AMAZING AND INSPIRING STORIES

We have a new section called Amazing Stories.
These are true stories, found on the internet, about people who were touched by God, and
who felt encouraged to follow Jesus. They have been edited and presented here, by one of
our team members, in order to inspire our Parishioners
We are grateful to Nirmala Carvalho and other authors, for these stimulating stories.

INDEX:
1. Lakshmi and Vimala Rathod

This heart-breaking story of two great, dashing girls of Pune, took place on December16, 2012. They are two sisters from Rajasthan belonging to a Marwadi family, who had their own gods and typical culture. Having migrated to the multi-cultural city of Pune, the girls were influenced by the city culture and modern media. According to their culture, they were betrothed to two boys from childhood. They were smart, did well in school and were now in college. In 2012, Lakshmi was doing her M.Com. and Vimala was doing her T.Y.B.Sc. They were very obedient to their parents and respected them.

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One day, Lakshmi was looking tense and unhappy. Her mood did not change for a week. She was pondering on many questions, but was not getting any answers. She prayed to her gods but did not find peace. One of her friends noticed it and was concerned. The friend, who used to go to a Catholic Church, had a feeling that maybe, she should suggest to Lakshmi to read the book of the New Testament, to find the answers she was seeking. She showed her one verse, John 14:27 - Jesus promising peace ! Lakshmi did not think that book could do much for her happiness. However, just before going to bed she started reading. She was reading till 1.00 am. She found some hope and she felt comforted. The next day, she had an early dinner, then went to her room and started reading again. By and by, She finished all the four Gospels and talked to her sister, Vimala. Vimala too began to read at night and shared her insights with Lakshmi. Both of them were touched by the Sermon on the Mount in the book of Mathew and how the book of Luke showed them Jesus of the poor and liberating the women. They were both
amazed to read in the book of John how Jesus willingly died for our sins to liberate us from evil and rose again from death.
They were deeply touched by the spirituality of Jesus and about the forgiveness of enemies. That changed their lives and attitudes and values. They were not yet baptised but they had offered their hearts to Jesus. But one day, their mother found this strange book in Lakshmi’s bag. She questioned her. Lakshmi was silent. Her mother shouted and screamed at her. “You have done something very bad and made the whole family impure. Now I will give you cow urine to drink and purify our house. If our friends and relatives come to know they will outcaste the whole family.” The mother was very furious. Their father, too, was extremely furious at his girls and threatened them to kill them. He banged their heads on the walls. Even their uncle, Modaram Chowdhary, threatened them. But the girls refused to drink the cow urine. Their mother started pouring it in the breakfast, lunch and dinner. They refused to eat. She locked them in the room and did not allow them to go to college. They were beaten and threatened that they would be killed. Trying to convince their parents, they told them that Jesus was the real God and it is He who had shown them the Way, the Truth and the Life. Nothing worked. Matters became worse. They were even burnt with heated iron rods.

They went to the Sahakar Nagar Police station through Additional Commissioner, Abdul Reheman. But, the police refused to register their FIR against the family. They decided to leave home and seek refuge with friends. One night, when their mother was cooking dinner,
they quietly slipped out and ran to the train station. Whilst onboard a train, they phoned to the police station saying, “We two sisters, we are above 18 years old and educated. We are going
away to an unknown place. Do not come in search of us”. No one knew which train they had boarded and where they were going. Questions arose in the girls’ minds as to where they were going and how long they could stay there? What would be their future? Vimala told Lakshmi, “Do not worry, Jesus is with us and he will lead us to the right path. He will not abandon us. The divine hand will not leave us. He is our light and He is our good shepherd. I have full faith that if we abide in Him, He will abide in us. At their destination, a group of people were on the platform waiting for their arrival. They all hugged them, kissed them and comforted them. They were rejoicing and overjoyed by the reception. They immediately forgot their pain and sufferings as their tears had turned to joy. The girls have since grown in faith, who say, “No one can stop us worshiping Jesus”. They have become strong and have achieved amazing academic success. They have completed their studies and are now baptised in Christ.

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2. Mahalakshmi Srinivasan (Mohini)

She changed her faith, left a film career and found a home in Christianity. Born Mahalakshmi Srinivasan in Chennai, India, to a Hindu Brahmin family, she had a comfortable upbringing. Brahmins are traditionally teachers and priests and among the highest caste in Indian society, and the Srinivasan family was a prominent one. Srinivasan started acting at the age of 13 on her father’s prompting, taking the stage name Mohini. She appeared in 100 films, mostly in the South Indian film industry, and became well known as an actress. Srinivasan married her husband, Bharath, in 1999, and they had a son, Aniruddh, now 18, soon afterward. She continued to act, and all seemed well with her life on the
surface.

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The family moved for a few years to Washington, D.C., for Bharath’s work. But the couple’s marriage began to struggle. Srinivasan had health issues, depression and trouble adjusting to being away from India. She ascribes it to black magic with which a relative of Bharath’s cursed her. “There are many ways of inflicting evil in today’s world,” she said. “There are different mediums that the devil is using.” The couple decided to move back to India but continued to struggle with their marriage.

Srinivasan was searching for something. She read more about her own Hindu faith and about Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam. After picking up a Bible, she began exploring Christianity, going to various denominational churches. “Something was missing in all of these places,” she said.

Eventually, she visited Catholic churches. “They never tried to market Jesus and the church,” Srinivasan recalls of the Catholic Church. “They never said, ‘We are the true church,’ like a slogan.”

In 2006, two months after starting to attend Mass, and in between shooting movies, she went on a retreat weekend at the Divine Retreat Center in Kerala, a charismatic retreat facility run by the Vincentian Congregation of India. On the first night of the retreat, a religious sister gave a talk, and “the way this nun explained about the body and blood of Jesus, I was just completely floored,” Srinivasan recounted. “And I said, ‘OK, Lord, I’m not going home without you’ ”.

The next morning, she asked the retreat center’s priest to be baptised. The priest checked with the basilica’s rector where Srinivasan had been going to Mass and interviewed her further before agreeing. She received the sacraments of initiation and took the baptismal name, Christina.

Her husband, Bharath, was fine with her conversion. In fact he was relieved, she joked, that he would no longer have his Hindu practices policed by his wife, since Srinivasan had been a stickler for Hindu rituals and traditions. “He said, as a Hindu I was like a math teacher,” she chuckled.

Bharath’s parents had a more difficult time with her change in faith. As the eldest daughter- in-law, they thought she should be setting an example for the rest of the family. Both Bharath’s and Srinivasan’s families could trace their Hindu roots back almost to the founding of Hinduism.

“Given the larger Hindu culture and religion that is so prevalent in India, her acceptance of Christianity and Catholicism meant that she was really embracing a huge risk — dangers even — in her conversion,” said Father Kevin Duggan, pastor of Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Sammamish, where Srinivasan is now a parishioner.

But Srinivasan found that she could talk for hours to anybody who asked about her
conversion. She wore her crucifix and rosary prominently.

“I think it’s important to share Jesus with everybody. Because you can’t be selfish about it,” she said. “So I think Jesus needs to be spoken about more, not only for your own good, not to prove a point, but to bring healing into others’ lives.”

While she was connecting with her new Christian faith, Srinivasan and her husband continued to struggle in their marriage and had filed for divorce although still living together. Around that same time a priest reminded her, if “Jesus said ‘I am the way,’ how can you say no” to trying to save a marriage? One day, while at Mass, Srinivasan was praying and heard God asking her to surrender her marriage to him. She told Bharath she no longer wanted a divorce. For weeks she would go every day to morning Mass and evening adoration. Finally, Bharath ended up deciding not to sign their divorce decree, and the couple reconciled.

