American strengthens Goa Catholics’ faith

Convert warns against equating health and wealth with divine blessing

American strengthens Goa Catholics’ faith
A laywoman gets an autograph from Stephen Ray (right)
Bosco de Souza Eremita, Pilar, India

January 25, 2011

Catholics in Goa say a Protestant-turned Catholic “preacher” from the United States has helped them rediscover their faith and to oppose neo-Christian sects.

Stephen Ray, who visited the western Indian state Jan. 22-24, appealed for priests, nuns and laypeople to remain faithful to their faith, and protect those tempted by “dubious faith healers.”

He said that although raised a Protestant, worship problems, multiple interpretations of the Bible and moral teachings led him to Catholicism.

He later said the problems with about 40,000 splinter Protestant organizations could be solved with Catholic teachings on issues such as the papacy, Mother Mary, saints, indulgences, confessions to priests and priestly celibacy.

In a discussion with priests and Religious yesterday, the American preacher warned against “cafeteria religiosity” that ignores suffering and equates health and wealth with divine blessing.

Father Victor Ferrao, from Rachol seminary, was overjoyed that a lay person could deepen his faith.

“I found myself enriched and strengthened in my resolve to serve God and the Church,” he said.

Another priest, Father James Torres de Silva, said Ray helped him discover the real purpose of his vocation: to serve the community.

While Ray instilled a “hunger to know the Word of God” in Olinda Dias, a lay woman, he convinced Tony Costa, a businessman, he need to bring back his relatives who had joined neo-Christian groups. Costa said they had earlier pressed him to join them.

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