Lavina John Gonsalves on becoming Catholic out of love for Jesus
The young woman lives in Mumbai where she studied in a Catholic college. Here she learned to pray while living with other baptized children. Her employer gave her a day off a week to attend a Christian course for adults. “[N]ow I do not only pray when I need something but I pray to come closer to” God.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Lavina John Gonsalves, a young woman from Mumbai, chose to be baptized and this had made her feel happy. She loves Jesus. While her mother worked abroad, she grew up in a Catholic college, where she learned to pray from Sister Margaret, her guardian, who raised her like a daughter, teaching her to “take her own decisions and face life boldly in every situation.” Today, as an adult, after meeting young people of her religion, she decided to be baptized. This is her story.
My name is Lavina John Gonsalves. I know the name sounds Catholic, but I am a non-Catholic, not because I didn’t want to get Baptized, but because my parents were not eligible to get married in church. My father was already married. However, he fell in love with my mother who was a widow with one daughter. They did get married in court, but as per the Christian norms this marriage was not valid. Since the first wife was living, they could not regularize their marriage in church and hence I could not be baptized.
As a little girl when I was in 3rd Grade my Mother decided to go abroad for a job as my father was not working and kept going back to his first wife. This was the time when my mother put me and my step- sister in a Boarding school by the name Regina Pacis Convent High School. I am thankful to God that my mother put me there. That was the start of my Journey to know and pray to Jesus. Our caretaker, Sr. Margaret, kept me very close to her, because I was the smallest one among 100 girls in the hostel. And Because I stayed with her all day long, she used to read me the Bible stories and taught me to pray. She always kept me with girls who were Catholic and allowed me to go for Sunday Mass and Sunday school.
During my stay there I totally forgot about my other religion and my faith in Christianity was kindled and therefore I always stayed back after every prayer, rosary and mass and inquired with Sr. Margaret when I could get baptized and she always assured me that once I was an adult I could choose, but till then I should continue praying to Jesus and never stopped me from Praying the Rosary and treated me as a normal Christian child. I was happy there, but when I came to the 8th grade my Mother returned to India and took me out from the hostel and brought me back home because I was suffering from Asthma and used to get frequent asthma attacks. I remember Sr. Margaret sitting by my bedside and praying for me all that time in my sufferings.
I was then brought back home. The Catholic school in my locality did not accept me because I had no baptism certificate So after that I was put in a Marathi school. I made lots of Marathi friends in this school and at some stage was influenced by their culture and religion and strayed from my daily prayers which Sr. Margaret had thought me. But I never stopped going for mass with my father. Once I completed my schooling, I tried getting admission in a Catholic college, but there too they asked me for my baptism certificate. And I could not get admission even after having good marks. But later on, when I wanted to go for my Hotel Management course, I got my admission done in St. Andrew's College and I was very happy as that brought me back among Christian friends and gave me hope to renew my faith.
When I turned 18 years old my father reminded me about my baptism. But my mother was somewhat unhappy with the decision because till then I had been following her religion. But she knew very well that I have been taking my life’s decisions on my own. Sr. Margaret had always taught me to be a girl who could take her own decisions and face life boldly in every situation. So, my mother did not object much and accepted my decision willing.
My father came along with me to meet our parish priest to know what had to be done in this regard. We met Fr. Xavier Pinto a very kind hearted person who helped me and guided me regarding the procedure for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes and sent me to Fr. Vincent at the pastoral centre, Bandra. After hearing my story and my desire to join the faith Fr. Vincent enrolled me for the RCIA classes.
When I started attending classes and building my faith, the Lord blessed me with my first Job in The Leela, Mumbai which is a 5 Star property. Getting an off on Thursday or changing my shift on Thursdays was becoming very difficult for me, but somehow Jesus always helped me to reach the class. I was most of the time late. Later I spoke to my manager about my classes and he too has so much faith in Jesus that he always supported and gave me off on Thursdays for my classes.
As I came to Classes I came to know a lot of new things about Jesus, about prayers. I used to only pray to Jesus and not the Father above and Holy Spirit but now I have started praying to the Father and Holy Spirit too. I learnt all the prayers which I had forgotten. I started with my daily prayer to Jesus as Sr. Margaret had taught me in the hostel. I learned what is accepted and what is not In Catholic religion. I have built my faith again in the Lord and now I do not only pray when I need something but I pray to come closer to him, try listening to his will in my life. RCIA Classes have helped me a lot to become a better person, and Rose Ma'am my animator has always been there for me, pushed me to do better in growing my faith and always supported me. Now that I have been elected and am the chosen one by God and my wait for so many years Is over, I am truly excited and am just one step away from becoming a Christian and starting a new journey in my life. I am so very much waiting patiently and eagerly for the Day of my baptism and I pray every moment for it and waiting to spend the rest of my life being and living as a Christian Follower of Christ. Love you Jesus.