Not long after reconciling, the couple had a second son, Adhu, now 7, and moved again to the U.S. for Bharath’s work, this time to Arkansas. After a few years, Bharath got a job in the Seattle area. They’ve now lived in Sammamish for four years.

Bharath says that his wife’s Catholic faith has changed her. “She’s become definitely more forgiving, less of holding grudges and better at letting go of things and being more about looking at the larger picture.”

It’s also changed their family, he said. “Overall it has brought a lot of refinement to our lives and a lot of fruition. ”So much so that during this year’s Easter Vigil at Mary, Queen of Peace, Bharath became Catholic. The couple’s two sons were already Catholic. Bharath said he’d long had a strong affinity to Christianity, but seeing his wife’s conversion, and how it changed her, gradually convinced him to become Catholic.

At her parish, Srinivasan participates on the Devotional Prayer Committee, the Rosary Making ministry and an informal healing prayer group, the latter of which, she hopes, can become an official parish ministry. “You are amazed to know that so many people need prayers,” she said. “Every time, I come out of a prayer session amazed at this awesome God.”

Besides her parish involvement, Srinivasan is on a training team for the School of Healing Prayer through the Western Washington Catholic Charismatic Renewal. She has felt a connection with the charismatic movement since the retreat weekend when she became Catholic. “Everybody is a charismatic,” she said. “If you believe that God has given you a gift, beginning with your baptism, which is a gift, then, you’re a charismatic.”

Srinivasan is also doing an online Catholic deliverance training program through the Oblates of St. Michael. She records a podcast for Radio Angelos, an online Catholic radio station based in India. And she is slowly writing a book about her conversion story. “What drives me to do all these things for the Lord is that I’m still amazed about it,” she said. “I mean, I’m not even tempted to go back to my movie industry. The Lord can really sweep you off your feet every day.”

Friend and fellow parishioner, Lorna Coltorti, is in the parish healing prayer group with Srinivasan and got involved in WWCCR because of her. “The light of Christ really shines through her,” she said. “Everything that she does, she takes into consideration what Jesus would do.” “The more I learn about Catholicism, the more I learn about the Lord, the more I’m amazed and the more I want to help others,” Srinivasan said. “Because all of us are called to heal each other, all of us are called to help each other, in this truly awesome God.”

She often wonders why Catholics aren’t as overt about evangelization here in the West.“There are definitely patches of fire here and there, but I would love to see it as a forest fire. And if I can throw in a few twigs for it, I’m more than willing.” Just as you would notice someone dressed to the nines, she said, “in the same way we have a God who is within us, who is all around us, who is very noticeable.” “So if somebody is going to notice you for what you are, it is because Jesus is in you,” she said. “Catholics are bound to influence
people.”

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3. Sadhu Chellapa

Sadhu Chellapa came from a very religious family from Tamil Nadu, India. When he was a child, the times were very difficult and his family was in search for a better livelihood. It was the time of British Raj in India. Hindu caste system was very prevalent. The lower caste people were inhumanely treated by the Brahmins and the upper class people. While at the same time, the British did not discriminate between the high and the low caste and they welcomed anyone who would be ready to serve them. So his father, who was well educated and respected in society, decided to embrace Christianity to avail of a better quality of life for himself and his family. By doing so, he could also please the ruling British empire.

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His father was working with a Missionary who was from Britain. Everything went well until his father demanded a salary raise. In response to that, he lost his job. The family was stranded. They had nowhere to go. Even everyday food for the family became a challenge.

One day, young Chellappa went to the temple to eat the food which was offered to the idols; he liked the temple and especially the food. So every day, he would go to the temple to eat and while eating he would listen carefully to the shlokas recited by the priest of the temple. Soon he memorized many of the shlokas by heart. One day the priest saw and heard him reciting the same shlokas and was very impressed. He asked the young boy to come and help him in the duties of the temple. He readily accepted because that meant more food during the day and no starvation. Slowly people noticed him at the temple reciting shlokas and were very impressed. His fame grew and people also offered him gifts and food.

One day, while reciting the Shlokas, it dawned upon him that it was about a legend “Prajapati” (the lord of the people), which is mentioned in the Vedas. This historic figure was supposed to take the sins of the world and die for it. He also had to remain sinless and a wild thorny creeper on his head. He was to die for the sins of the world and resurrect. Sadhu Chellapa was intrigued by this deity “Prajapathi”, who is mentioned in Rig Veda as a “silent sufferer”. So he sought to know more about him. He asked many questions to other priests and Brahmans in the temples. He was determined to find more information about his Prajapathi. But he did not find any satisfactory answers. He was only 19 years old at that time and felt very disillusioned. So he thought to himself may be there is no God and everything is purposeless.

During this time, he met another atheist who had a long conversation with him saying that there is a god, but the world has many names for this god. People say there is a Christian god, a Muslim god, a Jewish god and thousands of Hindu gods. So, it is better to believe there is no god. It makes more sense to just ignore God!

Some time went by, and his parents wanted him to get married. One of his Uncles insisted that he would marry a good Christian girl. He did not know why he believed that, but he accepted it. So he married and had children. Life went on but he was not at peace, he started smoking, drinking and also went into a huge debt. Due to his ill habits of smoking, he contracted TB. There was no effective treatment for TB in those days, so he suffered a lot.

Added to this, he always felt guilty that he was neither a good husband to his wife nor a good father to his children. Day by day the guilt, disillusionment about god and the tensions of debt led him to depression.

One day, he was travelling by train, and was distressed by the problems and worries of his life, and , was thinking of a way to escape from it. He decided to commit suicide. He went to the door of the speeding train in an attempt to throw himself down. Right at that moment he heard a mysterious voice saying, “He that conceals his sin will never prosper.” This verse struck him to his core. He  wondered why he heard something like this? What was the purpose? Was there a message for him?

As soon as the train stopped, he got down and he saw a huge Christian gathering in an open place. He started walking towards them, all the while thinking to himself that Jesus Christ is a Christian and foreign god of the West. But he felt compelled to go there.

In the meeting he heard the pastor speak about sin which he understood very well from his knowledge of the Vedas. But then, the pastor said that only Jesus Christ, who is born of the Virgin can take away the sins of world, for He alone is sinless and He is the atoning sacrifice on behalf of all the people.  Sadhu Chellapa recalled that the same description about “Prajapathi” too, was written in the Vedas. He was thrilled to see the connection.

That night the pastor invited the congregation to come forward and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Sadhu Chellapa ran to the front, prayed and accepted Jesus into his heart. Since that day, he started sharing his testimony and preaching the Word of God in all the places.

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4. Anand Mahadevan

He was born a Brahmin and was the grandson of a priest whom he dearly loved. He is educated, and, his current professional standing (Editor of Outlook Business, India) indicates that he is intelligent. He is also affluent and his income would put him distinctly in the upper middle class bracket. That would make him high-caste, rich and smart. In other words, he is not a tribal, or poor or dim-witted. And yet, he chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

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The world would call him a convert to Christianity. He has no problems with that, though he sees his faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, than as a religion. And, for the record, he can truthfully claim that no one financially induced or threatened or deceived him into converting to Christianity.

He was fiercely proud of his national identity as an Indian and he was completely at peace with his cultural identity as a Hindu. He retains the name his parents gave him. His wife, who also shares his faith, continues to go by her Hindu name. They have two children and they both are given distinctly Hindu names. In fact, many of their colleagues and acquaintances are likely to be surprised. They have no inkling about his faith, for he generally doesn't go about announcing it. But if someone does ask him the reason behind the joy and hope that is ever present in his life, he would be always delighted to share it with them.

