Sue’s Faith Journey Through RCIA

Sue Xueqiao

I come from Harbin, the capital city of the most northeast province in China, Heilongjiang. My hometown used to accommodate Russian and Jewish immigrants, and there are still many churches that survive, but I have not been to any of them since my family had no Christian relatives or friends when I was young. My mother follows her younger sister and sister-in-law to believe in Buddhism. My father has no religion, but he is quite open to the concept. He likes reading, and usually paraphrased the connections between the establishment of modern western civilization and Christian faith in society, and told me not to exclude any possibility of religion and faith in the future, even though our school education in China is atheistic. This is my earliest recollected contact with a spiritual life, Christianity, and faith.

My later encounter with God was somewhat tortuous. When I began my Master’s degree and worked in Guangzhou, China, there were many Christians among my classmates, friends, and colleagues. They were kind, calm, and humble, welcoming and friendly.

My first Bible in Chinese was a gift from a Korean friend who preached to one of my Uni classmates and helped her convert to their congregation. I joined them and learned lots of Bible stories during that time. People there are optimistic, lively, and cheerful, and I often spent my weekends with them, reading the Bible and listening to their interpretations of Bible stories. However, after some months I felt uneasy about them. There were only young people in this church, and their preaching sometimes contradicted other teaching based on the Bible. After considering what I have witnessed, searching online, and talking about my confusions with other Christian friends, it turned out that this particular group was a heresy in South Korea so I left that church.

Later I turned to follow my colleague to a house church in Guangzhou where there was preaching in both Mandarin and Cantonese. I went there with my friend to listen to their preaching each week until I set out to Australia for my Ph.D. degree.

I felt God summoning me in autumn 2018 after I have been tutoring in Joseph Tonien’s subject for one session. (Joseph is a St Francis Xavier Cathedral parishioner, Wollongong, and himself a neophyte through RCIA, and staff at Wollongong University).

One day Joseph asked if my classmate and I would like to join a meeting with him. Since Joseph was always kind to his students, tutors, and colleagues, we went with him without any hesitation. On the way to Wollongong Uni Building 67, we asked what we should do in the meeting, and he answered just listen and observe. I found it was a weekday Mass held by the Uni of Wollongong Catholic Society. I felt that it was not a coincidence, but that it was the time God calling me to continue my seeking of him. Consequently, I kept going the Wednesday Mass at Uni.

At the beginning, I felt a little embarrassed since I had no idea how to behave or respond during the Mass since it was very different from my experience in the other churches. After some months I started to understand the liturgy and began joining in singing the psalm during Mass. Joseph and his wife Thanh also invited me to other events, including the kids’ choir on Christmas Eve and witnessing the Baptisms at the 2019 Easter Vigil Mass.

I felt serene and peaceful during each liturgy and could sense the joy coming from the hearts of the congregation. From my perspective, each Catholic that I have met is calm, has a positive attitude, and a peaceful demeanour, of which I was a little envious when I first began this journey. During this time I encountered a personal crisis while pursuing my degree in 2018. The people who stood with me and helped me get through it were all the Catholics at the Uni, particularly Professor Willy and researchers – Guomin, and Joseph. Father Mark De Battista, the chaplain to the Uni also helped ease (Continued on page 6) Sue’s baptism by Bishop Brian Mascord, during COVID19 restrictions, September 2020at St Francis Xavier Cathedral Wollongong. Neophyte Sue Xueqiao’s Faith Journey my anxiety after chatting with him. I was amazed that the support I got was mostly from people who were honest, upright, and courageous, and at the same time were all faithful Catholics. With their help, I got out of my troubles to continue my research journey.

In early 2019, I began going to the Sunday Mass routinely, and participating in the RCIA process. RCIA offered an opportunity for close contact with the Catholic traditions and clarification of my confusions as a Catechumen. Team members Denis and Clare helped expel my confusion about the Catholic faith, and different parishioners’ conversion stories helped me as well. Meanwhile, I kept reviewing my journey through RCIA, prudently looking into my inner thoughts on why I wanted to be a Catholic and consider whether this was what I desired to believe and follow.

Participating in each week’s RCIA discussion meeting and the Sunday Mass with Denis, Clare, and another Catechumen Ayla, I felt that this was what I was searching for. I was gradually feeling the sense of my conversion deepening and looked forward to my initiation and being a full participant of this Catholic community. The decision to be fully committed to this faith journey came naturally. I am longing for God and expect and want him to guide my future life. I look forward to living in the image of God as I have witnessed other Catholics around me who are faithful and live a joyful and fruitful Christian life.

After the disappointment of having my Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil deferred because of COVID-19 restrictions, in the middle of September, with the faithful Catholics in my life who were also my motivations to be a Catholic, I was baptized, confirmed and could receive the Holy Communion for the first time. I know that this initiation is another start of the next part of my faith journey. I feel that I am on track now and will keep going on (Continued from page 5) this path.

During COVID’s hard time this year, I joined one of the Faith Circles groups so I could keep in contact with all the people who have been part of my journey. Our group includes Max, Denis, Julie, Christine, Joe, and Stewart. It is a Zoom meeting each Tuesday evening, reading the Gospel, listening to others’ reflection on it, learning the background of the Gospel, discussing and exchanging understanding with each of them. In addition, updates about happenings in the Parish as well as parishioners lives are shared, giving me a sense of being part of a bigger community. We also pray together for those who are in need of God’s mercy, love and support. Faith Circle leads me to contemplate about Gospel verses, and through discussions among the group, I usually become more enlightened about how to practice God’s Word in my daily life. Especially at this COVID time, Faith Circles has provided me with frequently catching up with people in our Catholic community so that I don’t feel isolated but well supported and cared for by the community. Everyone matters and we’re concerned about others during COVID so we keep praying for our brothers and sisters. I also feel relieved and closer to God as I get more perspectives and a deeper understanding of the Gospel after each Faith Circles meeting.

As the COVID situation improves, I visit Joseph and Thanh to pray the Rosary with them each Sunday afternoon. For me, repetitively praying the Rosary each day is a reminder of Jesus’s suffering and Holy Mary’s grace, and an aid for me to carefully follow the Catholic traditions, repent and practice Catholic spirituality. Besides teaching me how to pray Rosary, Joseph and Thanh lend me books on the saints so that I get to know others belief in God, what they see and feel, and how they handle their tough journey through life.


Sue’s baptism by Bishop Brian Mascord, during COVID-19 restrictions, September 2020at St Francis Xavier Cathedral Wollongong.


Neophytes Sue and Ayla and their RCIA faith journey support team including God-parents, sponsors and team members with Bishop Brian Mascord.