Finding a feeling of wholeness in the Catholic Church
“It feels definitely like home.”
That is how Kimberly Welikadage from Alton describes what it has been like for her and her husband, Nisajith (“Nish”), to become members of the Catholic Church.
“I feel like we’ve found a faith family and friends. When we came up here for work [in 2013], we didn’t know anyone, and that’s kind of how it remained until we started the process of joining the Church. We have so many close friends and mentors now. It’s become quite a community and a part of our lives,” Kimberly says.
Kimberly and Nish were among 103 people from around Maine to be welcomed into the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil or during the Easter season. They included 59 people like Nish who were baptized, confirmed, and received first Eucharist, and 45 others, like Kimberly, who had been baptized in other Christian faiths and were welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church through confirmation and first Eucharist.
“Every part of our lives, I feel like have been improved. I’m not just saying that. They really have. I am in nursing homes and work with patients, and I feel like I’m more patient with them, more patient with myself, and more understanding of people’s positions. It’s just given me new insight and a new perspective into things,” says Kimberly.
“I totally agree. As Kim says, patience — patience with everything around us. No matter how crazy society is getting or the world is getting, relying on faith gives us a sense of patience and a calming, inner peace,” says Nish.
Although Kimberly had been baptized in a Congregationalist church, she says before participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor, she really didn’t know much about her faith.
“I feel like I never really was properly taught Christianity,” she says. “I never really got what I have gotten now through RCIA but also through my own explorations through the Bible and the catechism. I just feel that I have a much deeper understanding of Christianity in general, but also, it just speaks to me.”
Nish, who is originally from Sri Lanka, was a Buddhist, although he says he viewed it not as a traditional religion but as a way of clearing your mind. He says he had an early introduction to Christianity when he attended an Anglican preparatory school there but says that, throughout his life, he also always had a sense that there was a greater power at work.
“There have been many incidents in my life where I had no real sense of exactly what is going on here. The only thing I saw is that there is a greater power out there that guides us,” he says. “There is something bigger that ties it all together.”
A member of the Maine Air National Guard, Nish says one of those incidents happened last year when he was serving at a base in New Jersey where newly arrived Afghan asylum seekers were being processed.
“I was on shift one night and this sudden feeling — it’s hard to explain — washed over me: ‘You need to look at infancy CPR procedures.’ It was just this random inclination telling me you need to know this. You need to read up on this. So, I pulled up some guides and read it, and I would say, not even an hour after that, late at night, came an Afghan lady carrying her toddler who was not breathing. He had sucked on a piece of plastic. I acted on what I just read, did exactly what I was supposed to do, and got the plastic dislodged,” he says.
Nish says he had already been researching different religions, seeking understanding, when an experience that Kimberly had at her uncle’s funeral led them to Catholicism. Kimberly says her uncle’s friend, who was a Catholic priest, presided over the funeral home and graveside services and made an impression on her.
“I was just really impressed with him and how he came across and how he talked about things. I don’t know how to describe it. It was just very close to my heart,” she says.
Kimberly says when she began to get emotional while delivering remarks at the services, the priest helped her feel at ease.
“He put his hand on my shoulder just to comfort me,” she says. “I just felt such calmness, and I could take a breath.”
After he removed his hand, she says the feeling stayed with her.
“I’m getting emotional thinking about it. I could just feel what I can only describe as the presence of Mother Mary. With the Congregationalists, we don’t have any ties to her really, so it was very emotional and really put me back on my heels a bit,” she says.
Kimberly says she began to feel a pull towards the Catholic faith but hesitated to bring it up to Nish because, although they had been researching faiths, they had never talked about Catholicism. As it turned out, he was on a similar path.
“We both kind of realized that the other one was thinking the same thing. I said, ‘I think I want to be Catholic,’ and he was like, ‘I feel the same way,’” Kimberly recalls. "We knew the Church spoke to us both, and we were just like, ‘This is right. This is what we have been searching for.’”
Nish describes it as a feeling of wholeness.
“It was not until the service that I actually started steering in this direction and reading more into it, and that’s when I realized, ‘This is perfect. This is exactly how I feel and how I’ve acted,’” Nish says. “The more I read through it, the more I thought, ‘This is amazing.’ It pretty much completes the picture of everything that I believed through my life and my experiences.”
The couple contacted St. Paul the Apostle Parish and discovered that RCIA was about to begin.
"Both of us just kind of jumped in headfirst,” says Kimberly.
Nish and Kimberly say participating in RCIA became the highlight of their week.
“The deacons, the Fathers, they are amazing. Especially after you have had a hectic, busy workday, you walk into a group with other individuals and the Fathers, it’s amazing,” says Nish. “I learned a lot.”
Nish says he took what he learned at RCIA and sought to build on it.
“I like digging into stuff, so as soon as I listen to something, I go to YouTube, or I grab books and start reading,” he says. “RCIA is the perfect bridge to show you where to go and what to find.”
“It’s been such a staple for both of us. We just both love it so much,” says Kimberly. “You can hear other people’s perspectives, other things they’ve gone through. So how they look at lectio divina is separate from what you found in it. It’s nice to share all of that, so you can see it from multiple angles, rather than if you are doing an individual Bible study.”
Kimberly says becoming Catholic has given her and Nish a new sense of purpose.
“I think both of us believe that we are where we are supposed to be. It's not just going to work. It’s, no — I have a purpose. I am here for a reason, doing what I’m doing for a reason. It has given more significance to what we do, which has given more richness to even our out-of-church experiences,” Kimberly says. “I think, socially, it has made us more open and more of a community and then, also, spiritually, it’s given, oh my goodness, so much more depth and richness to our lives.”
“Just like a father guiding his son or his daughter, it’s a guiding hand. It’s basically what you need to do to be a better person and be who you should be,” says Nish. “I have a long way to go, but this provides me with the perfect road map.”