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Friends Until the End

When one joins the catechumenate, they will feel how it is to belong and to be held by the love of its members all held together by a loving God who will not abandon anyone until the end of their days on earth.

Amy, from a Taiwanese Taoist family, went to Manila in the early nineties as a young professional to study English. A couple of her classmates in the language school were Comboni Missionaries, part of the first batch of confreres sent to Asia. They soon became good friends. It was the first time for Amy to get close to the Catholic Church. After her return to Taiwan, the contacts naturally became more sporadic and many years passed by. 

Now a mature woman, it was a surprise for Amy that one of those priests was later assigned to Taipei and contacted her. Soon after, the unexpected happened. Amy, a strong and independent single woman at the top of her career found out she had cancer. She decided to fight the disease. However, she realized that her Taoist religious background would not be enough to give her the spiritual strength needed to face the battle. 

She then decided to join the catechumenate. The parish community embraced Amy with warmth: the priests often visited her when her health was too frail; a friend doctor assisted her both professionally and personally; the leaders of the catechumenate constantly kept her in their prayer. 

The healing miracle, though often invoked, didn’t happen, but God had another surprise for Amy. Her female companion in the catechumenate, Xiang Ling – whose family members did not need anymore her daily presence – became increasingly close to her. Both during the catechumenate and after their baptism, Xiang Ling slowly became the reference person in Amy’s life, attending to her many needs, assisting her when in the hospital, and even moving to her home in the last period of Amy’s life when she was unable to take care of herself. They always repeated that, through baptism, they not only became friends but also sisters, even closer than biological ones. 

Xiang Ling was the person Amy was looking for throughout her life: someone available to love her without expecting anything in return. On the last days of Amy’s life in the hospital, Xiang Ling was there, and in her prayerful presence Amy took her last breath. Amy’s family was amazed to see at the funeral Mass so many people unknown to them: indeed, the Church had become Amy’s new family.

Whenever I start a catechumenate, this story reminds me that Baptism is not merely a rite: it’s the public recognition of God’s presence in one’s life, a God who is working through many relationships and events (yes, even a cancer!) to lead us, one by one, to Him, so that we may discover why it’s worth living, and experience that we are held by Him, even in death. 

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