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Surviving and prospering in an interfaith marriage

VATICAN (SE): “If not for my husband’s tolerance and love of Christianity and my love and understanding of where he comes from, we would never been able to celebrate our life and inter-community differences,” Penelope Bajaj, an auditor at the Synod on Family Life, said during her time at the microphone on October 10.

 Bajaj said that she and her husband, Ishwarlal Bajaj, have been married for almost 39 years. “I owe it to God’s grace only and he is the third person that holds us together,” she said.

Addressing the topic of interfaith marriage, which is a highly important one for the Church across Asia, she said, “We are an interfaith, inter-community couple. My husband was Hindu and I Catholic, but with our educational and social backgrounds being very similar, we managed to have a great harmony in our relationship along with the many trials and sufferings we have experienced.”

She added, “The success of an interfaith marriage has to be such that the Catholic spouse should not be asked to give up his or her faith. My husband understood this before taking the decision to marry me. In return I gave him the option to follow his own faith.

“Then came the birth of our two children, who accompanied me to church and attended regular Sunday school, but were not baptised.

“It was my husband’s desire that both our children should be allowed the freedom of choosing their own religion and I accepted it with a very large lump in my throat. We have to thank the many mentors who helped us in our family.

“The differences of religion were never a deterrent to us, for little magic words like compromise, humility and sorry helped us to lose our egos and live for the other.”

Reinforcing her statement, she said that if she had her time over again, she would do exactly the same thing.

“If not for my husband’s tolerance and love of Christianity and my love and understanding of where he comes from, we would never have been able to celebrate our life and inter-community differences,” she added.

Taking his turn at the microphone, Ishwarlal Bajaj shared, “I was born into a Hindu family with highly educated parents. My mother is a doctor of medicine and my father an engineer.”

He continued, “My parents made the decision of sending me to a Protestant school where from an early age I assimilated Christian values and elements of the faith which were novel, but yet deep and inspiring.

“I met my wife, Penelope, a devout and committed Catholic whose mother was a principal of a school and father was a doctor of medicine too and an officer in the Indian Army.

“We both decided to get married 38 years ago with not much opposition from our families. I realised there were differences in religion and, since my wife was keen in following the Catholic faith, I was happy to allow her—her religious freedom.

“After a while, I began attending the holy Eucharist and was full of admiration at its contents. I felt at ease with the homily and the celebration being in a language—English—I was familiar with. I then began attending a theology course, entitled Wellsprings, which my wife Penelope organised and conducted for the laity of the archdiocese of Mumbai.

“Through my attendance at the programme for seven years I assimilated the teachings of Jesus Christ and got into a deep understanding and love of scripture. I questioned, I pondered and finally decided to get baptised on our silver wedding anniversary, 13 years ago.

“My baptism elevated our marriage to a higher spiritual level with a much better understanding of our relationship with one another.

This motivated and encouraged my son and daughter, who themselves decided at the ages of 28 and 32 to embrace the Catholic faith, thus completing the fabric of a unified Catholic family.”


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