Former Australian Governor-General and Labor Party leader Bill Hayden has been baptised and received into the Catholic Church.
“From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God,” the former atheist told the Catholic Leader (the newspaper which broke the story) as he prepared to be baptised and received into the Church at St Mary’s Church, Ipswich in Queensland, Australia.
Hayden told the Catholic Leader that his religious beliefs were revived following a hospital visit to Sister of Mercy Angela Mary Doyle, a prominent Brisbane nun he admires.
“I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example,” he said.
“Dallas (my wife), our daughter Ingrid and I recently visited Sister Angela Mary in the Mater Hospital where she was a patient. The next morning I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman, so after dwelling on those things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs – the church,” he said.
He said that Sister Angela Mary Doyle “saw to it that the poor received the best medical attention at low cost, and pressed for universal health insurance.”
“Without her, there would have been no Medibank and no Medicare today,” he added.
He told the Catholic Leader that Christianity “is about love for your fellow humans, forgiveness, compassion and helpful support.”
He added: “These characteristics are founded on the teachings of Christ and driven by faith in an external power – the Christian God whose limitations are beyond what humans could attain. I can no longer accept that human existence is self-sufficient and isolated.”
Referring to the scourge of clerical sexual abuse, which has rocked the Church, he said: “The problems are caused by human agents of the Church, but we shouldn’t let our faith be undermined by the action of agents who aren’t quite as good as they should be.”
Since becoming Catholic Hayden now intends to play a greater role in the life of the Church.
“I would like to play an active part in the St Vincent de Paul Society,” he said. “And I want to understand my theology better, by reading the Bible.”