PHOTO | SPECIAL TO THE B.C. CATHOLIC
Sarah is baptized by Fr. Pierre Leblond during St. Mary's Easter Vigil.
VANCOUVER – In 2008 Sarah sat in her jail cell in despair. She had been arrested after committing a number of crimes and abusing drugs. She prayed for help and God answered.
"I had three epiphanies," she said. "I wasn't trying to obtain drugs, I wasn't worried if my stuff was going to be stolen, and I wasn't thinking about my next crime."
Sarah also learned about Talitha Koum, a faith-based housing program for troubled women.
"I heard that in six months my mind would be retrained and I could live like a normal person and not a criminal. That was the ticket I needed."
After recovering through the program, Sarah attended the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program at St. Mary's Parish and was baptized a Catholic at Easter.
Sarah's journey started when she was born to drug-addicted parents in Vancouver. She and her brother were moved into foster care when her parents fell into deep addiction. Sarah and her brother were adopted when she was five.
The "normal life" was short lived; her adoptive parents divorced two years later. Soon, her adoptive mom began dating an alcoholic who abused everyone in the home.
"I grew up with all these secrets," Sarah remembered. "I couldn't say anything."
The chaotic lifestyle led Sarah to start abusing drugs herself. "I had the signs of addiction already."
She entered high school and gravitated to the drug crowd. She had her first drink at the age of 13. "I liked my first drink because I didn't feel anything. It was easier to go to sleep."
Soon, she was using alcohol and drugs every day, prompting her mom to send her to a wilderness camp to clean up. The situation also gave her adoptive mother a reason to break up with the abusive boyfriend.
"When I came back from the one-month camp, we moved to a different city and the boyfriend was gone."
Life was better, but Sarah eventually found the same drug crowd and started using more. She would come home drunk and would destroy the house. "My mom couldn't take it anymore."
Sarah continued to use drugs and was kicked out of high school at 16. At 17, a close friend died; this drove her deeper into substance abuse. "We binged for eight months."
Sarah' parents abandoned her by 17 and she ended up on the streets of Vancouver. "When I lived on the streets people treated me horribly," she recalled. "I learned to live like that and I treated people horribly."
She bounced around the Downtown Eastside and Surrey, while in and out of jail. Sarah knew her life was crumbling and started to pray. "I eventually prayed to go to jail."
After serving time, "It was by God's hand that I ended up in Talitha Koum."
At the recovery house everyone goes to church. Sarah started attending the Evangelical Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship, but was attracted to the Catholic Church while attending an Easter Vigil. "I saw all the candles and it was an amazing experience."
Sarah learned about St. Mary's RCIA program from a Life in the Spirit seminar and felt the program would answer her questions about faith.
The RCIA journey was difficult, but she received support from the sponsors and catechumens. She was baptized into the Church with Talitha Koum founder Starr Peardon as her godmother.
"When I entered the Church on Easter Vigil I had the biggest grin on my face and was so happy."