This year over three thousand were baptised in the three dioceses of Sabah during the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday Masses. Here are some of the testimonials of the neophytes on why they have “decided to follow Jesus”, and declared a “no turning back” for them, after a Christian hymn entitled “I have decided to follow Jesus” by which they sang with conviction and much gusto after their baptism rites.
There’s no reason for me to turn back
Elly Sipin of SHC realised that being born into a Christian family does not just guarantee anybody eternal salvation unless we truly understand the sacrifice that God has made in order to save us from the curse of sin and henceforth to dedicate our life solely to God.
She recalled: “Ever since I attended the RCIA class, I have truly understood how to live my life as how God wants me to.” Elly insisted that making God as the centre of her life “has guided me in every decision making.”
She philosophised that life always would have its ups and downs but “I know that there’s no reason for me to turn back or resort to the worldly things as He has finished His work and I am saved!”
She marvelled how she now looks at the crucifix not in the same way as she used to look at it, “Nothing is greater than the price which He has paid for me on the cross.”
Professing her love for Jesus, she became open to being taught by His Words to deal with people regardless of their colour, character and status. “I have been more loving, empathic and merciful and would want everyone to know the merciful God that I serve in my life, in my daily walk, in my career and when dealing with families and friends!” said Elly.
However, like Jesus, a price has to be paid. She experienced that “Along the way, people treat me differently because of my decision to follow Him. I cried at times questioning God why I had to face such people.” She believed that God is purifying and strengthening her so that she can be “a living testimony to others.” She said that she does not harbour hard feelings or hatred. Instead, “I have a stronger desire to pray for them so that they may see how great my God is and one day that they will also truly understand the beauty of our Father’s work!” She said that the journey in RCIA has “opened my eyes and my mind to His amazing grace. I want to trust in Him wholeheartedly as Mother Mary trusted Him.”
“My heart is certain that this is where I belong”
Paulina Irawan of SHC came from a Buddhist background but after going through the RCIA journey and being initiated into the Catholic Church during Easter Vigil was certain that this was where she belonged. She found herself having arrived ‘home.’
She recalled her childhood and growing up years were not a happy journey. “My mother died when I was 5 and my father sent me and my sister to a Catholic orphanage in Surabaya for three years. I know nothing about Catholicism, nor what religion is. The orphanage took good care of us, although everything goes by strict rules. Our daily routine started and ended with prayers, 5am Mass, and going to school.”
She also related that her favourite pastime was surprisingly reading the bible. “For me, it’s like never-ending stories to read. Watching the movie of the journey of Jesus Christ has also touched my heart deeply.”
When her father took her and her sister back to their hometown, he remarried a buddhist wife, who later taught them Buddhism. Since then she labeled herself a Buddhist.
Then she married a Catholic and her son was baptised when he was just a few months old. “We went to Sacred Heart Cathedral to have our marriage blessed before our son could be baptised” recalled Paulina.
However, when her son turned 8, she came face to face with questions like “Where do I actually belong? Where my son is going? Where am I going?”
She recalled her journey: “One day I just woke up and decided to embrace Catholicism. I registered for RCIA at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Through the RCIA journey, I have come to know more about the church, the Sacraments and about Mass. I can now actually teach my son more about faith and to share it with my husband.”
“I feel like I’ve been Catholic all my life. But only now, I feel I am truly home. I am very excited and enthusiastic to share this journey with my family and with Jesus” said Paulina.
She ended: “On 26th of March, I was initiated into the Catholic Church. I thank God for this beautiful new life.”
“I am so glad that I have decided to follow Jesus”
In answer to the question “What made me want to be a Catholic?” Dr Jeffery Teoh of SHC responded with clarity, “I want to know more about Christianity.”
He recalled “I survived a serious motor accident in 2008, which I actually felt God’s saving hand on me, and I knew that he has given me a second chance. But at that time, I hesitated to embrace Christianity, until I met my fiancée who is a catholic. Through her I became a more disciplined person. I began to go to church and to search for Jesus (the Truth). Thus began my journey by joining RCIA classes.”
That there were the noticeable changes in him since joining the RCIA classes, Teoh could not deny: “for example my bad attitude gave way to a better attitude, jealousy became a thing in the past, and I have learned to be a more generous person. I have also learned to pray daily more earnestly. Mass attendance with my fiancée has become a regular thing despite my hectic schedule as a medical doctor in the public hospital.”
The RCIA journey has enabled him to discover and understand more about the Catholic faith and its rich traditions. “I am learning to give my all to Him and to trust Him in whatever situation I face” said the re-born doctor. “I am so glad that I have decided to follow Jesus. There’s no turning back.” he acknowledged and was grateful to his fiancée for always being there for him.
“Through the RCIA process, I discover my faith”
Herman Khoo of St Mary’s Cathedral Sandakan made the decision to go for RCIA class because he wanted to know what the Catholic faith is all about. Though he is married to a Catholic, he is unaware of the faith that his family professes. “I am interested to learn from the church’s teaching and most importantly, what my children are learning about the faith” said Herman.
After journeying for nine months in RCIA he learnt and understood that basically RCIA is more about sharing the experience of God in our life, as well as learning the teaching, culture and the faith of Catholic Church.
Seeing light out of his situation of darkness, he said, “Now I know and understand why there is Mass, why we need to attend Mass, why and how Jesus died for us, why we have sin, the Sacraments and more about Jesus Christ and the role of Mother Mary in the life of Church.”
The RCIA process has enabled him to discover his faith, which to his understanding, “has begun to take root and grow. I now believe in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I believe this is the beginning of my faith” but he also acknowledged “I still need Jesus to guide me, and there is still much for me to learn and understand from the Bible.”
God has not abandoned her desire to be a child of God
Estelle of St Mary’s Cathedral was born to a Catholic family and brought up in the Catholic environment, although she was not baptised and had no knowledge of the teaching of the Church.
As a child, Estelle recalled her constant desire to be a Catholic. For family reasons, her desire to be a member of the church did not materialise. But little did she know that God has a plan for her. God has not abandoned her or her desire to be a child of God.
Last year, she was shown the way to the RCIA process. Through the dedicated commitment of the facilitators and their willingness to share their own faith experiences, she began to understand the Catholic faith, what it means to be a Catholic and how to live life as a Catholic.
“I began to know about God and one way of staying close to God is to read the bible. I was excited to be baptised this Easter, thanks to the guidance of the facilitators” said Estelle.
“God actually noticed me”
Stephanie Tai of St Mary’s Cathedral sensed that something was missing in her life and tried to fill it with other things and entertainments, but the emptiness still persisted.
So she started going to church with her boyfriend and his family. Though she did not know God, she talked to God every day to guide and lead her to Him. She felt that God actually noticed her! “I felt that God knows the emptiness in me through my struggle to get close to him. He gave me a chance to know Him by leading me to the RCIA process.”
Stephanie noticed how she has changed along the journey. “In the first few months after joining the RCIA, my life changed for the better, I am becoming a more forgiving person!” she said. “I feel closer to the Lord as I learned from the teaching and guidance from the facilitators. I am thankful to the Lord for giving me this opportunity. I was filled with joy and peace as I prepared myself for baptism during Easter.”