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95-year-old retired veteran becomes Catholic: ‘All my life I’ve been searching’

Stanley Everett

A beautiful day: New Catholic Stanley Everett, 95, just after his baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion at Villa Maria chapel, Fortitude Valley. Photo: Emilie Ng

THEY say practice makes perfect, and the saying couldn’t be truer for Brisbane’s newest Catholic.

British and Australian army veteran Stanley Everett turns 96 in July, and will spend the rest of his life practising the tenets of the Catholic faith after receiving the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Communion last week.

“I’m feeling there’s still a lot to learn because to start with, I start to form the Sign of the Cross after everyone else is finished,” he said.

“Because you’re not ready for it, you don’t know when it’s going to come.

“Only practise can do that, years of doing it, that’s what does it.”

Mr Everett has already spent three years learning the Mass at a chapel inside Villa Maria Centre, Fortitude Valley, an aged-care service that he calls home.

“I wanted to be able to take Communion which I’ve been attending (at Villa Maria) but when it comes to taking the bread, I wasn’t allowed to because I wasn’t baptised,” Mr Everett said.

“I said, ‘Well, look, if that’s what it takes, that’s what I’ll do’.”

Mr Everett received his First Holy Communion on May 17 at the Villa Maria Centre chapel, just six weeks before his 96th birthday.

The 95-year-old was also conferred the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation by St Stephen’s Cathedral associate pastor Fr Odinaka Nwadike.

He called the momentous day “a complete change in life”. “All my life I’ve been searching,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong, but they all believe in Jesus, all the denominations, and they all believe that he is our saviour.

“It’s the Communion that brings you closer to Christ. You take Communion, that’s what brings you to Christ.”

Stanley Everett and Beth Kitoli

Bread of life: Stanley Everett with his godmother and sponsor Villa Maria Centre residential manager Beth Kitoli. Photo: Emilie Ng

After 95 years of searching, he believes God steered him towards the answers. “I just believe it’s the Lord that put me here,” he said.

“Everything in life you can look back, if you have retrospect, you can look back and say, ‘That’s of the Lord, I didn’t do it’.

“If we look for things that we do, we’ll find a blank page, but if we look for what he does, there won’t be any room on that page – it’s full.”

An officer for Britain and Australia, Mr Everett looked for Christ during one of the most disastrous periods of his life, the Second World War.

“My sister got married the day war broke out in England, that was the third of September 1939,” he said. “I was coming back from a place called Moreton, which is in Surrey, England, with the bouquets for the wedding. And she was just going down to the altar when it happened.”

Mr Everett joined the army as a young teenager, and was posted to North Africa where he was trained to defuse and detonate land mines.

By the time the war ended, he had served in 17 countries in Europe and Africa.

The Bible has also helped the 95-year-old understand some of the Christian faith.

“I’ve read the King James Version five, six times, front to back, but front to back is not the best way to study,” Mr Everett said.

“There’s only one way and that’s what’s in your heart, not what’s in your head.

“What’s in your head doesn’t matter a darn but what’s in your heart does.”

After working for the Queensland government for 30 years, Mr Everett said there was only two things in life that matter in his old age.

“Now I’ve reached a stage where the only thing that matters is that I believe the two important things – I believe that God is almighty, that Jesus is his Son, and that he was obedient to the Father when he came to this earth, and he came here not to live, he came here to die,” he said.

“That’s the difference between him and us, we came to live, He came to die in our place.

“What else is there to say?”

Watch: Stanley Everett, 95, is conferred the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion on May 17 at Villa Maria Chapel, Fortitude Valley. 

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