He points out that his conversion was not a change of religion but a change of heart. To explain this, he goes back to his childhood in Chennai which was similar to that of so many other Tamil Brahmin boys like himself. His grandfather, every bit the virtuous priest, had an enormous influence over him. Anand absolutely adored him and as a toddler, always clung to him. His grandfather too loved him to a fault. There was no wish of his that his grandfather would not rush to fulfil. But even in his early, formative years he was unable to relate to the religion he fervently practiced. Later, in his school days, he once spent his summer holidays with his grandfather in Trichy.  Memories of dawn walks with him for the ritualistic dip in the Cauvery river, cow in tow, are still fresh in his memory.  He learnt many shlokas, some of which he still remembers to this day.

When he was 19, a Christian friend with whom he used to play cricket, invited him to his house for family prayer. If his friend had invited him to a pub, or party, he would have gone there too. At his friend’s home, his friend and his sister prayed for Anand.  It was a simple yet delightful conversation with God in faith that lasted all of five minutes. He does not remember all the words used but they articulated a prayer of blessing on his life, future, career and family. It was a simple affair—no miracles, no angels visiting. All they did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son, Jesus Christ. When they said ‘Amen’, he felt in his heart a desire to follow Jesus.

It was a faith encounter with God that he did not even attempt to understand, rationalise or explain. He simply accepted it. It was his faith. It is what he chose to believe. That evening he did not change his religion, for in reality he had none. Hinduism was his identity, not his religion. It still is.

The Christianity he acquired that evening is not a religion. On the contrary, it is an intensely intimate relationship with Jesus. Over the past fifteen years, he had come to know this Jesus even closer.  He knows Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And he knows Him as a dear friend to whom he prays and talks to every day—about his career, his dreams, successes, failures, finances and even his sexuality.

How can he not tell all his friends about Him? If he reads a good book, watches a good movie  or eats a good meal at a new restaurant, he would naturally tell his friends about it. In Jesus, he has discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can he not tell all his friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, he is delighted. The world would call it a conversion; he calls it a change of heart, like his own.

He knows the constitution of India well. He knows the freedom that it gives. He wants to have that right to practice his faith and to preach it. He would never force anyone to listen to him, leave alone financially induce, coerce or con anyone into believing. That to him or any Christian is pointless and against the very grain of his faith. But he does have a constitutional right to practice his faith and to preach it without deception, force or bribery. It pains him to see such basic rights of mankind being cruelly violated every day in this great Hindu nation.


5. Sr. Nirmala Joshi, M.C.

She succeeded the famed Nobel Laureate, (Saint) Mother Teresa of Calcutta , as Superior General of the  Missionaries of Charity , in March 1997. She was bestowed the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award for her  services to the Poor, in India.

Her birth name is Kusum which means  "flower".  She was born into a wealthy Hindu family, natives of Nepal who belonged to the first and highest caste, the Brahmins. Her father was an officer in the army. Her mother was occupied primarily with bringing up 10 children. Kusum is the eldest.

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Her parents were very devoted to the values of Hinduism. Like all Hindus, her family deeply loved the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi. She prayed to God with the names of Rama, Krishna and Shiva. Already as a small child she felt strongly moved to love the poor. Shiva became her favourite when she learned that he was not loved very much because of his very ugly appearance.
At the age of seven, Kusum's parents enrolled her in a boarding school run by Christian missionaries. It was there that she heard for the first time "of a certain Jesus Christ".

When she was nine, she went happily with her family to the festivities in honour of Shiva.  Caught up in playing with her friends, she found herself in the courtyard of the Catholic Church in Duranda, where she saw a great white statue with outstretched arms. She was terribly scared and ran away. Then gained courage and hesitatingly returned, a step at a time.  She found that it was the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From that day on, after school,  she always made a detour on the way home just to see that image which fascinated her.

Then, at the age of about 10, she heard the story of Jesus. But she was not looking for him, she was content being a Hindu. She never thought of changing religion. When she was in the seventh grade, she found a copy of the New Testament in her house. She opened it at random and read these words of Jesus: 'Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart'. She thought that Jesus was very proud because he was praising himself. So she closed the book and decided not to look at it again. Later on, while she was at high school, an argument on which was the best religion arose between her cousins, who were all Hindus, and herself. She had just finished studying the history of the Protestant Reformation and therefore said that Hinduism is the best religion. Her cousins on the other hand, stood up for Catholicism. Soon afterwards, her father enrolled her at the Patna Women's College, which was run by Sisters; God evidently had a special plan for her.

Later, when Kusum went to live in the hostel run by Catholic sisters, she heard the sound of a bell in the evening. Her room-mate, a Catholic medical student, heard it ringing too and knelt down and prayed in silence. She did not know then what the bell was for, but she was impressed by her friend's act. At that moment Jesus touched her heart. She understood that though she had never sought Him, he had sought her and had found her at last.  She was 17 years old. She began to read about Him to answer her own questions.

Six and a half years of doubts and struggles followed; she had the problem of telling her family about it. She was afraid of losing the affection and security of her Hinduism. But she had to reckon with Jesus and with her desire to serve the poor.  She surrendered to Jesus and decided to stay with Mother Teresa.

Kusum was baptized on 5 April 1958. On 24 May, she joined the Missionaries of Charity with the name of Nirmala, which means "purity".

She once said, "Thanks be to God that today I am a Catholic religious.  It is purely by the grace of God that I converted to Christ. But at first it was not easy. I felt homesick for my family and was tormented by the idea of not having time off to go home for a while. I unburdened myself to Mother Teresa. At those times, Mother Teresa supported me. She was my strength. She taught me to ask God for help and to pray. Once she said to me: 'Do not think now of your whole life, but try to live day by day'. Thus very slowly, with her, I found the serenity I was seeking and needed".

Sr. Nirmala Joshi completed a Master's degree in Political Science and a doctorate degree in Law. She was one of the first Sisters of the institute to head a foreign mission, when she went to Panama. She started the Contemplative wing of the Missionaries of Charity, in which nuns devote their lives to meditation and in service of the poorest of the poor. She died on 25June2015, in Kolkata.

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6. Pavithra Subramaniyan Iyer

She once told of her discovery of the One True Living God and very joyfully described her journey of faith to AsiaNews. She was then a Chartered Accountant, only 25 years old, but highly mature.

She came from a very wealthy, Hindu family of the highest caste. Her mother used to regularly go to a Catholic Church for a Novena prayer, and as a child she would accompany her mom. She was touched by the peaceful atmosphere in the church and felt that God the almighty resides there giving true everlasting peace!

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She was naturally drawn towards Christ as she did not understand and could not get answers to her questions about her religion. How could  there be so many Gods and who is the true God? If nature is a creation, then, how could the creation be god and how is the Creator forgotten? How can animals and plants or seas and rivers be divine? She herself had questions like : how could there be a caste system if all are the children of God? She did not even accept her name, as she believed that she is not ‘Pavithra’ but that only God is Pavitra.  However, a Catholic priest advised her to retain her name, so that  it may inspire her to live a holy life.

When she expressed her desire to become Catholic, her parents willingly allowed her and even promised be present for her baptism. Her Father was a Banker and mother was a university professor in Economics. Her spiritual quest was not satisfied till she accepted Jesus as Lord and God. There was a sense of peace that she used to feel when she entered the Church.

She had no idea that there was a plan that Jesus had made for her. There was an image that He had already created of her in Him. He sent her angels to take care of her and guide her on a path.  All things fell into place automatically and she was drawn towards the Lord.

She was supported and motivated by some Catholics who became her best friends. But she was convinced that without Jesus they were nothing. Everything that she had achieved was through Jesus and He was the reason she was lead to follow her faith in Him.

She made her decision and met 'Father Terrence'. He explained to her the consequences of her decision. Though she did face some sort of turmoil just as Moses or Jonah did, she was ready to accept the challenges.

Gods’ works are so marvellous. He handed her over to a set of Angels - the animators - 'Zita, Fatima , Patricia and Rose'  who nurtured her along with the other candidates. They imbibed the seed of faith in her. They were teaching her about the Lord in such a way that she yearned to learn more and more about Him.

