Bryan (far left) with his fellow Catechism facilitators at the Church of St Ignatius. Photo: Bryan Kojongian.
God never left me
Bryan Kojongian, a JC1/Year 5 student who will be taking his IB exams next year, experienced struggles in school that initially led him to doubt God, but through God’s grace, he eventually gave up his free time to serve the people of God in his parish.
A cradle Catholic, I grew up in a family that never took its faith seriously. We did not attend Mass regularly and were hardly involved in Church activity. However, my parents still saw fit to place me in our parish’s catechism programme. Unfortunately, in all those years, I felt like I was not able to get anything out of it due to my noisy classmates and the simple fact that I found much of what was taught, hard to understand. I eventually stopped attending catechism, as I believed it was a waste of my time. I thought I would be able to receive as much from the homilies at Mass. Unsurprisingly, I failed to understand many things and found it difficult to really love my faith, and slowly drifted very far from Church.
At my lowest moments…
Then in Primary 5, my grades suffered a drastic dip. This made me very angry with God as I wondered why I had to suffer so much yet achieve nothing despite my best efforts and fervent prayers. I thought to myself, “It is already so hard to love You, and now when I need You most, You don’t help me at all.” This entire episode led me to not only drift further away from the Church, but also to lose my belief that God even existed. I ended up doing badly for PSLE and entering a secondary school that was not my preferred choice. It resulted in a lot of emotional turmoil as I felt as if I was not good enough. In retrospect, I now see how my grades and the school I went to reflected my sense of self-worth. Little did I know that God would use this low
point to reveal His light and love to me.
He was there…
During one of my common tests for mathematics, I fared poorly and was extremely dejected. I gave up praying, feeling really lonely and unsupported in my failure. Somehow, however, something prompted me to open the Bible that was on my desk. I flipped the pages and read a verse that pierced my heart deeply. While I cannot remember the exact words now, it made me rethink my life choices over the past few years and my entire outlook of life. It felt as if the Lord was telling me that as long as I was faithful to my responsibilities as a student, and that if I simply did my best, it would be enough for me. I did not need to be the best or be great, I just needed to do my best and I would be great in His eyes. To add “grace upon grace” (John 1:16), on that same day my parents had just returned after attending the Conversion Experience Retreat at the Catholic Spirituality Centre. Having experienced a conversion in their own faith, they apologised to me for their lack of support all those years when I was struggling in school. A joy overwhelmed me like never before and I finally felt that God was with me and for me.
Now, it was time to respond…
My faith deepened as I moved forward from that episode in my life. I rejoined my catechism class, and learnt all I could about my faith. I opened my heart to what each class could offer and experienced a greater depth of His love through the facilitators who journeyed with me. I started to trust that God has a plan for me whether I know it or not. Gratitude and peace constantly filled my days even when days were tough, and this gratitude that I felt eventually turned into a desire to “What can I offer the Lord for all His goodness to me”. (Psalm 116:12). I wanted to love Him back the way He loved me, or at least try to, but I simply didn’t know how or what I could do. As I prayed about it, I came to recognise that God was calling me to share His love with others the way I had experienced it myself – through my facilitators. My two facilitators Lawrence and Rei truly inspired me. In them, I saw how it was important to joyfully journey and support someone in faith. I wanted to be like them and inspire others to love Christ, the way they had inspired me to love Him. I am now facilitating for the new confirmands in my parish, and it has truly been a life-giving experience to serve them as they find Christ in their lives. Even as a facilitator, I am constantly learning new things about my faith, and it has been such a joy walking with others. I do struggle with my faith from time to time, but I am convinced that God will continue to guide me through it all. I hope and pray that others may come to see the joy that I feel through service to the Church, and may one day offer their time to God.