Seeking Brotherhood

Dean Monteiro was in absolute shock. Somehow, in only one hour, he had received a positive response from the international agency for studies in Mumbai, India to his request to study Geology in Australia.

What would he say to his parents? He felt like his heart was going to leap out of his chest. ‘Thank you, Jesus!’ was the mantra that kept running through his mind. He couldn’t believe that the dream that he had held in his heart for so long might come true, but he knew that for his parents this idea of him studying in Australia was still far from a sure thing.

Only weeks earlier, Dean’s parents had met with an accountant to seek financial advice. They told the accountant about the dream that their son had to study in Australia, but he told Dean’s parents that it was a very bad idea and strongly advised against it. ‘This idea would be putting all your eggs into one very risky basket,’ he said. ‘What if Dean doesn’t succeed at university? How would you pay the government back for the loan for his education?’

Dean also knew that his parents had received advice from some of their friends not to send him. They, like the accountant, felt like it was too much of a risk, not only from a financial perspective, but from a cultural and moral perspective as well. They knew that Australia was highly secularised and they worried about what Dean would be taught at university. They were afraid that he might lose his Catholic faith which had been hard won generations before in his family. Dean knew that his parents would take very seriously the advice of their friends as they belonged to an extremely close-knit community.

But Dean knew deep in his heart that he was meant to go. He stopped in his tracks, right where he was standing, and said a prayer that went something like, ‘Jesus, if this is your will for me, you must find a way. Be with my parents as they make this decision.’ He asked Mother Mary to intercede for him as he prayed a Hail Mary and then quickly ran to find his parents to show them the email he had received.

When he showed his parents the acceptance email they were very happy, but the advice they had received and the pressure from their friends also weighed them down. They told Dean that they needed time to pray.

A few days later, Dean’s parents told him they wanted to chat. They said that in praying about it that they felt like it was God’s will that Dean should go to Australia to study. He couldn’t believe his ears! They said that they trusted him and that they believed in him. They told him that they would remortgage their home to pay off the loan that they would need to get to pay for his university tuition. He was overwhelmed with joy at the sacrifice that his parents would make for him. He was so happy.

Arrangements were made, airline tickets booked, bags packed, and soon Dean was on a plane to Brisbane. Dean’s stomach was doing flip-flops. He was so nervous and so excited to be arriving into Australia. Dean, 19, had never been out of India before, and suddenly he was more than 10,000 km’s from his family.

The next few weeks were a blur, until it was finally here, his first day of Uni! It was Orientation Day for all the new students. He was taking it in when suddenly a young woman was standing in front of him with a clipboard, asking him to fill out a brief survey. Out of politeness, he took the clipboard and started on the survey. As he was filling it out, the woman holding the clipboard introduced herself as Alyssa and introduced him to one of the team members, Ven. Dean handed the clipboard back without thinking about it too much and went off to keep preparing for life at Uni. Late that week, his phone rang. It was Ven, did he remember meeting him? Dean said that he did but wasn’t quite sure what to make of this phone call. Ven invited him to come along to the Catholic Chaplaincy Centre to meet a few people. Dean was busy, he was trying to adjust to life in Australia and the new demands of Uni and he didn’t have much free time, so he politely declined. But Ven persisted, and in the end Dean decided it was better just to meet with him than to put up with his annoying phone calls! When Dean met Ven, he felt a connection. Ven was from Uganda and they shared a common bond of culture shock and their Catholic faith. Over the next few weeks Dean had the opportunity to meet the rest of Ven’s team, called the FX Mission Team.

Dean started coming along to the Daily Masses put on by Catholic Chaplaincy at UQ and signed up to one of the team’s weekly faith studies. Now, 8 months later, this is what Dean has to say about his journey:

“When I first arrived in Australia I was in total culture shock. I didn’t know anyone, and everything was so different. I remember one morning walking around my new suburb and thinking to myself, ‘where is everyone?’ In India, there are people EVERYWHERE, at all times of the day and night. It seems so empty in Australia, and this experience of emptiness left me feeling disconnected, isolated and lonely. When I encountered the team on campus, I finally felt like I belonged, like I was safe. When I think about the FX Mission team the only word that comes to mind is family. Family is everything to me, and when I was struggling in Australia to find a place to belong and where I could feel safe, I found the FX Mission team. They have become my family in Australia.” 

When asked, what drew you to Catholic Chaplaincy? Here’s what Dean said,

From India, I had Skyped with my roommate in Australia who at the time identified as an Atheist. After a few conversations, she agreed we would attend a local Church service together upon my arrival. We ended up going to a (Pentecostal) Church in Salisbury (Brisbane). This was a good experience, but after a couple of weeks, I felt like something was missing…it took me a while to place my finger on it, but then it struck me, it was the Eucharist!  I hungered for something deeper and I knew that I could only find what I was hungering for in my Catholic faith.” My roommate has gone on to really embrace Christianity and still attends that Church!

Like thousands of other young people on campus, Dean was struggling to find his place. His Catholic faith was important to him but the culture that surrounded him on campus and the intellectual formation that he was receiving seemed so disconnected from this reality. Dean needed a home, a family, a safe place to belong where he could explore and question his Catholic faith to own it more deeply for himself and integrate it into his new understanding of himself and the world around him.

 “The pressure on me to succeed is intense. My studies and my faith are so important to me. I know that I must do my family proud in both areas.  The FX Mission team has been absolutely integral to my success so far, I just don’t know where I would be without them.

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