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The Southern Cross : April 2012
April 2012 Page 9 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross feature | At a time when many Catholics are either half- hearted about practising their faith or feel under siege in an increasingly secular society, it is refreshing to see a steady trickle of people making a conscious decision to join the Church as adults. Jenny Brinkworth talks to a young woman who has not only been baptised into our Catholic community recently but has also taken the significant step of undertaking a degree in theology and an inquiry year for lay leadership. Noni Sampson, a 34-year-old mother of three, is not one for doing things in halves. So when she was considering sending her children to a Catholic school and was told by the parish priest that either she or her husband would first have to become Catholics in order to have their children baptised, there were two possible outcomes. As she left for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) session, she told her husband Scott that she would either hate itorhewouldendupwitha Catholic wife. "I wasn't going to go through with it just to get my kids baptised," she said. Having had no formal religious upbringing other than the occasional Sunday school attendance when staying with her grandmother and schooling at a protestant school in Geelong, she was sceptical to say the least. "I had all these preconceived ideas on religion and had explored all kinds of alternatives. I had an idea of Christianity as old- fashioned, you know, all the stereotypes." "But very quickly after attending the RCIA class I felt like I had come home -- it just clicked with me." The small group run by the Lefevre parish proved to be "open to questioning" and Noni found she really enjoyed unravelling the Gospel. "I loved the way it was broken open so you could encounter the Scriptures in a really open way. The more I learnt, the more it really spoke to me," she said. Noni, Scott and their three children - Ashleigh, 13, Piper, 10, and Pacey, 9, -- moved to Adelaide from Geelong four years ago after Scott's boss relocated his roof tiling company here. Noni had already begun her journey to the Church when Scott had a major seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy which meant he could no longer be a roof tiler and instead enrolled to study accountancy. The children had attended the local State school for three terms but after hearing about her friend's children going to a Catholic school in Geelong, Noni approached Fr Brian Angus from Our Lady of the Visitation at Taperoo. Although the children attended the local Catholic school for a short time after their baptism, ironically Noni and Scott took the decision to move them to Ocean View College, a public school, to make it easier to finance Scott's studies and her own three-year degree in theology at the Adelaide College of Divinity. The children are actively involved in parish life -- the girls as altar servers and Pacey loves to be the "welcomer" at Mass while at home their faith is part of the daily routine with Grace before meals, prayers before bed and giving up television during Lent. Noni said Scott had always been "supportive but not committed" until the family was driving back from a holiday in Queensland and were smack in the middle of a collision between a truck and a petrol tanker. Somehow they came out unscathed, despite the truck's bull bar flying over the top of them, much to the amazement of the rescue crew. It was just after Noni and the children had been baptised and Piper, who was 8, said at the time: "we're okay because we're God's people". Six months later Scott had his seizure and after that he decided to do the RCIA. Now he is heavily involved in Stella Maris, the seafarers' centre which supports crews when they are in dock. Noni recalls attending her first mid-week Mass at Our Lady of the Visitation Taperoo when she was exploring the idea of getting her children baptised. It was a school Mass and Fr Angus assumed she was a parent. "Itwasabitofascary experience, I didn't know where to stand or sit," she said. It still worries her that no- one came up and made her feel welcome but she is full of praise for the close-knit Lefevre Catholic community of which they are now an integral part. "It's such a brilliant community," she said. Her friends had expected the family to return to Geelong after Scott's seizure and were surprised by Noni's decision to pursue her faith formation. But that all changed when they came over for the couple's wedding. Noni and Scott were married by a celebrant when Noni was 20 but they decided to renew their vows and treat it like a second wedding in November 2010 at Sacred Heart Church at Semaphore. "When our friends and family came over for it and saw how much support we had in the community, they said 'now we get it'." The first time the couple married Noni's father didn't give her away because they had been arguing at the time. This time he came over and gave her away. Noni admits that her decision to study theology and lay formation was a "leap of faith". "People thought I was mad and said 'why don't you do teaching which will lead to something'," she said. "But I felt called to do this so I started it, and I love it." She is impressed by the ecumenical nature of the College and the capacity to deepen your faith yet still question "why and when". Not being brought up Catholic means she sometimes feels on the outer but at the same time she said there was a benefit in that there was "stuff that I don't have to unlearn". The fact that she hasn't been "programmed" in any way also helps her to feel proud of her Catholicity and she has come across very little negativity. She believes one of the dilemmas for the Church is that the things that she finds "enriching" and "comforting" such as the ritual and repetition of the Mass and the Sacraments can be "stifling" for young people. "We have to find ways of supporting both groups," she said. Total conversion * Costs must remain subject to change without notice, based on currency exchange rates, departure city, airline choice and minimum group size contingency. HARVEST PILGRIMAGES • 1800 819 156 • www.harvestpilgrims.com Airport Travel Centre ph: (08) 8234 3530 email: firstname.lastname@example.org BE A PILGRIM IN 2012 Join Archbishop Philip Wilson for the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin * Now includes all taxes/ levies! from $8650 Features • Dublin -- International Eucharistic Congress (9) • Galway (3) • Dublin (1) • Glasgow (1) • Oban (1) • Fort William (3) • Edinburgh (2) Followed by a Pilgrimage to Ireland and Mary MacKillop's Scotland led by Josephine Laffin • A 24 day pilgrimage journey • Departing 8 June 2012 DOUBLE BLESSING: Noni and Scott with their children and flower girl Sarina Angus (front centre), Patricia Kore and Tim Taylor after the renewal of their wedding vows in a ceremony at Sacred Heart Church, Semaphore.