Why I became Catholic? Wati Regan speaks to The Record’s Debbie Warrier.
I grew up in Indonesia, Jakarta where 80 per cent of the population is Muslim. My father was a very strong Muslim. My maternal grandmother was Catholic and was originally from Holland. She migrated to Indonesia and married an Indonesian Muslim. Our family lived as Muslims. Now I am not a practising Muslim because I no longer believe in it.
In Catholicism there is equality. There is diversity but we are all equal. I argued a lot about religion with my late father who was a good man. I told him I am an adult now and I make my own decisions. I am an individual. As I was growing up I was looking for answers. I later found them as a Catholic.
In Jakarta I went to a private school. I wasn’t learning how to be Catholic but was in a Catholic environment. I liked the values the nuns taught and wanted my children to have the same. Another big influence was my late Aunty who was a good Catholic. I noticed that she enjoyed life, was non-judgmental and respected others.
When I married I migrated with my husband Jim to Australia in 1998. My in-laws are strong Catholics and are a good influence on my children Savannah and Ethan. They didn’t force me to change my religion. It was my own decision. After my son Ethan was baptised I decided to convert.
The baptism was the turning point because I realised I wanted to be able to answer my children’s questions about their faith. I wanted to be a part of their spiritual life, like going with them to Mass. I wanted them to grow up in that culture.
I studied Catholicism with the help of my then parish priest, Father Hyu Nguyen. I found the Old Testament had similarities to some of the Muslim beliefs. Muslims recognise the prophets recorded in the Bible. Between the two faiths there is continuity in the history. One of the main differences is Muslims don’t recognise Jesus as the Son of God but see Him as a prophet. I also found that there is a lot more freedom as a Catholic.
My mother was quite upset when I converted. She asked me why and I said: “Because I have my own family and am responsible for them. I want to give my children values they can carry for the rest of their lives.” I became Catholic in 2005.
My life is wonderful. There was a hole inside of me and my faith has filled it up. Before I was questioning what was right or wrong. Now I feel like I am on track.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. It was a 2.5cm lump and luckily hadn’t spread. After 12 months of chemotherapy I was given the all clear by my doctor. When I was sick the parish and school helped out with my children. My children and I had a strong sense of community.
Fr Hyu Nguyen supported me through the crisis.
The parishioners prayed for me and I prayed for strength to go through the journey. My faith carried me through that difficult time.
Faith constructs character. I believe in something I can’t see but feel. It is some sort of invisible guidance. If I pray things become easier. God exists.
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