I want to have a heart like that

Jean, formerly from Malaysia, is a convert married to a man from Adelaide. They have an adopted daughter.

Saint-Peter's church, in Shanghai (China), Peter Potrowl Wikimedia Commons

I didn’t grow up a Catholic.  None of my families is even today.  When I looked back, I am amazed how patient God is and how often He drops little hints to invite us to faith.

I grew up in a small town called Bongawan in Sabah, Malaysia.  In this little town, there was no church and naturally no Christian family.  My father was a railway station master, and we lived right next to the railway track.  One day, this family moved in not far from our house near the railway track.  My first contact with Christ was when I became friends with the two kids from this family -Tom & Mary.  As kids, we played together and went to each others’ house.  I specifically remembered leaving their house one day and looking up at the door frame was two pictures – the Sacred Heart of Jesus & the Immaculate of Mary.  I have no idea at the time who they are, but I specifically remembered saying to myself…I want to have a heart like that.

Fast forward 12 years later, my father was transferred to another station that was close to the city.  Out of convenient, my father sent me to Stella Maris Junior High School where I was exposed to the Catholic faith for the 1st time.  After I left Stella Maris at the age of 16, my faith was put on hold for 13 years.  I didn’t find Christ again until I met this guy at work in the U.S.  He invited me to join him at mass and rosary and gave me a book on Medjugorje.  After reading this book on Medjugorje, I was so on fire and was baptised one year later.

When I moved to Shanghai, I continued my free-spirited life not missing any religious obligations.  After three years in Shanghai, I learned of St. Peters Parish and decided to attend mass.  Even then, I was on and off pending on my mood and how cold the outside temperature was.  I specifically remembered one winter Sunday morning when I got up and stuck my hand outside the window.  My husband laughed and said is that how you decide whether you want to go to church or not? I laughed as he was absolutely right, I was thinking exactly just that!  Feeling guilty, I went to mass that day. Since then, I tried to attend every Sunday.

My highlight every year was the Sheshan pilgrimage where we would pray the station of the cross all the way up the Sheshan mountain on one Saturday in May honouring our Lady of Sheshan.  I was nominated to lead the station of the cross prayer along with another male expatriate for five years in a roll until I left Shanghai.  One amazing thing that always happens on this day is rain…it’s Always misty rain and we always call it the rain of Grace from our Lady.  We will end the station of the cross with a mass at the Sheshan church at the top of the mountain.

At my Shanghai home, I turned my study room to my personal prayer room.  I pray the rosary in the taxi on the way to and fro work.  I will go to my prayer room after dinner at night to read the bible and pray the rosary.  My bedtime story is always something religious…life of different saints or other religious books etc.  The more I pray and read, the more I changed internally.  I can’t quite explain it, but I feel more humble as an individual, and I seek that in the person I meet.  Even as an HR professional, I look for humility in the people I recruit.  I used to always live by the saying “what goes around, comes around” when someone offended me but today, I remind myself of the teaching from our Lord “if you don’t forgive, neither your father in heaven will forgive”.   Little things like that continue to grow in me on a daily basis.

One of my favourite part during Sunday mass is when we prayed the Penitential Act “I confess to almighty God…that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do…” at this point, I am always searching what I have failed during the week.

One recent change I have noticed in me is that I used to always pray for someone I knew or something I am trying to obtain…today I felt that I have nothing to pray for except for the conversion of sinners, for God’s mercy to the world, for the intention of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

I am residing in Adelaide now and remain active in the church.  I served as a reader, commentator and extraordinary Eucharistic minister.  I managed to schedule the roster, bring communion to the age-card home once a month and also volunteered to clean the church once a month.