Before she could join the catechism class, she was apprehensive about the type of instructions she would receive and what it would be about.  However, they made her feel very comfortable. They had discussions, question and answer sessions, and prayed together. She enjoyed learning about the Lord with them and the other classmates. Going to classes every Thursday had become a part of her life.

From the beginning until her first retreat, she came to know Jesus as 'Supreme God' first, then, as 'Son of God', 'A Messiah', to being 'A Saviour of the world', who died for all in order to free us from sins. It was a huge and unique sacrifice for such sinful people like us who think mostly of worldly pleasures. She believed that whatever the situation be in life, she must take up her own cross.  Then God would automatically be with her.

Whether other people had the time or not, Jesus was there to guide, protect, be with her, always, at every moment. Through this journey of knowing Jesus, her life changed - she started reading the Bible, attending Holy Mass, learning prayers, reading about the faith. Most importantly the effects - she started inculcating 'the Beatitudes' in her life; she started seeing Christ in other people.  It changed the way she looked at life.  Her attitudes, values and her behaviour changed as she embraced Christ and his teachings.   She passed her CA exams with distinction and got a job within 15 days of getting the degree and regained her self-confidence which seemed lost.

On the day of her Sacrament of Initiation she was welcomed into the community with great warmth. She felt privileged to get the Bishop's blessing. The Mass that was celebrated on that day can never be forgotten. Yes, she felt that she was God's Chosen One to whom he is giving the living water. She received the Holy Spirit which guided and protected her. She was extremely happy to receive the body and blood of Christ.  She has now decided to spread this good news of Jesus to the world.  He has healed and saved millions.

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7. Bhisham Chandiramani

Bhisham Chandiramani, originally from Sindh, but now currently living in Bandra (W), is a young man of 31 years, well educated, and a very enterprising personality.

His journey of faith began when, for the first time, he accompanied his friend one evening for Holy Mass,  at St Ann’s Church, Pali Hill.  Entering the Church that first time, was totally unexpected, almost accidental. Instead of wandering around the neighbourhood waiting for his friend, he had decided to accompany him.  He became so engrossed in the Eucharist that he was drowned in the mystery of Jesus, his body and blood. The mystery of His passion and resurrection was revealed to him in that celebration. There was a perfect silence in the church. He felt as if it was the house of God, a heavenly place. He listened carefully to the Scriptures and the Gospel, he was attracted to their teachings, he felt a sense of inner peace. He could not understand what was happening, but he certainly felt the presence of God, and, he decided to visit again and again.

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Every year, during the Mahashivaratri [the "Great Night of Shiva”, one of the most important festivals of Hindus], his father took them on a pilgrimage to the temple of the god. And there he never understood why god, in a fit of rage, could have decapitated his son: where was the compassion and forgiveness of this god? His parents were not very devout Hindus, but their children were still taught prayer and faith. His mother taught them good values, and always stressed the difference between right and wrong.  She also took his younger brother and him to the temple of Hanuman every Saturday, but they did not understand what was happening : the bell was struck, offerings were made and nothing else. No reflection, no time together. It was a ritual, nothing more. "

Bhisham continued to go to Mass, after his first experience in February 1998, almost every day: Every time he felt peace, and the sermons helped him in everyday life. But one Sunday morning, his father saw him leave the church and he complained to his wife. She defended her son, saying : he is of age and let him decide.   The mother responded in similar tones to relatives who were starting to fear the young man’s conversion.

In 2001, Bhisham felt called to serve God for the rest of his life, but his vocation was hampered by the fact that he was not a Catholic and had not yet received the Eucharist. In May the following year, he discovered the rosary for the first time, by going to evening Mass. Devotion to the Mother of God, drew him immediately and he started reciting the Marian prayer very lovingly.  That very day, his father fell seriously ill and Bhisham became even closer to faith in Jesus. The father died on Christmas Day of that year, in peace.

On 18 December 2003, the young man moved to work in Bahrain. Even there, he built a small altar in his room before which, every day, he recited the Rosary, even when he was very tired.  He also went to church four days a week, travelling the country in the intense heat. In July 2004, he began to wonder what he was doing, so far from home; he did not want to miss the feast of Our Lady of the Mount on 8th September, and so returned home five days earlier.

In May 2006, the community of St. Ann’s Parish, asked Bhisham to take over leadership of the Rosary recitals.  A few months later, along with his brother, he opened a clothing store. And, wanting to create an impression he chose a Christian name "Adam and Eve".  The boutique is now well known for its excellent service.

In 2009, the young Hindu took the plunge and decided to attend instruction in Christianity.  However, since the parishioners of St.Ann’s  did not know that he was not yet a Christian, he did not want to go there and so went to a nearby parish.  There, the catechist refused him admission, saying he was late, as classes began in early July and it was already the end of the month. Saddened, he spoke a parishioner of St. Ann’s, who led him to the priest. By August, Bhisham was accepted into catechism class.

The young man was thrilled by the class. The lessons were enlightening. He was fascinated by the universality of the Church and the fact that Catholics all over the planet pray together every day with the same readings at the Eucharist. On the day before his Baptism, he prayed to God to help him to be a worthy member of the chosen people and be faithful to him alone. The call to priesthood is still alive in the young man, and he has asked God to allow him to become His apostle, to "bring the world the Good News." He plans to become a priest of God, to give his total self to God and God alone.

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8. Bobby Jindal

Bobby Jindal was born in the United States immediately after his parents arrived there from India. He was raised in a strong Hindu culture, attended weekly pujas, or ceremonial rites, and read the Vedic scriptures. Though his prayers were a child’s constant stream of requests and broken promises,  Hinduism provided him with moral guidance and spiritual comfort. It never occurred to him that he should consider any other religion; to be a Hindu was an aspect of his Indian identity. A childhood friend, a Southern Baptist intent on converting the world, first introduced him to Christianity by telling him "you and your parents are going to hell." Bobby was not convinced.

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His friend’s exhortations did, however, prompt him to investigate his Hindu faith and motivated him to read the Bhagavad-Gita. Although he found the stories fascinating and the writing magnificent, he was uncomfortable when Krishna convinced a reluctant Arjuna to secure his rightful inheritance by making war against his cousins. Though Bobby did not like seeing a deity advocate violence, this feeling was not enough to reject an entire faith. He wanted to examine Hinduism on its own merits and doctrines.

The main tenets of the Hindu faith involve two basic beliefs. The first is that all souls earn their way into nirvana, a state of blessedness, through good deeds. Since this takes many lifetimes, souls are reincarnated until they succeed. One’s material circumstances are based on the past life’s choices; the very worst souls are incorporated into animal bodies...

The second tenet is that all religions are equally valid paths to the same God. This strips one of the right to criticize any set of religious beliefs, including those of cults and other extreme groups. Thus, God is not concerned with having His followers believe in truth. It is sincerity, and not content, that matters. Yet he had for years a sincere prayer life and still felt a void in his religious faith. Though he was searching for an objectively true faith that would lead him to God, he was beginning to doubt this existed and was ready to accept the "philosophies," if not the religious beliefs, associated with Hinduism.

His journey from Hinduism to Christianity was a gradual and painful one. He was touched by the love and simplicity of a Christian girl who dreamt of becoming a Supreme Court Justice so that she could stop her country from "killing unborn babies." Bobby was also angered by the arrogance of his Southern Baptist friend who claimed his faith was the one true path to God. The friend seemed to deny the experiences of billions of people who have never seen a copy of the Bible.

