My Faith Journey
My name is Katie Lewis and I am newly baptised Catholic. However, my faith journey began many years ago…
This journey began in 1997 in Brisbane. I had a new boyfriend called Tim and the time had come to go home to Victoria with him to meet his parents. As we planned our weekend, he mentioned to me that on Sunday morning we would go to Mass. My heart skipped a beat and all of a sudden I became nervous. I had never set foot in a church before, let alone had any understanding of why you went, what you believed or what you did when you were there.
Nevertheless, off I went, nerves and all, and took in as much as I could. There were people touching their heads and chests in strange ways, standing up and sitting down, up and down, speaking words I didn’t understand in unison, and singing songs I had never heard. I felt so out of place.
Despite that awkward feeling, I continued to go to Mass whenever we were together as a family and I asked a question here and there, and began piece by piece to make sense of it all.
Then in 1998, my gorgeous Tim proposed to me, and we began planning our wedding, which was of course to be in a Catholic Church. More nerves! Then many thoughts began rushing through my head. Do I belong in a Catholic Church? How can I get married in a Catholic Church when I don’t fully understand what it means to be Catholic? Why is this so important to Tim? I had many more conversations with other Catholics, other Christians, Tim’s parents and finally with a lovely man called Father Bill Fuller, a Catholic Chaplain from the RAAF. On our first meeting, I had never been so nervous in all my life, but this meeting became a real turning point in my faith journey. As Tim was in the RAAF and I was becoming a “RAAF Wife”, Fr Fuller talked about Christianity as it pertained to our married life, our other relationships and to surviving the pressures of being an Australian Defence Force family. I made the conscious decision at this point that I wanted to keep learning more about being Catholic.
In 1999, we had our Catholic military wedding at the Royal Military College Duntroon in Canberra with Fr Fuller presiding, and it was absolutely beautiful. I was worried that a religious wedding would make my family feel left out or as if they were not able to relate, but Fr Fuller had an amazing way of reaching the hearts and minds of all people. Again, my knowledge and my faith grew.
Unfortunately, only nine months later, my father took his own life, and my world was turned upside down. The physical pain was excruciating but the psychological trauma was worse. Sadly my Christian faith wasn’t deep enough to be of any strength to me at this time. I struggled in every way, and felt guilty and devastated.
In late 2000 in Darwin, my pain faded somewhat as we welcomed our precious Emily into the world. Again I found myself back at a Catholic RAAF Chaplain, Father Mick Taylor, this time talking about the meanings of Baptism and answering yet more questions.
The issue that he really clarified for me was that it was okay that Catholics aren’t perfect.
I had been really struggling with the fact that people could call themselves Catholic and yet behave in a way that was clearly against the teachings from the Scriptures. He also helped me explore the concept of forgiveness. So Emily was baptised, as was our next child Harrison in 2002.
I then decided that if I was going to raise these children to the best of my ability in a Catholic home with Christian values, I had better get serious about learning more. Soon they would be asking me questions and I wouldn’t know the answer.
So in 2003 I joined the RCIA group at East Maitland. For the first time in my life I began attending Mass regularly and went to weekly RCIA meetings. I learned so much from so many helpful people. I learned about the Bible, how to pray, and what different things meant in the Mass. I went home and discussed it all with Tim, who we could probably call a “lapsed Catholic”, and his faith was reignited too.
In 2004 we moved to another State, but my attempts to continue RCIA were short-lived as my initial meeting was very negative. I was quizzed on many Catholic concepts which I answered inadequately, and it was suggested to me that it seemed I was doing RCIA just to get my children into Catholic schools.
I was shocked at the response and left in tears, realising that I wouldn’t be welcomed into the Catholic community there. I didn’t set foot in a Church for the next two years. We had another baby, Campbell, but didn’t feel we could get him baptised at that point.
In 2006, we moved to Canberra where Emily started school, and yes, it was a Catholic school called Holy Spirit. We began attending the weekly “Focus Assembly” which was always moving, and taught the children (and me) about the Gospel and Christian living. We became parishioners at Holy Spirit and for the next five years we were members of this wonderful Catholic community. We decided this was the place to get our bubby Campbell baptised. Again I learned from other parishioners, from my children, their teachers, and from two of my dearest friends who are committed Christians. My best friend had bought me a Bible for Christmas and I began reading from it when I could.
In 2010, I had a miscarriage and also lost Tim’s Dad. It was very different for me to be able to draw upon my faith and prayer in these difficult times.
In 2011 we moved back to Maitland. We quickly became part of the St Joseph’s community, where the children began school and our fourth bubby Cooper was baptised. I rejoined the RCIA group that I had left all those years before. Although I still had so much to learn, I then knew that I wanted to become a Catholic.
In January 2012 I received the Sacraments of Initiation at St Joseph’s East Maitland. It was a moving experience and I became quite emotional. I somehow felt whole or full, like a part of me had been missing but now the whole puzzle was complete.
My faith gives me such strength; strength in my parenting, strength in my relationships, and strength to face the challenges of day-today life, because I know I am never alone, and that Jesus is with me no matter what I have to face.
Not only am I grateful that I was guided by so many different people in my faith journey, but that I am now able to guide my children, and that our shared faith as a family brings us even closer together. I am truly blessed!
The baptism of Katie Lewis, Presider is Fr Matthew Muller