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Why I Became Catholic: Catherine Vi

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Catherine Vi and fiancé found more than they expected when trekking through the Himalayas and visiting relatives. PHOTO: Supplied

In this series, readers share their stories about what led them to join the Catholic Church. If you have a story to tell, why not send it in to us? It could touch someone else who needs to hear God’s voice in his or her life.
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Catherine Vi

My parents, refugees of the Vietnam War, brought me up with a hard working ethic with Buddhist moral values.

I was a vegan, trying to be a good person but failing, and burning herself out studying as a means to an end. When university started, I learnt that it only gets harder. I was disillusioned. There must be a higher purpose in life. Where is true happiness?

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At around that time I met Ryan, my fiancé who, thanks be to God I will marry in a month’s time, 11 years ago. Little did we know that God knew we were looking for Him. It was going to be painful and only God knew how to treat the wounds covering our souls.

Three years later, Ryan hit rock bottom. He was depressed. Days would go by with him curled up in bed unable to do anything. My heart was broken.

Up until then, I had led a sheltered life falsely cushioned by worldly comforts. I now know God was with me during this time and helped me detach from the world so that one day I could turn to Him.

But I was still not there yet. I felt disconnected from the worship of our God. I could not see the supernatural at Mass and I sensed a lack of reverence.

Months passed and a year later I travelled with Ryan and his mum back to Darjeeling in India, where he was born.

St Mary’s Hill is a small village nestled in the Himalayan mountains centred around a Catholic church. We would regularly hike up the mountain passing by our Lady’s Grotto, a replica of our Lady of Lourdes.

Little did I know we made a little pilgrimage to our Lady almost daily. But Our Lady knew we needed help and kept us close.

I stayed at Ryan’s grandma (Boju) house with many of his relatives. Boju, may God rest her soul, was a devout Catholic.

The village of St Mary’s Hill, Darjeeling. PHOTO: Supplied

While sitting in her house warmed by a fire and surrounded by crucifixes and statues of Our Lady, Ryan told me memories of her praying the Rosary several times a day, going to daily Mass at 6am in her old age –even in the middle of winter – and feeding him endless plates of momos (dumplings).

How much she prayed for her family. While there, Ryan’s aunt Bibi Aunty, may God rest her soul, would fly by joyfully at the crack of dawn filled with zeal for our Lord to go to daily Mass.

On Sundays she would wear her prettiest sari and encourage us to visit, where she would feed us chocolate, make us laugh and, of course, she prayed fervently for us. Ryan started to laugh, talk and become more himself. God was healing him and I was watching.

I did not want to break away from the Buddhist roots I tenderly associated with my family.

The last Sunday of our time in Darjeeling, Ryan woke up early to go to Mass and I went along. My first Mass. I was thankful to the Christian God. My heart started to open.

Ryan’s faith grew stronger year by year and knew he needed to talk to me about the centrality of faith in our relationship.

Ryan’s good friend in Christ  pushed him to talk to me. The veil over my eyes was thick and heavy. I did not want to break away from the Buddhist roots I tenderly associated with my family. But no matter how tall and infinite the wall may seem between us and God, He is always reaching for us.

The replica of the Lourdes Grotto in St Mary’s Hill in the Darjeeling region of the Himalayas. PHOTO: Supplied

I accompanied Ryan at Mass and watched Bishop Barron’s Catholicism series with him. I began to see goodness in the Catholic church and her teachings. Before I knew it I, too, looked fondly upon our Lord and our Mother church.

But I was still not there yet. I felt disconnected from the worship of our God. I could not see the supernatural at Mass and I sensed a lack of reverence. How, I asked myself, could it be that Heaven meets earth here?

The bridge for me was Catholic monasticism. With joy and relief, I came across the Benedictines and the Trappists. I found the silence and the reverence which I have long associated with worship and with God.

In the year 2017, I was sitting with Ryan crying over how I felt that I would be leaving my mum if I turned to the Christian God. While we talked, I realised by embracing God I could receive the grace to love my mother more than I can now. We sat in silence as tears streamed down my cheeks and I turned to the one true God and embraced Him.

I was received into the Catholic Church on 31 March 2018.

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