TWO YEARS ago, Adam Packer thought he had everything he could ever want or need in life. He had completed a university degree in political science, was earning a healthy salary, owned a nice car, and lived in a fancy apartment.
Yet, among all these things, there was something missing in his life – God.
Like many others around the world, Mr Packer was officially welcomed into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Mass last month, after a lengthy period of formation.
But the 28-year-old is perhaps not the typical convert to Catholicism, being raised in a “non-religious” family and without any Catholic relations or friends to evangelise him into the Church.
Speaking to The Record recently, Mr Packer said he was raised in a typically secular, Australian family.
“My dad was raised in a Methodist family but he was turned away from the Methodists. My mum’s parents were non-religious and she was non-religious, but then she converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses later in life,” he explained. “It was an odd background to move into the Catholic Church from.”
During his childhood and adolescence, Mr Packer went through stages of being interested in religion, although they were usually short-lived.
As a university student, Mr Packer went on an exchange program for six months, living in France and travelling around Europe, where he was inspired by the Catholic culture.
“I remember visiting Notre Dame of Strasbourg Cathedral, a great gothic cathedral, and it really gets you inside – the architecture, the history and the Catholic art,” he said.
A few years later when he again felt a desire for something more in his life, Mr Packer’s time in Europe returned to the forefront of his mind.
“I had a bit of a burnout in graduate school, and got into therapeutic meditation, and that just sort of naturally led to prayer,” he explained.
“From there I built on the experience I had from my time in Europe with Catholicism, where I had been in awe of the Catholic Church.
“I realised after doing a bit of research on the internet that if I’m going to become a Christian, then the Catholic Church would be the one for me.”
The decision to become Catholic was not an easy one, and was not understood by some of Mr Packer’s friends.
“Certain friends seem to have fallen off the radar,” he said.
“I think for people who are non-religious, talking about religion is a conversation-stopper, it’s like talking about mental health or sexuality, it just puts them off, so I think I’ve weirded out some friends and some family members by my conversion.”
Mr Packer said his mum seems to be pleased that he now has a strong Christian faith, but he hasn’t received quite the same response from his dad.
“He’s not very sympathetic to religion, he has a very common Australian view on religion – religious leaders are corrupt and they’re only interested in how much they can get in their collection plate,” he said.
Without any Catholic relatives or friends and no religious background, Mr Packer said research and study were the key factors in his conversion.
“I wasn’t evangelised into the Catholic Church, I simply became interested in religion and evaluated different positions and thought that the Catholic Church seemed to be the best position,” he explained.
“If you do look at things on balance objectively – the Church history, the writings of the Church fathers and the arguments behind Catholic theology – I think you can say that it is reasonable to become Catholic.”
By this time Mr Packer was living and studying in Canberra at the Australian National University (ANU), so he began attending Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra.
“The more I learnt about the Catholic faith, the more I fell in love with it and realised I wanted to be baptised into the Church,” he said. “It was also about the time I started learning more about Scripture and Catholic theology.”
Soon after Mr Packer returned home to Perth, where he continued to attend Mass, although he was desperate to enter the Church officially.
“I’d been going to Mass for a year, watching everyone take Communion, so when you do that, you feel you’re being left out, so I was happy to be baptised as soon as possible,” he said.
The wait was finally over on April 19, when Mr Packer was baptised and received First Holy Communion at St Anne’s Church in Belmont, which he described as a “wonderful experience”.
While his journey to the faith has been a gradual one over several years, Mr Packer said becoming Catholic has deepened his moral conscience.
“In terms of my values and underlying beliefs, I feel in a way that I’ve always been Catholic and becoming Catholic helped everything fit together and make sense,” he said.
“In other respects, a lot of my life has changed, so if I go to movies, I have to think now if there’s going to be a lot of coarse language or violence in the movie.”
Reflecting on his own journey, Mr Packer said he would strongly advise those searching for God to go to church and to start praying.
“Read the classic Christian apologetics, like CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity; learn about the arguments for the existence of God, learn about arguments for the historicity of the Bible,” he said.
“I think people, deep down, they want God, but they fill their lives with the pursuit of honours and pleasures and power, until they realise what they really want is God.”
As for himself, the future plan is quite simple.
“I’m just going to keep plugging away, trying to be a good Catholic and keep on the straight and narrow,” Mr Packer said.