|April 3, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
Holy Week & Easter Liturgies
'I have to be Catholic'
"I was raised a Muslim," the man said, "I've been a Christian."
In a place more than 7,000 miles from where he was born, Deng, who uses one name, will be home.
There was a church not far from his home in Sudan, he said. "I was drawn by the hymns," he said. "I liked it."
But it was more than music that drew him.
"My late brother encouraged me," Deng said. "John encouraged me to be a Christian."
"A long time ago," said the man in his 50s, he left Sudan for Lebanon. There he converted to the Anglican faith, and was baptized by the bishop of Jerusalem.
A church in Delaware, Ohio, sponsored Deng's resettlement in the United States.
The English language was challenging. "Everything was strange," he said. "I was a stranger, too."
He left Ohio for Pittsburgh, which has a larger Sudanese population. After a time, he moved to Las Vegas. He did not feel at home there, and decided to try the Bay Area.
He worked for three years in San Leandro, as a new hospital was being built there. Work consumed his time. "I never had a chance to go to church," he said.
Then he got a job in security at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.
"When I work here," he said, "memories of my brother connect with me.
"I have to be Catholic."
"I talked to Father Jay," he said. Cathedral Rector Very Rev. James Matthews invited him, almost a year ago, to join the RCIA program.
Deng is an eager learner. "Every day we learn something new," he said of his RCIA class.
He was especially drawn to Catholic prayer, feeling that as Catholics pray, the entire Catholic world prays with them.
That Catholics pray not just for the living, but for the dead, touches his heart.
"I remember my brother," he said.
The unselfish nature of the faith speaks to his spirit of putting others' needs ahead of his own. "It's not about you," he said. "It's about other people."
As he approaches full reception in the Catholic faith, he knows what he's doing now, "I will be doing the rest of my life."
"People here have encouraged me," he said. It means the world to him.
"I am here alone," he said. Now, in this community of faith, he said, "I'm joining a big family."
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