Bobby began reading the Bible to disprove the Christian faith he was learning both to admire and despise. He says, he cannot describe his feelings when he first read the New Testament texts. He saw myself in many of the parables and felt as if the Bible had been written especially for me. After reading every book he could find on the historical accuracy of the Bible and Christianity, he was convinced that the Bible had remained unaltered throughout the centuries and that circumstances surrounding Christ’s death led to the conversions of thousands. However, his perspective remained intellectual and not spiritual.

His investigation of Christianity might have remained at this theoretical level had it not been for a short black-and-white film. Though its depiction of the crucifixion was harsher than that of many similar movies, something about this film hit him very hard. For the first time, he actually imagined what it meant for the Son of God to be humiliated and even killed for his sake. Although the movie did not convince him that anything was true, it did force him to wonder if Christians were right. He realized that if the Gospel stories were true, if Christ really was the Son of God, it was arrogant of him to reject Him and question the gift of salvation.

It would require many hours of discussion with a pastor before he was ready to take that leap of faith and accept Christ into his life. It would take another two years for him to be baptized into the Catholic Church. His parents were infuriated by his conversion and did not forgive him. He tried to prepare himself for the worst.  Though he was ready when they ended their financial support, he was not as prepared for the emotional battles. His parents went through different phases of anger and disappointment. They blamed themselves for being bad parents, blamed him for being a bad son and blamed evangelists for spreading dissension. There were heated discussions, many of them invoking family loyalty and national identity. His parents never truly accepted his conversion and saw his faith as a negative that overshadowed his accomplishments. They were hurt and felt he was rejecting them by accepting Christianity. He longed for the day when his parents would understand, respect and possibly accept his faith. In the meanwhile, he was satisfied that they accepted him...

The motivation behind his conversion, however, was his belief in the one, objectively true faith. If Christianity is merely one of many equally valid religions, then the sacrifices he made, including the loss of his family’s peace, were senseless. He had been comfortable in his Hindu faith and had enjoyed an active prayer life; He had only gradually felt a void and had stubbornly resisted God’s call from within the church. It was Truth and Love that finally forced Him to accept Christ as Lord. "Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn. 14:6). Christ’s redemptive sacrifice proved that God loved him and was lifting him up to Him.

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9. Rajesh Nayak

Rajesh Nayak, was born in a Hindu Brahmin family and was the only child to his parents. His first encounter with the Catholic faith came at the tender age of three and half years. It so happened that his mother was on her way to get him enrolled in a Marathi medium school in the area, when a lady by the name of Mrs. Janet Kaunds (a Protestant) met his mother. Mrs. Kaunds was a teacher at St. John the Evangelist High School, Marol (Mumbai) and was residing in the same building as them. She spoke to his mother and got him enrolled in her school.

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Mrs. Kaunds had no children of her own.   Rajesh used to go to school with her and soon he was known as Kaunds Teacher’s son in the school. She was more than a mother to him and he started spending all his time with her at her place. He started going to school with her and also to church along with her. Their Mass used to be mostly in Kanada and a bit of English. He also started celebrating all their festivals. The neighbourhood where he was residing, was a village (Gaothan) populated by East Indian Catholics, so most of his friends were Catholics.  And, it was the same at school, since it was a Catholic school.

In college, he fell in love with his best friend’s sister. They were Roman Catholics. His future wife wanted a church wedding, so they attended the marriage course. He was the only non-Catholic at that course in a group of around 60 people. The parish priest at that time told him that he must get converted if they wanted a proper church wedding. He was willing.  But, when he broke the news to his parents, he could tell that they were not happy about it, although, they had not said so openly. So, not wanting to hurt his parents, he told his wife-to-be that he could not get converted at that time but, he promised her, one day he surely would.

In the year 1995, they got married. They had a church wedding but it was a special mass. In 1998, their daughter was born.  Once again, at that time, he thought of getting converted, but his parents had already brought objection to getting their daughter baptized. So, he did not get converted but the daughter was baptized. In the year 2003, their second daughter was born, and he faced the same problem. Being an only child, he did not want to hurt his parents.

As their children grew and received their First Holy Communion, they wondered why their father did not go to receive communion during the Mass when all their friend’s parents used to go.  He used to feel bad that they had to face this situation because of him. All this while, his wife never complained nor did she lose hope. In the year 2006, his dad passed away and in the year 2014, his mom passed away.  Rajesh decided it was time to get converted. He then understood it was Jesus who had called him in His own time and not he who went to Jesus.

Ever since their marriage in 1995, he used to attend Masses with his wife, but never understood what it meant. They were both active members in their Church, St. Vincent Pallotti, Marol. The year when he got himself enrolled for the RCIA classes, he, along with his wife and kids, went to the RCIA registration office at Bandra and he could see the joy on their faces. For all of 20 years, his wife had waited for that day, without complaining, but only praying. Thereafter, he went to meet his Parish Priest, Fr. Charles Fernandes, for the required letters. Fr. Charles and rest of the priests were surprised that the letter was for him. All this while, they had thought that he was a Catholic.  And, so did many people of that parish.  He joined the RCIA classes on 02Jun2016 at St. Teresa Convent in Santa Cruz.

As the RCIA classes began, both, his wife and he, had to attend the classes on weekly basis. During the first 2 or 3 classes when the animators asked questions, he felt that he was in a Sunday school class for small children, because he knew everything that they were teaching.  But as the classes progressed, he realized how wrong he was. He had heard and seen the Ten Commandments in movies but never knew what it really meant. All this while, there had been a bible at home which he had never opened to read.  However, when he received a bible for himself in the class, he started reading as and when he got time  - maybe once or twice in a week.

Let us backtrack a bit to the year 2012.  Rajesh had been running his dad’s business since his death in 2006.  There was a drop in his business, and then, his mom expired in 2014. Those were bad days in his life. His business continued declining until the year 2015, and he thought of shutting it down. His daughters had grown up by then.  The elder one was 18 years old and the younger one, 13 years old. There used to be a lot of misunderstandings at home and he thought it was because of the generation gap.

But now he knew and understood that one needs to surrender oneself and one’s problems in the hands of God.  He did not get upset and angry with his daughters anymore, and, at work he was ready to accept the truth and was confident of facing every challenge that came his way. Previously, he would run away from his problems by not answering phone calls or tell lies to hide the truth.  Now, knowing that Jesus was always by his side, he saw life differently and realized that all problems have solutions if we are ready to face the truth and have faith in God. From the time he joined the RCIA classes and began to pray to Our Lord, there was a vast improvement in his family life and in his business too. One might think that this was a coincidence, but his faith was getting stronger in Jesus as he started to understand His teachings. He began to surrender all his problems to Jesus in prayer.

Earlier when he prayed, he did not know which God he was addressing.  As the classes progressed, his faith in Jesus Christ grew deeper. Now he knew to whom he was praying to and suddenly he found peace within himself and in his surroundings.

Since, he was the only candidate from his Parish attending the Rite of Acceptance, he was very scared and nervous to face the whole congregation all alone. Then he said to himself, “if the Lord my God is with me, who can be against me”. Immediately, he gained confidence in his ability to stand alone in front of the whole congregation. This was the first Mass in his life that he really concentrated on every word and felt himself connecting to God. From that day, his concept of the Mass really changed.

Then, came the time for the Rite of Election. He was all set for the big occasion in his life. A day prior, he called his God-father just to remind him of the Mass timing so that he could be in church on time, but due to some personal problem, his God-father said he could not make it. Rajesh was very furious, he argued with his wife and did not sleep the whole night with the thought that he would not have a God-Father for the Mass. The next morning, he woke up and did not know what to do.  Then, he remembered what the RCIA’s animators used to tell the candidates. So, he took his Bible, went to his room and started to read it. The RCIA animators had given the candidates a book of the daily gospel, which he had left duly sealed in its plastic cover till that day. (It was 5th of March). He opened the book and read the day’s reading. As he finished reading, his phone rang and it was his god-father asking at what time he should be at the church. This was the time he really understood the power of the word of God and what Jesus said “Ask and You shall receive”. And from that day, the first thing in the morning, he reads the word of God and presents himself to Jesus to guard and guide him throughout the day.

