At their 11th anniversary, Stella and Lawrence had their marriage consecrated. Through their influence and example, their children and their parents later received the faith.
Photo: Stella Judith Chai
A Growing Family of Faith
Having received the sacrament of baptism as adults, Lawrence and Stella Chai passed on this precious gift of faith, not only to their children but also their own parents. Stella shares their faith journey through life’s ups and downs.
As a child growing up in a staunch Buddhist family, I went with my grandparents to temples and followed the rituals. I was even nicknamed the “goddaughter” of Guan Yin (the goddess of mercy) as I was born on her birthday.
Encounter and discovery
Like many other Singaporeans, I began working, got married and started a family. Then in 2008, my life hit rock bottom – my husband Lawrence and I were in a difficult situation and saw no way out. Seeing that I was lost and helpless, an office colleague suggested that I attend the nine-day novena service at Novena Church.
To my amazement, on the third day, I felt God’s presence and His immense love for me, even though I was not a Catholic. Through His grace, Lawrence and I joined RCIA together. My colleague journeyed with me and later became my godmother.
However, after baptism, l struggled to live out Christ’s teachings and remained a Sunday Catholic for many years. We hopped from church to church. Eventually, after we moved to Serangoon Gardens, we settled on the parish nearest our home, the Church of St Francis Xavier.
We started getting to know the parishioners and attended talks and retreats to deepen our faith. We finally felt like we belonged to the family of God. For the first time, l received love and support from outside my own family, and fell in love with God all over again.
Persevering through trials
However, my faith was challenged again when my dad was diagnosed with leukaemia. At the same time, Lawrence’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was a very tough time for our family.
I shared my burdens with a friend, who recommended that l attend healing sessions on my dad’s behalf, and to bring my mother-in-law as well. Even though she was not a Christian, my mother-in-law agreed. Not only did she attend these sessions, she also went for church events and novena services with my father-in-law. These sessions opened doors for her to experience Christ, and His grace led her to embrace the faith and be overwhelmed by His great love.
God gave my dad another three good months. During this time, he specifically asked to be baptised as a Catholic, though priests and pastors of different denominations had visited him. I still vividly remember him saying that he would believe in what I believed in: perhaps he saw Christ in me as we weathered his illness together.
When his condition worsened, he held firmly onto his faith and continuously prayed for strength. However, we lost him to the cancer. Heartbroken, I wanted out – I almost stopped believing in God.
A priest I confided in assured me that God had a bigger and better plan. I felt God’s prompting to attend the Conversion Experience Retreat. There, I learnt how to wholeheartedly accept my faith and rebuild my relationship with Him.
Upon reflection, during the six months after my dad’s passing, I was never alone. Someone was always there to support and comfort me, helping me through the grieving process, as if God was still watching over me even though I was losing my trust in Him.
Growing in Faith as a family
Being converts and having children who are cradle Catholics has been a two-way learning experience. Not only do Lawrence and I pass down the faith to our children, we also learn new things from them.
My mother and parents-in-law eventually joined the Mandarin RCIA and were baptised. It was an honour to journey with them. Whenever they had questions, I felt motivated to find out more so that I could share with them even though I struggled to do so in Mandarin. This brought more meaningful conversations to the dinner table and enabled me to grow in my faith.
No words can describe how Lawrence and I felt when we saw our beloved parents gradually accept our faith as theirs. It somehow felt like our family was now complete.
Living our faith today
In our world today, l feel faith is even more important than before. Living in a stressful, high tempo society, many of us become so self-engrossed that we lose sight of what is important. Without God, we may not be able to discern what to do when things do not go our way. Even now, Lawrence and I are influenced by secular logic, but we are conscious of our actions and words and continue to pray. I am grateful to have received countless graces and blessings, big and small.
Each of us has a part to play in building the Church, the family of Christ. Lawrence is now serving as a lector and is enriched when his ministry members share how the Mass readings relate to their lives. Sometimes, he feels that God is speaking to him through them.
As for me, I think God put my colleague-turned-godmother in my life so that this lost sheep could come home. Like her, many others have helped sustain my faith. In turn, I am blessed to be able to share it with my children, parents and in-laws. Who else to share it with and when? I leave it totally in His hands.