I just arrived to Sydney last year and something just told me the time is now. That’s when I did the RCIA program with Martha. I’ve been a bit lost and it brought me back to God.”

By her side is her RCIA sponsor, 68-year-old Martha, glowing with pride, herself a new Catholic last year.

“I’m very proud of her and I’m looking to doing it again next year,” said Martha.

“I’ve learnt so much and I can’t get enough of God. And I want to share it with the world. When the archbishop mentioned Italy was happy with the numbers, it gives us motivation to double the numbers next year!”

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