Monday, July 27, 2015

Journey from Islam to Catholicism Amazing Story of a Young Woman's Courage to SHARE

Courage and Trust in God needed for Faith Journey from Islam to Catholicism

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
24 Jul 2015

25 year old Natasha Mohamad is writing a book about her faith journey
Natasha Mohamad grew up in a close-knit Muslim family. Her parents are from Syria and, like many in the now stricken country, are Alawite Muslims. But in her final year at high school her life changed forever and marked the beginning of a courageous and at times heart-wrenching journey of faith from Islam to Catholicism.
Now 25 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Masters degree in Religious Education, Natasha says her Islamic upbringing is very much part of her and helped give her an even deeper understanding, love and commitment to the Catholic faith.
Natasha's faith journey began as a Year 12 student at Wiley Park Girls High School, Punchbowl. With Bible studies part of the school's personal development program, she attended the classes and was introduced to Jesus and the Gospels, the Old and New Testament.
"We had a wonderful teacher and she talked about Moses and together the class read the 10 Commandments. Growing up as a Muslim I had always believed in the 10 Commandments. They are part of the Quran. But that day was the first time I had ever heard the Commandments read in English," she says explaining that for Muslims the Quran is recited and read in Arabic.
Although she can read Arabic, Natasha was born and bred in Australia and as she points out, her first language is English.

Natasha was baptised by Father Remi Bui at Our Lady of Fatima, Kingswood on 23 April 2011
"My eyes were opened. The words spoke directly to me. I understood the nuances. I also realised for the first time that if everyone followed the 10 Commandments there'd be no wars, no poverty, and that we would all care and look after one another."
But it was study of the New Testament that had the biggest impact on Natasha.
"The Gospels are very different from the Quran. The fact that God gave the world his son, Jesus, and that through this one man the whole world could be redeemed because of God's love resonated with me and I think this is when my understanding of God began to change and evolve," she says.  .
Natasha studied the Gospels, highlighting and underlining favourite passages.
"Of all the passages I marked, my favourite is still Paul's letter to the Romans in the New Testament's Book of Romans. It is in this Epistle that St Paul explains that salvation is offered through the Gospel of Jesus Christ," she says.
Natasha continued her studies of the Scriptures during her time at the Australia Catholic University. Graduating with a BA in Theology with English as her major, she also became a Catechumen in preparation to being received into the Church and becoming a Catholic.

Natasha (in bright green jacket) with students pilgrims from Sydney's Catholic Schools in Lima in lead up to WYD13 in Rio
Baptised in 2011 by Father Remi Bui at Our Lady of Fatima, Kingsgrove, a day she says she will never forget, Natasha undertook the Rite of Election and the Scrutinies at Easter 2011 became a neophyte and official member of the Church.
Throughout this period she was supported by her long term boyfriend, David Di Benedetto and his Italian Catholic family. David's mother also acted as her sponsor. 
Natasha, however, kept the fact she was now Catholic from her own parents, brothers and sister.
"I was worried about how they would take it and afraid they would disown me," she says.
Despite Natasha attending Mass each week and joyously celebrating her faith among friends, the Di Benedetto family as well as her students at Marist College, Kogarah where she taught English and RE, her family had no idea their second eldest child was no longer Muslim. Nor did they suspect when Natasha led a group of eight pilgrims from the Kogarah College to World Youth Day in Rio in 2013.
"They knew I was going to Rio. They also knew how excited and enthusiastic I was about the fact the new Pope would be there. I think they just thought this was part of my job," she says.

Natasha graduated from ACU with a Masters in Religious Education in October last year
Her family had long known she taught RE as well as English and were there to see her graduate with a Masters in Religious Education in October last year, and to congratulate her when she took on her new role as English and RE teacher at St John Bosco College, Engadine.
But they had no idea that their second eldest child no longer shared the family faith and was now a deeply committed Catholic.
All that changed last week when Natasha finally found the courage to tell her family of her conversion to Catholicism and the central role her faith played in her life.
The reaction from her parents was one of shock. And as she had long feared, they have refused to accept her decision.
Her three brothers and sister followed their parents' example.
But despite Natasha's worst fears being realised, she firmly believes that once her family have had time to get their "heads around" what has happened, there will be a reconciliation and she will once again be a treasured much loved daughter and member of the close and loving family.
"I had more than five years to plan how I would tell them, and how important my faith is to my life. But unlike me, my family had no preparation for what I was telling them. So it's no wonder they were shocked. Their reaction is understandable," she says.

Natasha with WYD pilgrims from Marist College, Kogarah
Before telling her family, Natasha had been given support and wise counsel by Father Brendan Quirk from Mary MacKillop Parish, Rockdale whom she said helped prepare her for the reaction of her family, and accept whatever the reaction was.
Natasha strongly believes God has a plan for each of us. "You may not understand why something is happening now but you will over time," she insists.
Having kept her Catholic faith a secret from her family for so long, she says that along with the pain of being separated from her family, she also feels an immense sense of relief.
"Forgiveness is very much part of living the Gospel. Telling my family was difficult, but I don't resent them for their reaction. It was important I was upfront and honest with them. I've done my part, now it's up to God. It's in God's hands."
Natasha is currently writing a book about her faith journey.
Shared from Archdiocese of Sydney Australia

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