My Journey into the Catholic Family

Barbara Buckley

Being born into a very large family and living in the middle of the bush, we never had as much time for church as other families.

My mother was baptised Catholic and my father was Church of England. The first born was christened but sadly that was where the introduction into church finished as the rest of us babies were never baptised because, as mum put it, “that’s up to you to decide what you want to do”.

As a student in the local public school I was asked each year for my religion, and as I was required to attend a scripture lesson on Thursday mornings I had to be placed in a scripture class. I remember going with another boy in my class to Church of England scripture and so that is where I started to learn about the Christian ways. It is a funny thought, but as each year came I was asked the same question, and each year I would tell them that the previous year I was put with this particular student, and so that is where I was placed again, with the Church of England children! I enjoyed scripture class through my early years; I tried to understand the way of the church but with living so far out of town was unable to attend church and the scripture class was only an hour long.

A few years later mum met our stepfather and decided it was time to get us into some kind of religious education. The Sunday school at a neighbouring town was operating and desperately required children to fill the positions so, for only a short time, mum allowed us to attend the school.

Many of my older siblings started to leave home and got involved with the local Christian fellowship. They sang lots of great songs and introduced me to the bible. The words that they spoke about made lots of sense to me and for this short time in my life I was able to really enjoy this.

By the age of 16 I moved away from home and moved into a home for homeless kids. The people who ran this home were from a church but also from the local Department of Community Services. Living at this house allowed me to finish high school and mix with some other religions, in particular a Jehovah’s Witnesses girl. She gave me a copy of their bible and started to teach me a little about their thoughts on this whole religious idea; what she told me was a little too hard for me to understand, so I thanked her and left.

The next time that religion came to my life was when I joined the Army Reserves and was at camp for a few weeks. I was approached by the minister and asked if I would like to attend Mass on the Sunday morning. I declined saying that I was not religious. He again invited me to come if I had the time and gave me a copy of the bible (covered in camouflage) that I still have to this day. I used to look through it trying to make sense of it but the course finished and I never saw the minister again.

In 1998 I met my life partner and found that he was Catholic and so was his family. This was something that interested me as this was a religion that was always – in my mind – out of bounds. I didn’t know how I would be accepted as I was not religious and knew nothing about what was supposed to be done inside a church. We were engaged within 3 months, and because I had been engaged 3 times before, I decided to take things very slowly. Meeting my mother-in-law was interesting as I knew very little of her except she was Phil’s mum.

Getting married was fun! I wanted to make Phil happy and get married in the local Catholic Church, St Patrick’s. We met the priest who asked us about our faith, and at this stage I needed to tell him that I was not baptised. I remember he looked at me, said that this was fine, and told me that I was able to be married in the church because Phil was Catholic. He explained that if we were to have children Phil would promise to do his best to have them brought up in the Catholic way. This was agreed upon and so it was – we married in a Catholic Church and I was given away by a Druid!

My next Christian contact came about when we moved to Toowoomba in Queensland. At work I found a friend, a new Christian, who invited us to go to her church. She told me that it was very up-beat and that there was a rock band that was very loud. I had fun but found that this was not the church for me, so once again I found myself looking for my own church.

In 2003 our son Jackson was born. He was baptised in the Catholic Church and I really felt as though this could be something that I could fit into (even the getting up and down business at Mass!). However, Phil and I went for a while with no church in our lives, and then after two miscarriages we had our second child, a baby girl named Emily Gayle. At 5 weeks I almost lost her, and after being rushed to the doctor for a scan and saying a silent prayer, I cried when told she had the smallest heart beat – I realised that good things do happen. She is our miracle; and during the 8.5 months of pregnancy I found myself saying many silent prayers for her to come safely into the world. We were unable to let anyone know about her as the chance of losing her was very real. We informed Phil’s mum with only 5 weeks to go.

In 2008 we moved to the Hunter to be closer to our families. We lived with Phil’s parents for 6 months and learnt a lot about each other. Over the next years I became close to Phil’s mum and dad and found that love was in my heart and not only for my own family.

I decided that I wanted to be Catholic. I remember going up to church one Sunday morning and asking the ladies there how was I to become a Catholic. They gave me some information and a phone number for the RCIA group; I left there wondering if I was prepared to go through it at this late stage of life. I asked Emily, who is 4 years old and not yet baptised, if she would like to be baptised; she didn’t want to, so I said “If you do, I will.” She agreed we would do this together. I thought that I could keep this private but soon found that I was blurting it out to my mother-in-law asking what she thought. She became my sponsor and came to the meetings with me. I was very happy to have such support from this very special lady.

Joining the RCIA group has been the best step that I could have ever taken. I have enjoyed what this wonderful team has offered me and not once have they questioned my thoughts or ideas but have guided me towards Baptism and the Catholic way.

The journey has been filled with so many lovely things – the team that has given their own time and expertise, being accepted by the local community, meeting Bishop Bill who is a warm and funny person and makes the whole church experience one to remember.

Being involved with the Chrism Mass and Holy Thursday procession and carrying the Oil of Catechumens impacted on me deeply. The oils are treated with the upmost care and are seen by all as sacred which is why I held on so tightly to my bottle and made sure the lid was very secure!

The Catholic community is one that is very strong together; it has become my new family. The ceremonies of the Easter Vigil, Emily’s and my baptism, cemented my love for my new family; everything about the night was so warm. Thank you so much for allowing me to become part of your wonderful family!

There have been wonderful changes in my life – Phil has also found his passion for faith again through my journey, and I have grown from a little lost girl trying to understand religion, to a young mother living the Catholic way of life for herself, her family and her community.