I grew up in a small Australian town, attended a Catholic primary school and was influenced by my parents’ beliefs. When I left home for University, Church didn’t take top priority in my life. I was busy pursuing my goals, working part-time jobs and forming relationships. There may have been the odd hang over to contend with too. I began teaching in Catholic schools, and attended mass as part of the school community on an irregular basis. I stopped attending mass altogether when I moved to the UK. There was too much to do in London. Between work, travel, going out with friends, plus the day-to-day stuff, religion didn’t seem to have a high priority in my life.
After two years of constantly attending farewell parties of friends heading back to their home countries, I started craving a more stable community. I made an effort to make friends with more Britons, and in the process, met my husband. I was weaving a stronger support network, but I felt there was still a hole to be filled. I suffered depression, and was terribly home sick. My friends in London where supportive but now lived too far away as I’d moved to Epsom to be with my husband. Quite by chance, I came across St. Joseph’s in Epsom as I went for a walk. I attended a few services, but felt an outsider. I didn’t know anyone, and felt uncomfortable sitting on my own. I saw a notice for Landings in the Narthex and took the email address down. I was contacted by the Landings co-ordinator, and after some organising; we began our run of Landings meetings.
At first, I couldn’t tell who were the returning Catholics and who were the supporting community members. The Landings meetings had a relaxed and friendly atmosphere where we all got a chance to share our faith journeys. It was a relief to hear others had strayed from the church for a time. It was comforting to not be judged for our absence. We were all given a chance to explore why the church had disillusioned us and why we decided to return. We found that the Church atmosphere had changed from an authoritarian, judgemental presence to a much friendlier, accepting sharing of faith. Most of all, it was great to walk into mass and see familiar faces.
Feeling welcomed into the community has made going to mass on my own a lot less scary. I’ve even attending a few parish functions, and will be attending a parish picnic this coming weekend. I look forward to meeting even more new friends who live locally. I’ve even managed to drag my husband along to fund raising evenings in the local parish.
Landings has been the welcome back I needed to the Catholic family. Feeling connected to others has helped with being so far away from my family.