As he prepared himself for the scrutiny’s and for his Baptism, the Holy Eucharist and his Confirmation, he prayed to Jesus to cleanse him of all his sins and to always remain in him through the Holy Eucharist so that he might sin no more.  He truly believes that one can only go to Jesus, when and how He wants us to come to him, by His will and not ours. He understood that Jesus had always been there with him in the past years through his wife’s prayers and not his. Until he joined the RCIA classes, he had not known how to pray. He now prays to Jesus to dwell in him forever and to get things done through him, Rajesh,  just as Jesus wants it to be done; and, to spread His Good News to the less privileged people like himself.

He is very grateful to all those who prayed for him or contributed to his faith. He knows that after living in darkness in the past years, he will now be able to see the true light through Jesus Christ his Lord. He had found for himself a father, a friend and a guardian in ‘The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’. He now believes, “He is the only God”.

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10. Pradesh Shreshta

Pradesh Shrestha had never seriously considered the reality of God nor his lack of relationship and responsibility to Him until September 1983, when he lay seriously ill on a hospital bed in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, in an isolation room in St. Patrick's Hospital, the doctor told Pradesh that they had finally diagnosed his illness and that the antibiotic he would have to take was known to be potentially lethal for some patients but that there was no viable alternative.

He was shocked. He agreed to take the medicine but that night he could not sleep because there was a good chance that he might die. He wondered where he would go if he died.  For the first time in his life, he took an honest look at himself. And when he did so, his conscience was troubled, because, whereas he had always perceived himself to be a good person, now he realised that he had not been all that good.  If there is a Hell, he feared he would end up there if he died.

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He was born in the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal. His parents, specially his mother, had always worshipped idols, observed rituals, fasts and holy days on the Hindu calendar. His mother deeply believed in reincarnation - the Hindu doctrine, that the soul is almost endlessly reborn in one body after another. The Hindu concept of salvation is liberation from this supposed chain of rebirths and the sufferings of life. On important religious days, his family would go to Nepal's most renowned Hindu shrine, the Temple of Pashupatinath in Kathmandu where they bowed down to idols. As any other Hindu boy, he had grown up fascinated with the stories of Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic, Ramayana; and Krishna, the hero of the other great Hindu epic, Mahabharata.

He went to a school run by Jesuit Catholic priests in Kathmandu, where he was exposed to Christianity. But, he was not taught any Catholic doctrines or the Bible. The only thing they were taught was the Ten Commandments. However, the Second Commandment mentioned in the Bible, namely, the prohibition of idol worship (Exodus 20:4-6; Deuteronomy 5:8-10) was, oddly enough, excluded, thus giving him an impression that Christianity was somewhat like Hinduism. It seemed to him that the Christian idols were the statues of Mary  and the Crucifix that every Jesuit wore around the neck, and which was also hung in every classroom.

During the nine years of Jesuit schooling, apart from the morals he was taught (for which he was  thankful), he learned nothing about the Person of Jesus Christ.  He graduated from Class Ten, totally ignorant of the Bible that contains the wonderful message of salvation. By then his vague and confused personal belief was that all things come by chance via the random process of evolution and that physical death forever ends the existence of a person. He had no idea of his absolute accountability to God nor of the eternal misery that awaited unsaved souls.

As he lay awake that night on his hospital bed, saw himself in a different light. Had he not cheated in exams ? Had he not been proud of his so-called achievements and despised his colleagues inwardly? Out of view of his teachers, had he not sometimes been very unkind and dealt selfishly with his friends? He had lied, coveted, and sometimes stole too, never repentant of his wickedness in doing so, but instead making every attempt to hide his sins, fearing he might get caught. Moreover, at home in the family, had he not often grieved his parents with haughty words and stubborn disobedience? Had he not harboured deep ill feelings towards his brother? Countless sins of his youth haunted him.  Out of desperation he cried out, "God, if you are there, don't let me die. I will change my ways." Indeed, before then, he had never thought he was a sinner that needed any change. On the other hand, he did not yet know that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and incurably sick, unable to change and rescue itself from its wretched condition of self-centered, self-deified existence.

Gradually, the medication did its work and he got better. But as he got better, he gave less and less thought to the things his conscience had so keenly felt at the hospital. A few months later, someone asked him about his health and he replied that luck had always favoured him, even in the case of his illness. The person remarked that, "Maybe, it's not luck!"

At that time, he was a student at Arman Hammar United World College of the American West located in New Mexico. After graduating, Pradesh remained on campus doing a summer job.

A Jordanian classmate and he shared a room together. He used to write and receive letters from the mother of one of his other classmates, Shaunna, who was from the Midwest, and who had once invited Pradesh and a dozen other international students to her home for Christmas. He liked to write to her about commonplace things. She had been the one who had commented, "Maybe, it's not luck!"  One day in June that summer, one of her letters arrived. He read it aloud to his roommate. A short paragraph in the letter strangely arrested his attention, and he could not read it aloud anymore, for tears welled up in his eyes. She had written that on the previous Sunday they had sung a hymn at church:

I love to tell the story,

Of unseen things above;

Of Jesus and His Glory,

Of Jesus and His Love!

She wrote that even though the hymn had been sung many times before, that day the words stirred her heart. As she sang, she thought of the many foreign students who had crowded her house in winter, who did not know the Saviour she did. And she thought of Pradesh. She asked herself, "Do I really love to tell others about the only Saviour there is?" Thus she was moved, she said, to write to him and tell him of her certitude that Jesus Christ is the only God and Saviour of man”. She added tenderly, that there could be no eternal permanence in her relationship with persons like him apart from their putting their personal faith in Jesus Christ. He was deeply touched though he did not fully understand her words. No one had ever communicated such things in such a manner to him.

Being in close confidence with Annie, a Chinese friend from Hong Kong, he shared the matter with her, copying verbatim the paragraph from the  letter. Soon he received a lengthy reply in which Annie expressed her joy that Shaunna's mother had attempted to share the Gospel with him. She added that she had also wanted to share the same with him before but had felt unqualified to "preach" the Gospel. Besides, she said, she had feared that if he ever became a Christian it would strain his relationship with his Hindu family. Now she realized that it was Satan who had convinced her not to share the Gospel with him. In the letter she explained the way of salvation, quoting many verses from the Bible. She wrote, God wants us to become His dear children by trusting Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Saviour because He died for our sins and rose again from the dead on the third day.

The letter greatly affected him. His initial reaction was, “How dare she seek to convert me, a Hindu?” But, knowing Annie, he knew she had written these things out of a genuine concern for his own welfare.  He had first recognized and acknowledged his innate sinfulness one year ago, when he was hospitalized. Annie had quoted in the letter, the following verses from the Bible, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  She had explained that God's dear Son, Jesus Christ, suffered and paid for the penalty of the world’s sins by means of His death on the cross, and that, if we believed in Jesus Christ, we would be saved from the everlasting punishment that we deserved as sinners.  She quoted another verse to illustrate this, "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

A multitude of thoughts troubled him late into the night. One Bible verse cited in the letter, troubled him the most: "He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and He that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). He had two opposing thoughts warring within him: First, how could the Bible be possibly true when millions in Nepal have never even heard the name of Jesus? Second, if the Bible is in fact true then he must suffer everlasting punishment for his sins. Thus, on the one hand, he did not want to accept the possibility that the Bible may be true; on the other hand, he simply could not shake off the possibility that the Bible, after all, may indeed be true! He just did not have the facts to make an honest judgment let alone "believe" anything.

