For Anita Ulu, Catholics Returning Home helped her to realise that rather than judging her, God loves her with all her human failings.
Anita discovered the CRH programme after a long search which involved Alpha, a friend giving her books about the Catholic faith to read, and a couple of CRH sessions in another parish which did not strike the right chord with her.
She had grown up in the Catholic faith and attended a Catholic college.
‘When I was 13 I wanted to be a nun like the sisters who lived next door [Religious of the Sacred Heart who moved out of the convent to live and work in the community in the 1970s].
‘They were amazing women. I just loved them and wanted to be like them.’
However, Anita met her husband, Taz, drifted away from the church and became involved in ‘the things of this world’.
Taz and Anita started having children and Anita felt that because they were not married, that was the end of her being accepted back into the Church.
She thought that everything she was doing was against what she had been brought up to believe and she felt that the Church would judge her.
As the children grew up Anita wanted them to have something in their lives so she started taking them to Mass and enrolled them in a sacramental programme.
‘I wouldn’t take the Eucharist.
‘I was just doing it for the children’s sake but it really used to get to me about not being allowed to go to Communion.’
Hearing some people from the Alpha programme talk at Mass one day again stirred thoughts of her spirituality. A major turning point in her search came when Taz agreed to join the programme with her.
‘[Before] He was so against anything to do with the Catholic Church.’
Anita has now been through the Catholics Returning Home programme at St Anne’s in Newtown and Taz has undertaken the RCIA (adult initiation) course.
‘Taz being received at Easter was the icing on the cake.’
Anita says life has been good for her family in the past three or four years since she has been pursuing a return to the Church.
Catholics Returning Home has given her insights into the processes of the Church – vestments, the structure of the Mass, the tabernacle – ‘I never knew that this held the consecrated body of Christ’ – and a community of accepting people, ‘especially St Anne’s’.
The most important gift of the programme for Anita was to learn that God loved her no matter what.
‘The Church is not judging but loving. The Church is a reflection of how God feels about me – that I’m normal, with all my failings. It’s great.’