I was brought up in a Catholic family and we attended church every week, but that’s all my faith really was growing up. And I suspect that the only reason anyone in my family went to church is because my mother joyfully went. As a child I happily went to church but I have to admit that is was because my family always went out for milkshakes afterwards. When we grew out of the milkshakes there was nothing to keep me happily going to church and it turned into a slow hour I dreaded on a Sunday morning.
The question of integrating religion and science confused me a lot. I would bounce from believing in God one day, to not believing when times got tough. At the same time, I was struggling to put together a credible HSC major artwork. My artistic inspiration had dried up after my long run of junior year winning streaks. However this time judging by the depressive quality of self-portraits I was attempting, a fail grade could only be imminent.
My story starts in Singapore. It was here that I grew up, studied, worked, married and started a family. I worked as an art teacher. I felt the education system in Singapore imparted a burdening expectation on perform academically and heavy and needless pressure was mounted on the child. It was because of this that I used my role as an art teacher to help students embrace their childhood and comfort them. Many children could let go of their frustration and anxiety onto the paper. In art class they were not judged on academic merit. My children suffered a lot under this education system so when my husband received an opportunity to work in Australia, after much prayer, we decided to move.
I was brought up in a wonderful, loving Catholic family of four. My parents took my older brother and I to Mass every week and we prayed the rosary as a family quite often. I didn’t really understand the importance of it all and most of the time it felt like a routine and nothing more.
So I applied for uni and got in. On the very first day I looked across the room at uni and my eyes locked on this girl. Her smile filled the whole room with joy and everyone caught it like a disease. I’d had girlfriends before but when it came to Sarah there was a sense of certainty – like an inner peace. I stopped looking because I knew I’d found the one. We started going out within 3 weeks. But as good and as right as it all felt I was trying to decide whether to get married without God. It was all human decision making – weighing up the positives and negatives. I had been baptised but I wasn’t practising so I didn’t have that Christian element. I never even thought to call on God or pray about stuff. I just wasn’t made that way.
My Catholic faith comes from the Irish: from a country famed for faith conflict. I learnt of tough times from my parents and grandparents, who experienced the effects of great depression in Australia and were of large working class families. Mum has always been very pious; dad was not involved in church other than some parish maintenance work. I was ambivalent about the faith.
I have always associated the word belief with my religion. I was born and raised a Catholic which means I belong to a community of millions around the world. Like most in this community, I base my beliefs on the Holy Scriptures and the church teachings. We had Religious Education lessons in High School too. I knew how to be a Catholic. The church was central to life on the island and everything happened because and around church feast days. My Aunt was the first person to indicate that it was okay not to be a nun but still work for the church.
I had the incredible opportunity to attend a mission school in Rome for 9 months. A regular part of the program was Street Evangelisation in which we would share the gospel to the people in Peter’s Square.
I spent 3 months doing this week in and week out when I eventually reached breaking point and just lost all motivation to evangelise. I said, “I don’t feel like doing it, it’s pointless and I can’t be bothered.” I stealthily avoided the task by volunteering to do jobs like hold the cross, play guitar and sing while praying – not that these jobs were not important for the cause but my motivation was negative – it was for the purpose to not do what I was meant to be doing: evangelise.
I recently travelled to South America as one of the millions of pilgrims who celebrated World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. I went with no particular agenda, save that at some point on my journey God would give me something to inspire me on my Christian walk.