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Beenleigh couple become Catholic in the middle of the pandemic

Pandemic joy: Richard and Lynnette Sargeant with Fr Subin Thomas after being received into the Catholic Church at St Patrick’s Church, Beenleigh, on April 21. Photo: David Crowley

RICHARD and Lynnette Sargeant have held each others’ hands through cancer, a serious accident, and now a pandemic, so it made sense to see out the rest of their lives on a high note by becoming Catholics.

With special permission from Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge, the married couple of nearly 48 years were received into full communion with the Catholic Church on April 21 at an intimate Mass at St Patrick’s Church, Beenleigh.

The couple, who have always considered themselves Christians, had been wanting to receive the Eucharist ever since the birth of their four grandchildren, who were raised Catholic by their Catholic father.

“All I can say from my perspective is, since my daughter got married, we’ve spent more time in Brisbane and in Perth in the Catholic Church,” Mr Sargeant said.

After completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program with Beenleigh parish priest Fr Subin Thomas, the pair were scheduled to receive their sacraments of initiation in the Beenleigh church at this year’s Easter Vigil Mass.

“Prior to all the lockdowns and closures and everything like that, it was projected we’d be doing it over Easter,” Mr Sargeant said.

“That couldn’t happen of course.”

Instead, Archbishop Coleridge permitted the couple to enter the Catholic Church in a private Mass on April 21, witnessed by their sponsors, Beenleigh parishioners Mary and David Crowley, because Mr Sargeant’s body is riddled with cancer.

“We’re happy to do it this way, more than happy,” Mr Sargeant said.

Five years ago, the 71 was diagnosed with cancer, requiring surgery and radium therapy.

“It was pretty tough for seven weeks,” Mr Sargent said.

“The only thing is I’ve lost a lot of appetite as a result, so I’ve lost weight and body mass.”

He is being monitored by a throat cancer specialist but his wife said “he has gone downhill fast”.

While the couple has battled the cancer for five years, they only recently decided to take the final step to becoming Catholics.

Mrs Sargeant, 72, said 11 months ago, their decision to become Catholics “came to the crunch”.

The pair started watching televised religious services, including Channel 10’s Mass for You At Home, after she had a serious fall breaking her shoulder, pelvis, and hip bones.

“I came out of hospital and we went and watched the Mass and a couple charismatic churches,” Mrs Sargeant said.

“I think he saw the light where he wants to go God’s way and not his way.”

Mr Sargeant said he was convinced of the truth of the Catholic Mass from watching the pre-recorded Sunday Mass on Channel 10.

“I think one of the underlining things, the fact that every Sunday probably for a year now, we’ve been watching a number of religious programs,” Mr Sargeant said.

“I like the very short Mass for you at Home.

“What I like about it, and over these other evangelical churches, there’s structure, there’s peace, there’s softness and there’s tradition.

“It’s stated rules which all lead to God.”

Mrs Sargeant said she had a deep Catholic background – her father was a Catholic but he died when she was four months old.

She was never received into the Church and recently attended the Gateway Baptist church.

“I like the music but you don’t get the quietness that you do in the Mass,” she said.

She credited her faith journey to her grandmother, the “most beautiful Christian Catholic you could ever imagine”.

“I used to help her in the little church in Lismore, she used to set up the Mass and everything for the priest and I used to go with her there,” Mrs Sargeant said.

Mr Sargeant said receiving Communion for the first time “was very serene”.

His wife was also grateful for a smaller congregation.

“I think in a way it was better with less people because you don’t feel as nervous,” Mrs Sargeant said.

“I thank the Archbishop because he gave us permission.”

Although the couple have lived in Beenleigh for eight years, their connection to their new parish has a longer history.

In 1979 a new design of St Patrick’s Church, Beenleigh had been commissioned, and it was Mr Sargeant and his father who provided the timber beams for the church’s trusses.

“When I was in the timber industry, our company supplied trusses and timber for St Patricks,” Mr Sargeant said.

“He assures it won’t fall down,” his wife chipped in.

“Maybe by the first of June we’ll be able to go to Mass in the church,” she said.

“We’re watching it on tv but it’s still not the same.”

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