A little back story first. I was raised in a Catholic home, went through the Sacraments in primary school, went to mass “almost” every weekend, and went to confession every couple of months.
However, this whole time I didn’t understand the significance of the mass and the Sacraments, and so, none of it meant much to me. I only carried on with it out of respect for my parents’ wishes. It was made clear to me, upon graduating from high school, that I had to go to church every week, otherwise I would be kicked out.
During my early days in university, I came across a very convincing documentary, called “Zeitgeist”. This documentary was aimed at disproving religion (especially Catholicism), and other conspiracy theories. It is because of this; combined with my lack of understanding of my own faith, that had me convinced that the bible was just an elaborate story book.
I developed a sense of resentment towards my religion. I thought it was just a waste of time and people’s resources.
I always had a lot of anger in me, I just became very good at hiding it. However, I never thought about treating people badly because it was drilled into me from when I was young, by my dad, “If you respect others, they will respect you.” So that was the only rule I lived my life by. There was almost no “love” for my neighbor. It was just a façade most of the time. I pitied and felt annoyed at people who were strong in faith, because I felt they were “blind”, and couldn’t see the truth behind this elaborate story. I felt I knew better. This was confirmed further, because many of my friends had similar views.
So last year, one of my good friends from high school, who’s opinion I very much respected, Matt Woodford, had his conversion experience and changed his life around. We met up for lunch, late January (2015), and he told me all about it. I felt that we had similar views on religion prior to his “awakening”, and I really looked up to him for what to strive for out of a career driven life. So, for such a drastic change in mentality and lifestyle; it honestly shocked me to my core. It brought up thoughts like “maybe I have been looking at this wrong the whole time.”
My curiosity was sparked after that fateful lunch meeting. I began my journey of finding out the truth. I tried to let go of any previously made biased ideas and began researching.
Shortly after, during mass, a man by the name of Frank Tassone came up at the end, and announced the start of the Life in the Spirit Seminar (LISS) at Saint Jerome’s Parish, run by the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community. I thought “why not”, and decided to go check it out.
The Life in the Spirit seminar is a series focusing on learning more about our relationship with God, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This was the first time I was exposed to charismatic praise and worship, and I really liked the change from how people praise at mass.
Everyone was so friendly, and welcomed me with open arms. I could feel the love straight away. It was infectious. It was at that moment, I made my mind up that I would continue with the seminar series.
For me, it was the combined experience over the period of the seminar series that helped to open my eyes. The baptism in the Holy Spirit was definitely one of the major highlights. I recall feeling extremely nervous about being prayed over. However, I decided I would just surrender myself to God and see what happened.
I was repenting for all the times I doubted God, and kept thinking “let Your will be done” and “show me the way”. Then I remember feeling very warm and relaxed, almost “light headed”. However, it didn’t last long as I was still hesitant. For me, that was my first powerful spiritual experience.
Over the next couple of weeks I was able to learn more, and grow in relationship with God. Upon completion of the Life in the Spirit Seminar, it was a “no-brainer” for me to join the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community.
As I felt that if I had just gone back to going to mass every week, it would become routine again and I would slip away from God. I felt, that being in such a loving community, with such a drive and passion to truly live the life Jesus called us to live, was the best option for me to continue my growth.
Over time I discovered the diocesan youth office, Catholic Youth Ministry Perth (CYM), and made so many new friends through the church. One thing that remained constant with all these groups is the love. Everyone was so full of love.
I remember my primary school motto, “to give, is to receive.” All these amazing people who have helped me on my journey so far have given me so much love, that now I feel like I have so much to give back. I want nothing more than for others to experience this love of God that is breathing through all these different groups of active Catholics. And so, at the start of this year (2016), I decided to step up at my local parish (Saint Emilies De Vialar) to become a youth leader.
I feel that I have grown so much over the past year. There are still times when I stumble and experience difficulties, but I know that I can overcome them with God by my side. I am so grateful that God didn’t give up on me, and lead me on this journey, which is only just getting started.