RCIA grads take leap of faith

  • May 1, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Instead of putting her faith in the markets, newly baptized Catholic Julia Oung says she’s rediscovered her faith in God.

Losing all of her life savings last year led to a dark period in Oung’s life. The Toronto accountant didn’t anticipate the economic downturn that would wipe out her pension. 

But amid her worries and tears, Oung says she was drawn to the Catholic Church.

Oung and more than 800 others recently welcomed to the church in Toronto were feted at the annual Neophyte Mass on April 29, celebrated at St. Michael’s Cathedral by Archbishop Thomas Collins. They were initiated or received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in the archdiocese of Toronto at Easter.

Born in Rangoon, Burma, a predominantly Buddhist nation, Oung was raised a Methodist. Her family emigrated to Canada in 1979.

Until last year, Oung worked as an accountant when the company she worked for moved to the United States. With her severance package and a lifetime of savings, she invested a six-figure amount into her pension fund. But as the economic crisis set in, Oung says her investments were quickly and painfully erased.

One day, after a visit to the library, the mother of two boys (aged 25 and 21) said she heard singing coming from the nearby church. Once she entered Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Scarborough, she said she never looked back. Oung joined the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program at the parish and has been a parishioner since last October.

Oung said it’s the freedom to believe that drew her to the Catholic Church.

“We don’t force people. We don’t discriminate against other religions,” she said.

Oung calls her transformation a “miracle.” 

“God gave me a gift,” she said. “I forget about the past. I’m going to start a new life.”

She now works freelance as an accountant.

Praying the rosary, reading the Bible and attending Mass and RCIA classes helped Oung along her spiritual journey of becoming a Catholic. It’s also helped Oung see a silver lining behind a very dark cloud of hopelessness.

Craig Robichaud, the parish’s RCIA director, said Oung’s transformation shows the strength and confidence which can come from persevering in prayer and having trust in God.

“Her story would be an inspiration to other people,” said Robichaud.

It was also an inspiration to him. Robichaud said he related to her story because of his own experience of being laid off three times during the recession of the early 1990s.

It’s a story worth telling, Robichaud said, where someone can go from “being totally lost to all of a sudden grasping a faith that has meaning in her life.”

“The sense of hope is the most important aspect of the journey,” he said.

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