Suddenly, he was craving for answers to a host of questions. Who is Jesus? Why should he believe in Him? What does it mean to believe in Him? Why should only Christians go to heaven? Why not Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims? Who is Jesus Christ? Is He just a man-made figure as the demigods in Hindu mythology, or is He a real Person? If what the Bible says is true, he was indeed lost and in danger of eternal damnation. But was it true? How could he know for sure?

He began asking people around about Jesus Christ. But, to his surprise, no one he asked knew anything, nor did they seem interested. He had always assumed that the people in the Western world, including America, were all Christians, but now he found out that was not true. He went to the school library hoping to find answers his questions. He read an article on religion and philosophy in the Encyclopedia Britannica and became certain, for the first time, that Jesus Christ was indeed a real historical Person and not a myth. In one of the dormitory lounges, he came across a Bible someone had discarded and in another place he found a copy of the Gospel of John. He began to read, because Annie had advised in the letter to read from the New Testament.

Occasionally, visitors would come for a tour of the campus. One day, he was showing an elderly couple around. They were from Las Cruces, New Mexico. After the tour, he bid them goodbye a short distance from where their car was parked. After reaching the car, the lady called him over. He walked over to them thinking that maybe she wanted to give him some money.  But she gave him several small booklets about God and the Bible! He took them and walked back into a building. His hands were trembling as he opened up the plastic and held in his hands a booklet titled "The Way of Salvation".  Pradesh felt he could not escape God. God seemed to surround him from every side! In less than three weeks, all these things had taken place: the letter from the Midwest, the letter from Hong Kong, the Bible in the lounge, and now this booklet from someone he had never met and who had no idea what was going on in his heart and mind those very days! But something inside him tried to reason that it was all a coincidence.

A week later, a classmate returned from her home in Las Cruces and invited another friend and Pradesh to her house. They both went with her.  He took with him the Bible, the booklets and another book which he had begun reading with great interest. He had had this book, “Evidence That Demands A Verdict” by Josh McDowell, since the previous Christmas, when Shaunna's father had given it to him. But, he had forgotten all about it, much less bothered to read it. Now, he came across it in his belongings and began to read it carefully.

He was amazed when he began to find satisfactory answers, one after another, to his queries. At his friend's house in Las Cruces, he would read and think for hours whenever he was alone. He became convinced that the Bible is a historically accurate book. He now knew that Jesus Christ was crucified on a Roman cross almost 2000 years ago while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea in Palestine but that Jesus Christ was innocent. He also knew that Jesus Christ had made the unmistakable claim that He was the eternal Son of God; that He became a man to sacrificially give His life as the only sufficient payment for the sins of every individual person of the entire human history; that personal, explicit faith in Him is the only hope for a person to be saved from the eternal consequences of sin.

He was struck by the unique event in history - the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave, three days after His death and burial. He thought to himself, “Mohammed's tomb remains occupied, Confucius did not rise from the dead, Buddha's corporeal remains were distributed, but over five hundred eye-witnesses had seen Jesus Christ, many even touched Him and conversed with Him for forty days after His definite death and burial. Thus surely, He is not just a moral teacher or religious leader. He is more. If Jesus in no uncertain terms claimed to be equal with God, would not relegating to Him the title of a mere man, no matter how great a man, be tantamount to accusing Him of being a fraud? And surely, no fraud could be rightly called a good man. Therefore, He must be what He claimed to be for who would dare call Jesus a Liar?” The more he read, the more he wondered why anyone would not become a Christian.

While he and his friends were in Las Cruces, he contacted the elderly couple who had given him the booklets.  The couple invited them to their ranch for horseback riding. After the ride, they sat down for some refreshments. And, before they ate, his host reverently bowed his head to pray.  It was a scene which greatly impressed Pradesh.

Back in his room at his friend’s house, Pradesh came across a prayer written on the back of the book he was reading and could personally identify with it.  He was amazed at the change that had come over himself.   About how differently he now thought of God and Jesus Christ and the Bible than he had done just few weeks ago. Every now and then he tried to share a little from his readings with his two friends. One day, one of them said something to the effect that he might as well become a Christian. She went on to say that she wondered how his Hindu parents would react. He could not hold his tears, for he knew they were lost without Christ.

He received Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and Lord. He wrote to his friends and to his family in Nepal, about his personal experience of Jesus.

From that day, in late July 1984, Pradesh knew what it was to be a child of God, what it was to be a sinner saved by grace and mercy. Grace, because though he deserved nothing, he had all things :  forgiveness of sins, adoption into God's family, fellowship with God, everlasting life, inheritance in Heaven that will never fade away and much more! Mercy, because though he deserved everlasting punishment, Jesus had saved him from the coming judgement and wrath of God.  Because, when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He actually bore the wrath of God for the whole world.

Speaking of his journey of faith, Pradesh has this to say : “I have found not a religion but a real and blessed relationship with God. May you, too, consider the Person of Jesus Christ apart from whom there is no other way to get right with God”.

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11. Jaideep Singh

This is the story of Jaideep Singh, who, a decade ago, became a Maryknoll missionary, a society of apostolic life founded in the United States in the early 1900s. He is now called Fr. Stephen James Taluja.(Photo of his first Mass)

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Jaideep was born in 1981, the youngest child of an important Indian Sikh family, the only male, and eagerly awaited by his parents after three daughters. Fr. Stephen narrated his unique and personal story that revolved around his discovery that Christ is the Mighty God "in weakness" and the certainty that "God is faithful."

His mother was a very devout woman who introduced him to the teachings of the Guru Granth Sahib and educated her children at home in the prayer and recitation of the hymns of the sacred scriptures. His father accompanied him to the Gurdwara, the Sikh temple, and raised him in the Sikh faith. His parents instilled in their children the love for God and a sense of service to the community.

Jaideep studied at St Stephen's School in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. Mr. Harold Carver, dean and founder of the institute remembers the young Sikh who "excelled in sports and played in the under 19 national soccer team of the State, loved music and sang in the school choir.

Because of the quality of his singing,  Jaideep was invited to sing at midnight Mass on Easter Eve in the local church of St. Sebastian. He was 13 years old and studying in 7th class. It was the first time he had set foot in a Catholic Church, making the unusual occasion even more special for the young Sikh. On the day of his Ordination, he recounted the vivid memories of that night - of the crucifix hanging on the wall and all the people on their knees praying. He had wondered how people could pray to a weak and dying God. For him, God had to emanate strength and power. And this God was just the opposite.  Fr. Stephen remembered the charm of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and the common prayer.  It was the unveiling of a totally new way for him. He left the Mass with the image of "the cross and crucified Lord" in his head, as well as, "emerging questions about the meaning of life."

After that night, Jaideep began a long journey.   His mother had noticed that there was a change in him and had recognised his initial interest in Christianity, but was silent .  Jaideep turned to the rector, Mr. Carver, putting his questions to him and continued to do so even after the unfortunate events in his family life.

His mother’s sudden death, made his need to understand the meaning of life and death even more urgent.  Fr. Stephen speaks today of the "darkness of soul" recalling that time. He had wondered where God was in all that was happening to him, what was the meaning of life.   The patient company of Mr. Harold Carver marks the "days of torment" of the young Sikh, who recalls that at some point he began to see the connection between life and death, realizing that Jesus died and rose and was the model for all.

The memory of that period, in which anguish was followed by the emergence of faith, was for Fr Stephen a motive for "pride and gratitude". His family had planted in his soul the seed of religion, dean Carver, the seed of Catholicism and of a life spent in witness of the Gospel.

Jaideep spoke to his father about his decision of becoming a Christian. All hell broke loose. His father was annoyed, angry and offended. He called Jaideep’s sisters to ask them for information about his new faith". Those days were really heavy and unsettling days for the whole family ... thus began Jaideep’s personal participation in the passion and crucifixion of Christ."

