Testimony – Singapore Catholic Students in Europe

by Julia Goh, CGL 

How wonderful, freeing and peaceful it is to live knowing that we are all deeply and utterly loved by the Creator of the universe? Someone so powerful, but who treasures you as a Father does, His beloved child. My testimony is not one of grand gestures or a miraculous conversion, but a journey of continuous small revelations of myself and my relationship with God, and growing affirmation of His faithful love for me.

I was born and raised in a devout Catholic family, and this came with all the typical routines and activities of a practising Catholic family. I went for catechism and Mass every Sunday, received all the sacraments, was confirmed in the Church and prayed from time to time, particularly during stressful periods throughout school and life. I was open and proud of my faith. Yet, spiritual growth was not a priority in my life. Other markers of success such as popularity and academic excellence, took on greater importance. Despite the trying times during my schooling years (national examinations, discernment for leadership positions, failures and rejections, competitive environments) as well as the reliance on His strength during moments of doubt and tough physical training in the army after JC,  I had taken my faith for granted and kept on asking for more.  Religion was used to support my earthly ambitions, and my obedience to Church teachings stemmed from my upbringing as opposed to a personal conviction and understanding.

Going to university in September of 2018 was the first time I had been away from family and left the comfortable Christian bubble in Singapore. I started attending Mass on my own and involved myself in the university’s Catholic society in order to maintain my faith whilst overseas. However, I experienced a culture shock moving to the UK, as people led a very different way of life and my beliefs and practices as a Catholic was seen to be outdated and misunderstood. Interacting with people from different backgrounds and beliefs helped me gain a lot of alternate perspectives but also made me start to question Catholic teaching, as I started rejecting certain doctrines without fully understanding the Church’s explanations. The voices of dissent were loud and as I was not very convicted in my beliefs, I started to feel conflicted in the Church.  It was also the first time in a long time that I had time to stop and reflect on where I was at in life, without having to continuously strive for the next milestone and task. I had realised that whilst religion had indeed played a crucial role in helping me overcome obstacles in the past, at this present time, it was simply not essential given that I was at a very comfortable stage in life.

Attending the Combined University Retreat in 2018 gave me a platform to explore my faith and reflect on my personal journey with Jesus Christ alongside a community that supported me spiritually. It was a quiet realisation of my relationship with Christ through prayer, community and reflection. It was through session, praying over, reconciliation and personal reflection in front of the cross that allowed me to realise how I had lived and loved Christ and the Church in the past. I started to learn what it truly means to live for Christ and place Him at the centre of it all. My first taste of community at OYP allowed me to bounce off my misunderstandings, doubts, failures and reflections with other people – not just for answers but to journey and grow with others who, although are on different journeys with different struggles, have a common goal towards Christ. This supportive and loving community has shown me what it means to be loving, have lifted me up in times of struggle and have shown me Christ’s love in ways I would not have expected. My desire to know Him more and love Him more has grown with each passing day as I have learnt to say small yes’s to serving Him in my university, as well as a cell group leader in the overseas community under OYP.

This is the basis of my faith, to live in the knowledge of His love despite my many failings and weaknesses. I still have my shortcomings but for me, defining my worth through Jesus and not the things of this world, gives hope and purpose, to serve and live for something greater. My faith and beliefs still get challenged daily and I am far from the perfect Christian, but I have learnt the importance of lifting up my struggles and doubts along this journey of knowing and living for God. I claim the truth that His mercy abounds and His love for me conquers all. I have also learnt how to stand my ground and be convicted of my beliefs while being accepting and loving of others. It is a humbling journey that I am still embarking on but with the support and help of those around me and the knowledge that God is not done with me yet.

“I will build my life upon Your love, it is a firm foundation. I will put my trust in You alone and I will not be shaken.”

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Our Commuity of Singapore Catholic Students in Europe will be gathering in London from 25-27 Oct! If you are a university student in Europe and would like to be connected to fellow Singaporean Catholics through gatherings and online cell groups, please write to shaun.oyp@catholic.org.sg

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