by Hannah Jeanne Lee Gek Ching
Looking back at my long walk to baptism, I can see how God called me to Him in a way that I would be receptive to His invitation. I grew up in a non-religious family but I heard about “God” and “Jesus” from a young age as I attended Christian or Catholic schools. However, I never had the chance to know God . Instead, I was focused on pursuing worldly things like good grades, CCAs, and a social life.
While I appeared to be coping well, I was struggling internally with an inferiority complex that stemmed from my childhood. I felt the need to constantly prove my worth and my feelings of inadequacy exacerbated when all of my siblings, except me, entered medical and dental school.
Thankfully, God had a plan for me. In university, I met my boyfriend who is Catholic, and started attending Sunday masses with him. Initially, I only went for mass to hear him sing in the choir but the beauty and contemplative silence I experienced in church started becoming my respite from the noise of the outside world. However, I still felt uncomfortable at mass as I didn’t know when to sit or kneel, or why Catholics did certain things like cross themselves before the gospel reading.
Hannah receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation
But as God would have it, the semester after I started attending mass, I went on an exchange program to the University of Notre Dame. While the strongly Catholic university was not my first choice school, Notre Dame turned out to be a pivotal point in my faith journey as it was where I got acquainted with God. As part of my coursework, I studied several church documents such as the Catholic Social Teachings. I also began to read the bible properly for the first time for an introductory theology course that I signed up for on a whim – and that was when I finally met Jesus. My many misconceptions about Catholicism were also dispelled when I learnt about Catholic doctrines during theology classes.
After hearing about my Notre Dame experience, my Catholic friend invited me for OYP RCIY. Although I decided to attend RCIY, I was still uncomfortable with people knowing, so I hid my identity by using a different name for sessions. At the end of the year-long RCIY journey, I chose not to get baptised as I felt that my relationship with Jesus then was superficial and I was still struggling with some of the Church’s teaching. Moreover, I was still afraid to let people know about my growing faith.
After a few months, I signed up for the next RCIY cycle because I felt that my journey had not yet ended. By the grace of God, early in my second run of RCIY, I was inspired to listen to Fr Mike Schmitz’s Bible-in-a-year podcast and to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). I’m glad I heeded God’s call as that was when my personal encounters with the Lord began. As I delved into the Bible and the CCC, I felt myself seeking for Jesus as I started to see how a life with Him could offer me so much more than mere existence. Slowly, Jesus became a part of my life and someone that I was excited and willing to spend time with.
Hannah praying at her first mass as a Catholic
And as I began to trust Jesus and in God’s good plan for me, I started embracing my new identity as a child of God, good as I am because nothing can take away my intrinsic worth. I did not have to earn God’s love because it is a gift freely given to me, and all I am asked to do is to honour and treasure that love. My relationship with Jesus also started healing my feelings of inadequacy as I was able to slowly free myself from societal standards and see my life as the good path that I am called to walk on because of my unique strengths. My relationship with my family also improved as I stopped comparing myself to my siblings.
Despite this, I still had some doubts about the Church’s teachings, but in the last stretch towards baptism, the Lord provided me with wisdom, faith and strength to say “yes” to Him more confidently. Through intentional prayers and reflection, I accepted that my relationship with Jesus was at the heart of my faith and everything else was peripheral. I was further convicted during an adoration session where I suddenly felt a strong yearning to receive Jesus as I was staring at the Eucharist.I felt deep inside me that the Eucharist, in its simplicity and perfection, would give me the fullness of life that I desired. I also realised that I was never going to stop struggling with some of the church’s teachings but being baptised meant that I was going to struggle inside the church rather than outside the church.
Now a Catholic, I can only look back and marvel at the way God sought me out to be His beloved daughter. While I am still a work in progress, I am able to live more joyfully, meaningfully and fearlessly. I am at peace with the life that I am called to and I am no longer slave to worldly standards or my feelings of inadequacy as I know that this world is not the end. Jesus has truly given me new life and strength.
So, will you come and see Jesus for yourself? Don’t be afraid to take the first step for the Lord will light a good path for you.