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‘New’ Catholics leading the way


They come from different backgrounds, have different careers and have lived in different locations, but for Lorraine Thalbourne and Andrew Hall the process of becoming a Catholic four decades ago was very similar.

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Lorraine and Andrew are this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of joining the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which culminated in them being initiated into the Catholic Church at Easter, 1984.

Now both members of the Salisbury parish, the duo are ‘giving back’ by assisting others who are undertaking the RCIA at St Augustine’s Church.

Reflecting on her ongoing faith journey, Lorraine, 73, said while her family “wasn’t particularly religious” she was baptised in the Anglican Church as a baby.

“It was the neighbour’s children who invited me and took me to the local Church of Christ and that was my very early formation,” she said.

After finishing school and then training at the Western Teachers College, Lorraine headed to the Riverland for her first teaching job at Cadell. It was during this time she met her husband Ray – a Catholic – and so began her association with the local church.

“I remember going to meet the priest in Waikerie…and in a conversation he said to me that ‘marrying a Catholic is not a reason to become Catholic’, but I did promise that any children would be raised Catholic.”

Lorraine and Ray married in Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church, Pennington in 1973 and over the following years welcomed three children (including twins). Honouring the promise she made, they were raised as Catholics and baptised in St Ursula’s Church at Morgan.

“Thus began my journey,” Lorraine said. “We started to go to regular Masses in Morgan and Waikerie and I was made to feel included and welcome.

“The children began preparing for the sacraments and when sitting in my kitchen one morning I had this ‘urge’ to become Catholic.

“I met the priest, Fr Leo Quinn, who I knew quite well by now and said I would like to become Catholic, believing he was going to say ‘we will do that for you on Sunday’.

“Instead, he said ‘now we will go on a journey’. A journey I am still on today.”

Lorraine said the RCIA was a new process 40 years ago and her formation was “more about a community showing me what it meant to be Catholic, rather than telling me”.

“It was an experience of the heart, rather than the head.”

After moving to Adelaide in the 1990s, the Thalbournes joined the Para Hills parish where Lorraine was a reader and assisted with children’s formation. With a merger of churches unfolding, they decided to worship in the Salisbury parish.

“I have been made to feel very welcome at St Augustine’s. I continued my reading ministry and also became a special minister and assisted with children’s liturgy. I was also invited by a companion to join the Diocesan adult formation and attended many interesting workshops.”

About 14 years ago Fr Roderick O’Brien asked Lorraine to lead the RCIA process and she continues in this role today.

“I have met many interesting people on this journey and learnt so much about what my faith means to me,” she said.

“People sharing their stories opened my eyes to what faith means to me. Faith has taught me about who I am and what gives my life meaning.”

Joining Lorraine in Salisbury’s RCIA team is Andrew, 57, whose journey to becoming a Catholic started much earlier in his teenage years.

“I grew up attending Methodist/Uniting Church Sunday school but I was never baptised as my parents were of the opinion that us kids could make that decision later,” he explained.

“At the age of 12, I concluded that I believed in God but was unsure what form he/she/it took. I spent my teenage years reading about various faiths and enjoying discussions on religion.

“In 1982 I was dating a young lady involved in the Modbury Catholic parish youth music group and I was invited to attend the Christmas performance at an old folk’s home. After that I attended the Christmas Mass and then was invited to attend the monthly youth Masses.

“In a few months I recognised that much of what was being said, prayed and sung resonated with me. I began reading the New Testament…and had a series of good talks with
Fr John Barry CM. When I was 17, I made the request to join the RCIA process.”

Besides being involved in RCIA, Andrew and Lorraine are both readers, commentators and leaders of the children’s liturgy of the Word.

For those wanting to learn more about what it means to be Catholic, the National Centre for Evangelisation has launched two new resources in the form of a website and companion book.

‘Becoming Catholic’ provides introductory information on God, including Jesus and the Trinity, explores the birth of the Church and covers other key topics such as Mary, the Bible, the saints and sacraments. The website delivers educational content.

Chair of the ACBC’s Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry, Archbishop Christopher Prowse, said the projects were part of broader efforts to “invite people into the life of the Catholic Church”.

“We are pleased to launch this website to add to the rich content that is already online to support those who are searching for answers about God, first and foremost, and about the Church,” Archbishop Prowse said.

“Becoming Catholic is designed to complement what dioceses and other ministries are doing, and to be a gateway for people to connect with a local Catholic community.

“It is in those local contexts that they will have a chance to explore their faith and, we hope, ultimately encounter the person of Jesus.”

To access the resources visit

For more information about the Adelaide Archdiocese’s RCIA process contact the coordinator Kathy Horan or phone 8210 8288.

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