SURVIVING a life-and-death experience inspired Linh Hoang to invite God into her life and become a Catholic.
A former Jehovah’s Witness, Ms Hoang said she always knew God existed, but stopped practising her faith when she was a teenager.
But a personal experience in Japan prompted her to become a Catholic at Easter.
While on holidays in Japan with her fiancé last year, the 27-year-old medical laboratory scientist was rushed to the hospital for an emergency operation.
Her fiancé, who is a baptised Catholic, was the only person aware of her situation and prayed that she would make it out of the hospital alive.
“He said when he prayed he saw a light but when he looked there was no one in the room with him, so he thought it was a good sign,” Ms Hoang said.
“I was alive.”
Ms Hoang said the experience left her “thankful to God for giving her another chance”.
“We felt like God was watching over us,” Ms Hoang said.
Not content with thanking God in her thoughts, Ms Hoang decided to find the best way to “learn how to be thankful and ask for forgiveness”.
For Ms Hoang, that meant becoming a Catholic.
Having watched her sister, who married a Catholic, enter the Church at Sunnybank, Ms Hoang wanted to know more about Catholicism.
She was told to telephone the pastoral associate at Our Lady of Lourdes, Sunnybank, Josephite Sister Stella Noskoff to see if the parish was running a program on becoming a Catholic.
When she called Sr Noskoff, she learnt the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, which provides support for people wanting to enter the Church, was meeting that night.
On April 16, at the Easter Vigil Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, Ms Hoang was baptised, confirmed and received into the Catholic Church.
She said it was “amazing” to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the first time.
She is now embracing other first-time experiences as a “baby Catholic”.
“I was given a Rosary and a pamphlet about praying the Rosary but I don’t even know how to hold it,” Ms Hoang said. “I am just reading the prayers off the pamphlet for now.”
Ms Hoang is just one of hundreds of people who entered the Church this Easter.
Her baptism was celebrated on one of the most revered days in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar.
It also marks a time when Catholics who attend Mass less frequently return to the pews to pray.
Sunnybank associate pastor Fr Dom Orih said while the church was full for the Holy Thursday, Easter Vigil, the five Easter Sunday Masses and the Good Friday service, the long queue for the sacrament of Reconciliation was the most surprising figure.
The parish had offered confessions on every day but the Wednesday of Holy Week, reigning in a never-ending queue of people from all over the Brisbane archdiocese.
“On all those days, none of the sessions for Reconciliation lasted less than an hour,” Fr Orih said. “Even on Holy Saturday morning, we were still going after two hours.”
Fr Orih said offering extra times for the sacrament of Penance helped people to be in a state of grace for the Resurrection of Christ.
“Easter is the time where people feel they need to start over,” he said.
“The message of Christ is hope, that everything dragging us down needs to be put to death in order for us to start over.
“Reconciliation is a time to press restart.”
In Hervey Bay, which is located near the northern boundary of the Brisbane archdiocese, Mass attendance at the city’s only Catholic parish doubled over the Easter weekend.
Hervey Bay pastoral associate Julie Lynch counted more than 1300 people across three Easter Masses, including a packed church for the Good Friday service.
The parish also co-ordinated an ecumenical outdoor Stations of the Cross attended by 400 people.
Mrs Lynch said the increase of numbers at Mass during Easter and Christmas could indicate people’s desire to find meaning in the major feast days of the Church.
“I suppose people want to have some meaning to Easter other than chocolate eggs,” she said.