I became a convert to Catholicism, I believe, through a sub-conscious sense of the presence of the Spirit and its Mystery

I first entered a Catholic Church, St Francis in Melbourne, with a very close friend who was visiting there one Holy Thursday in the days when the altar was awash with the colour of flowers and candles. It was a scene of such beauty I had never witnessed in any other church. But there was something more than that, as I knelt in silent thought. I had no previous knowledge of formal prayer, yet I felt a strong stirring of a presence that I could not explain. I needed to know more of what it was.

My friend took me to a priest and I attended an instruction course in Catholicism. After six months I was convinced I wanted to become a Catholic and was duly baptised.

It was on the morning of receiving the Eucharist for the first time that I once again felt that strong and profound experience of Presence. Walking through the Fitzroy Gardens afterwards, I felt I was really walking with God. I can recall it to this day.

Prior to this event I had discovered my Aboriginality. After my children had grown up and my husband passed away, I did an Aboriginal Unit at Deakin University. The changes occurring in the Church because of Vatican II, together with my studies in Comparative Religion, began to rock the newly discovered faith that I loved and was so certain of. However, throughout this period of doubt and uncertainty, particularly in the area of the institutional Church and its liturgy, the one thing that I clung to, in spite of the confusion, was my belief in the Eucharist.

As I became more involved and accepted in the Aboriginal community, I took part in a Theology Course at Nungalinya College, Darwin. I became very impressed with the depth of faith within people from some very remote areas. I saw them as being akin to the people of the Hebrew Scriptures, walking in the infancy of their knowledge, but strong in the spirit world of creation, now seeking more understanding of the Creator of all that was created in the universe.

I now became familiar with a God who lived and spoke within the hearts of people different to the Anglo-Western style of worship – who were most comfortable using their own language and ceremonies. They saw everything as being immersed in the spiritual world. Therefore they saw everything as being sacred because all is touched by God. This is the Eternal Dreaming which is now and ever shall be.

Returning from this experience, I began to see the two sides of myself. The love of the Church I had adopted mingled easily with the awareness of the roots of my ancient heritage. I realised I had come full circle from the heritage of my Celtic Catholic great grand-father and my Aboriginal great grand-mother.

All this confirmed for me that the Spirit had been guiding me along all these twists and turns of my Celtic and Aboriginal ‘song lines’. There is much within both cultures that sings the same song. The Celts told their stories and feasted around the fire of the hearth, the Aboriginals spoke of their stories, laws and ceremonies as they ate their meal around the campfire, and the Catholic Church now speaks the Jesus story through its ritual and ceremony around the altar which symbolises the fire of the Creator’s great love for all his people as we now partake of the spiritual food of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the central image in the life of the Church. I see it as a new covenant between God and humanity, given to his friends around a meal. Aboriginal Christians can see its in resemblance to their love and spiritual covenant with the land. The old law still remains, but is becoming perfected in a new covenant with the Creator.

Stephen’s Story