All in the family: the Stanleys of Baulkham Hills become Catholic

By Jordan Grantham, 24 August 2017
Luke, James, Asha and Claire Stanley at St Michael's Church, Baulkham Hills. Image: supplied.

RCIA / New Converts to Catholicism 2017

The Stanley family was received into the Catholic Church this Easter at St Michael’s Parish, Baulkham Hills. Parents Claire and James decided they and their children, Asha and Luke, should convert to the Catholic faith. Claire, James, Asha and Luke have now received all the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation and Holy Communion.

“We decided that it was time for our children (aged 9 and 11) to have a formal introduction to Christianity and a structured environment to learn about and practice faith,” James said.

“As our children grow older they are increasingly exposed to influences outside of the home, some of which can be negative. In balancing the influences we can’t control, with exposure to good Catholic Christian values, we feel that we are equipping our children to better navigate the coming years.”

The Mass is now an important part of their week.

“As a family, attending church has been not only spiritually uplifting, but also valuable time spent with the family and as part of a community,” James said.

Their friends are supportive and encouraging of their wonderful decision.

“Two of our closest family friends are practicing Catholics in the Parramatta Diocese. One of those became our sponsor, attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) when she could. She enjoyed the program and her role of supporting us and being an integral part of our journey,” he said.

The family was delighted to befriend Monica O’Callaghan, the Parish Secretary at St Michael’s Church, Baulkham Hills.

“We can’t thank Monica enough for her support, patience, calmness, hard work, availability, and generally just being a lovely person throughout the process and beyond,” he said.

The appreciation is mutual.

“They’re just a beautiful family, it was really nice to journey with them into the Church,” Monica O’Callaghan said.

Sr Judy Mcleod RSM was another inspiration for the Stanley family.

“She made us (and everyone) feel valued, special and welcome, ‘there are no stupid questions’ was her favourite saying, and she lived by it, we tested her!” James said.

The Stanleys did not know what to expect from the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program but greatly enjoyed the process.

“All of the coordinators, sponsors and “helpers” were so welcoming, accommodating, non-judgmental, and just plain nice. We immediately felt comfortable and as if we were amongst friends,” James said.

“RCIA was not only a great introduction to the Catholic faith, but also gave us a beautiful insight into the individuals that make up the Catholic community.”

Fr Wim Hoekstra EV PP, parish priest of St Michael’s Baulkham Hills, gave an engaging presentation for beginners on the meaning of the scriptures.

“It was so much more interesting than expected with the rather complex “Bible Summation” in an hour being an absolute highlight and showing the incredible scholarly skills of Father Wim.”

The family celebrated their reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday 15 April 2017 with family and friends at Mass, members of the parish community and then at a private party.

“At the Easter induction into the Church, members of the family attended as well as our sponsor and we met in a room at the Church after the Mass for supper and a chat,” James said.

“We also dragged everyone back to our place for a beverage, where they presented us with lovely unexpected baptism gifts.”

The Stanleys are looking forward to weekly attendance at Mass, learning more about the Church, the Catholic faith and the lifelong journey of spiritual growth ahead of them.

“We also look forward to the forming more friendships with those in the church and becoming more part of the Catholic community in the process. We know that our children will also feel the benefits from the values taught in the Catholic school system throughout their adult lives,” James said.

The family is interested in the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith, and was asked whether they have a favourite Catholic writer.

“J.R.R Tolkien was a Catholic, in which case the Lord of the Rings author is definitely a candidate,” James said.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic and helped bring C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame to Christianity. Tolkien wrote in his letters about his profound love for the Blessed Sacrament.

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament … There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves upon earth,” Tolkien wrote.


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