Australia’s former governor-general, Bill Hayden, was recently baptized after denying God for most of his life. According to Hayden, witnessing the “selfless acts of compassion by Christians” over his lifetime ultimately led him to give his life to Christ.
His baptism was held on Sept. 9, 2018, at St. Mary’s Church in Ipswich, near Brisbane.
As he looks back, Hayden recognizes that he has always been searching for the purpose of life. He told Catholic Leader, “There’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life. What’s my role in it?”
Hayden grew up in an abusive home and feels “indebted” to the Ursuline Sisters that taught him in primary school and strongly influenced his social-policy opinions.
But after several health issues over the past four years and the undeniable love given by prominent people in his life, he realized that he had been wrong about the church all along.
He came to this conclusion after a particularly earth-shattering hospital visit with Sister Angela Mary Doyle.
The 93-year-old Sister of Mercy spent 22 years serving as an administrator of Mater hospitals in Brisbane and fighting for proper medical care for the poor. She had become a lifelong inspiration for Hayden.
He explained, “I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example.”
After Hayden, his wife, Dallas, and their daughter, Ingrid, visited Sister Angela Mary in the hospital while she was a patient, Hayden recalled a lingering feeling that he could not ignore.
“The next morning I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman,” he said. “So after dwelling on these things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs – the Church.”
His mother’s strong Catholic faith, his time with the Ursuline Sisters, and the love he received from Sister Angela Mary all contributed to his decision to get baptized. In fact, Sister Angela Mary attended Hayden’s baptism, further exemplifying her compassion toward him.
Father Peter Dillon along with Father Stephen Bliss performed the ceremony that outwardly expressed Hayden newfound devotion to Christ and his church.
“It was a big thing for him… an act of submission to the fact that there was no denying for him that God is real and he had come to discover that,” Father Dillon said of Hayden’s decision to get baptized.
Honoured to attend the baptism of Bill Hayden at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Ipswich today.
Billie is the architect of Medicare and Queensland’s greatest living politician. pic.twitter.com/uoEqnjCAPU
— Margo Kingston (@margokingston1) September 9, 2018
Hayden said that he learned that Christianity was not a religion of rule, but of love. “It is about love for your fellow humans, forgiveness, compassion and helpful support,” he further explained.
“These characteristics are founded on the teachings of Christ and driven by faith in an external power – the Christian God whose limitations are beyond what humans could attain. I can no longer accept that human existence is self-sufficient and isolated.”
He hopes that his baptism encourages others to reconsider their negative views of the church, especially after the stories of recent child sexual abuse.
“The problems are caused by human agents of the Church, but we shouldn’t let our faith be undermined by the action of agents who aren’t quite as good as they should be,” he said.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge congratulated Hayden.
“I’m delighted for Bill and think it is a gift for not only him and his family but for the entire Church in some sense. This is just another extraordinary moment late in life for a man who has already had an extraordinary journey,” he said.
Hayden further expressed his dedication to his newfound faith. He plans on doing so by playing an active role in his local church community and by reading his Bible, “to understand (his) theology better.”
“This took too long, and now I am going to be devoted,” he said. “From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God.”
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