On March 1, 1999, Jaideep Singh was baptized and chose the name of his school Stephen James. He became a Catholic in secret and for 3-4 years his family knew nothing. He did not want to hurt them even more, because his father loved him so much and yet did not understand his choices.

A year later, Stephen left for the United States to study computer science in New York. To earn some money he worked at night at a gas station. Every morning, he went for Mass in the parish named after St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Shrub Oak. Even there, he joined the choir, and one day, the director, Patti Copeland, introduced Stephen to the Maryknoll missionaries. The 20 year old was inspired by their stories of aid to the poor around the world.

Stephen experienced an innate desire to communicate with God and to devote his life to contemplation. He now believes that the roots of this impulse lay in the education he had received in his hometown.  Being Indian, and having received from his mother and his culture a deep sense of divinity, he was fascinated by the mystical life in the early days of New York and he had thought of becoming a Trappist monk.

In 2001, the young Indian was invited to an Easter spiritual retreat and he realised he was being called to a consecrated life. Stephen entered the seminary, but did not reveal the fact to his father and sisters, worried about the pain and stress that the decision might cause to his family.

It was a period of anxiety in his life. He knew that his father and members of his family were mocked, scorned and humiliated for his decision to become Catholic. Sikh culture attaches great importance to the one male in the family circle. Each boy had the responsibility to carry on the name of his race and to take care of his  parents when they grew old.  Stephen could no longer do so because of the decision he had taken.

The days of his priestly formation were tormented with the guilt of hurting his loved ones, especially his father.   But, though Stephen suffered, he knew that God was faithful, and that He would give his father a reward far greater than he could hope for.

Stephen studied at St. Xavier University in Chicago, attended the Maryknoll's Language Institute in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and for two years lived and worked in the mission of Aymara, on the Peruvian High Planes.

On 30May2009, he was ordained a priest.  Fr. Stephen's three sisters, Anu, Manpreet and Jaipreet, who lived in Europe and America, were present.  The  U.S. authorities had not granted a visa to his father. But, it was one of the happiest days of Fr. Stephen’s life. His dad had wanted to be with him, and, through his sisters, had given him his blessing and the sign of his support for his choice. He had wanted Fr. Stephen to know that he was proud of him and that he had reconciled with his vocation.

On becoming a priest of the Maryknoll missionaries, the young priest began a new life.  On the day of his ordination, officiated by Msgr. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, he had received messages of congratulations from several unknown people who had learned of his story through friends or other missionaries. They had written that they had prayed for him as he became a priest during the Year for Priests.  He felt honoured and privileged to be a Catholic priest, blessed by the prayers of so many people around the world. All this has made him all the stronger in his desire to be a holy priest and a missionary who serves God by serving his people.

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12. Hezuk Shroff

The only son of a sailor in the Indian Merchant Navy, Hezuk Shroff was born in Calcutta in 1971. Four years later, in 1975, with his mother and younger sister, Pearl, he moved to Canada following his father, who had found work with the Canadian Coast Guard.

His parents were Parsi (Zoroastrians) and he grew up following the teachings of this religion. His name, Hezuk, meaning “light of the universe”, was given by his paternal grandmother, and he finds it very beautiful because, Jesus had said, "You will be the Light of the World."

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The young man had vaguely heard of Christianity from his mother, who as a child had attended a Catholic school in Nainital (Uttarakhand). Hezuk was very pious and had been inculcated with deep spiritual values as a student. His personal path to Christianity however, began with undergraduate studies in biochemistry at McGrill University in Montreal, when a roommate introduced him to the local Protestant communities of the Pentecostal Church, and to the Gospel.

During his years in the Protestant community, the young man began to read books about Catholicism, and in 1994, out of curiosity he accompanied one of his college friends to a Catholic church for Mass. The liturgy of the Mass fascinated him and he instinctively knew that this was the most sacred moment. In that instant, he fell in love with the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith and it helped him greatly to hear about the Grace of God, the Holy Eucharist and devotion of the faithful to the Virgin Mary and the saints. The Mass became the heart of his conversion and it sowed the seeds of his priestly vocation. He realised that in the Holy Sacrifice, we have it all. God gives himself to us as spiritual food for our pilgrimage from earth to Heaven.

In September 1994, Hezuk decided to begin the catechumenate. His RCIA experience deepened his love and intimacy for Jesus. In April 1995, he received baptism in the Basilica of St. Patrick Montreal during the Easter Vigil.

At that time, he came to realize that the Magisterium and the authority in the Church are at the service of Truth and Love, and that they are a great blessing.  Some people reject the Catholic Church because they feel that the Magisterium "binds" them (what they can believe, do, etc.).  But he felt the opposite.  In his opinion, “truth makes one freer to love.  We are so blessed to have the Holy Father and the teaching authority of the Church, because they teach us how to truly grow in the life of Grace". Fr. Hezuk Shroff said that during his very first experience of a Catholic Mass, he had understood that this was the place where God was calling him.

After the baptism, the young man felt even more strongly the call of God to the priesthood. So, a few months later, he went to France, where he spent three years in a community of Benedictine monks. In this period of meditation and prayer, Hezuk understood that the life of a monk was not for him, and entered the seminary of St. John, where he spent six years, first in the United States and then in France, where he studied theology and philosophy. Before graduation, the seminary authority decided to send Hezuk to Cebu, the Philippines, for a period of one year mission. In the Philippines, he was immersed in the work of the youth ministry, where he finally understood that God was calling him to serve as a diocesan priest.

In fact, during his mission in Cebu, Hezuk noted that the young people of his community were poorly integrated into parish life. The young people had told him that their pastor had no time for them because he was too busy running the parish.  He thought to himself, that this was indeed sad, because after all, the first mission of a priest should be the care of the souls entrusted to him. So he began to understand that God had given him the heart of a 'shepherd' to continue His work. With each passing day, it increasingly became clear to him, that God wanted him to serve as pastor, to restore the sense of prayer and contemplation in the parishes. In his words, “The parish is one of the few points of contact with their Catholic faith”.

Looking at the vibrancy of the young people in St. John’s and especially how they changed due to common prayer and worship, Hezuk felt compelled to bring this approach to parish life. In his opinion, “The social aspect of faith is important, but it should never be placed before prayer”.

After his experience in Cebu, the young man decided to return to Canada in September 2006, and entered the St. Augustine seminary in Toronto. There he studied to become a priest at the service of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, a journey that would end with ordination.

His mother was very happy with his conversion and was overjoyed when he decided to become a priest. It was harder for his father, because being the only son he knew that Hezuk would not continue the family name.

Over time, his father did accept his choice, but it was still very difficult for him to understand his conversion and his call to the priesthood. His religion was a part of his culture and roots and he thought that by changing his religion, Hezuk also rejected his cultural and ethnic roots. However, Hezuk explained to him that conversion to Christianity did not imply the rejection of anything, but that it was a good thing. He had not rejected his religious beliefs and his roots, but, it was just that he had felt that Christ had called him to be one of his priests.

Both his parents and his sister, who lives in United States, attended his ordination.

While speaking about his faith journey before his impending ordination, Hezuk emphasized that religion is a very personal choice, which must take place between the individual and God.  Love of family and tradition are very important but love of God must always come first. Christ had called him to follow Him completely, even if this meant a division between him and his father. When you fall in love with Christ, He takes full possession of your heart. He had never been as happy as after his conversion and even more so after his ordination to the priesthood.

Fr. Hezuk Shroff was ordained on 14 May, 2011, at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa.

He was later blessed with the unique privilege of baptising his own mother, Vera Shroff, on April 15, 2017 – 22 years to the day when he himself was baptised.  Just before his mother’s baptism, Fr. Hezuk had said “My mother gave me physical birth in this world; soon I will have the joy of offering her the gift of spiritual re-birth in Christ”.

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