When Ayla Casey asked for a sign to let her know God is real, she didn’t expect it to be an actual sign.
Early in her two-year journey from atheism to Catholicism the 30-year-old apprentice jeweller had been praying, reading the Bible, and asking questions about the Catholic faith. Then one day, walking through the city engrossed in thought, she suddenly decided to ask God to indicate in some way that he was real.
“The second that I finished that prayer, across my field of vision went a person carrying a sign that read ‘Jesus loves you’. It was too obvious for me to take seriously, I thought it was hilarious,” she told The Catholic Weekly.
In the following weeks, Ayla prayed twice more for some confirmation that God was hearing her prayers. Again, the response was immediate; she was handed a Christian pamphlet, and then saw a skywriter’s message proclaiming God’s love.
“At that point I had to say, this is no longer a coincidence.
“There’s only so much that is given to you before you realise, oh, I don’t need any more signs, I have all the information I need to do something about this.
“I think a lot of people have experienced this in their lives in some way, you don’t need to ask for a sign, God gives us many things to show us the path to take but many people choose not to see it.”
She identifies one of her TAFE teachers, a practicing Catholic who answered many questions about the faith, as the biggest influence on her journey to the Church. Her sponsor has been a great help as well in helping her to think about how to express her Catholicism in everyday life.
Ayla’s also considered other Christian churches, but believes only the Catholic Church holds to the faith in its fullness. Her two-year journey saw her take up praying the rosary daily and giving up listening to heavy metal music because it wasn’t helping her spiritual life.
“It was one of my favourite genres, and Paula Flynn (St Mary’s Cathedral RCIA coordinator) introduced me to St Hildegard because she knew I love music. Now since thinking about and praying to her I haven’t had a problem not listening to it. I think people forget that the saints can guide you in a really easy way and put you in the right direction without being oppressive.”
A time for renewal at Easter
Ayla was one of hundreds of catechumens and candidates who received sacraments of initiation in the Catholic Church across the Archdiocese of Sydney this Easter.
Paula said this year there was a noticeable uptick in people seeking to enter the Church at St Mary’s Cathedral parish this year of different ages and backgrounds.
“Definitely there were people who might never have come to us except that they were sitting at home during lockdowns with not much to do, people increasingly wondering through the pandemic about the meaning of life,” she said.
Also enjoying Easter for the first time in a deeper way were engaged couple Andrew Pham, 26, and Salina Tain, 23. This year they have been learning more about the Catholic faith in preparation for Salina to enter the Church in June at Our Lady of Victories in Horsley Park, when Andrew will also be confirmed.
The couple say they were heavily influenced by their friend who had recently become Catholic.
“While I hadn’t been really taking my faith seriously for about four years I knew that it was true,” said Andrew.
“I realised that in proposing to Salina I was stepping into this realm of being a husband and potentially a father. And I realised that I had to start taking my faith more seriously otherwise I wouldn’t be able to fulfil my duties as a husband to love Salina as Christ loved the Church, nor would I be able to fulfil my duty as a father to lead my family towards Christ.”
Salina found Andrew’s change of heart initially hard to accept as they had been worshipping as Protestants together for a long time.
“I had a very surface knowledge about Catholicism and a lot of misconceptions about it, so I was really hesitant when he started exploring that side of things,” she said. “I didn’t know how we could continue towards marriage and raise children with such different orientations about faith.”
Discovering the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist through the Gospel of John gave her peace.
“That was so profound for me. Jesus could not have made any clearer that he meant the bread and wine he would offer would literally be his body and blood.
“Knowing that only the Catholic Church can give the actual body and blood of Christ is all that matters to me; I want to be close to Jesus and if that is really Jesus then I have to be Catholic.
“I don’t understand a lot of the rest of the stuff about Mary, the saints’ statues and everything but I don’t need to right now. I believe in the Eucharist and that is something I need to partake in.”
“Knowing that only the catholic church can give the actual body of christ is all that matters to me; i want to be close to jesus and if that is really jesus then i have to be catholic”.
Ayla says that she was always spiritual in a sense.
“I knew something was there. I just didn’t know what to name it. The world gave me every solution to this longing in my heart, but I realised it was God calling me home the whole time.
“I’m so excited to now be part of the Catholic community and have people alongside me on a life-long journey.”
New RCIA Certification Course
Would you like to know how to accompany others interested in becoming Catholic?
If so, please join us and bring others who have a desire to renew their parish community for the RCIA Certification Course at the Archdiocese of Sydney. Over six sessions beginning on 10 May you will learn to live and share the faith with those you encounter.
Contact Simon Yeak at [email protected] and 02 9307 8477
or 0427 536 356.