In response to the “gnawing pain in my heart and soul about the meaning of life,” Australia’s former governor-general, Bill Hayden, a life-long atheist, was recently baptized at the age of 85.
After living a great deal of his life in denial of the Creator, the former politician renounced his atheism and joined the Catholic Church. He said witnessing so many selfless acts of compassion by Christians over his lifetime — as well as a season of reflection following a stroke — inspired his decision.
According to The Catholic Leader, Hayden was baptized at St. Mary’s Church in Ipswich, near Brisbane, on Sept. 9. He said at the time, “This took too long, and now I am going to be devoted. From this day forward, I’m going to vouch for God.”
One of Australia’s iconic Labor leaders and former Governor General Bill Hayden has been baptised a Catholic at the age of 85, and after a lifetime as a declared atheist. #auspol #australianlabor #CatholicChurch https://t.co/UorKtQKH7k pic.twitter.com/CJdIMzZViO
— The Catholic Leader (@TheCatholicLead) September 18, 2018
Hayden told The Australian he “always regarded” himself as a “fellow traveler with Catholicism,” even declaring he was Catholic on official forms, though he never made a public commitment to the faith.
“I would go to Mass every Sunday and then go to benediction when I was a teenager,” he said. “I didn’t know that I wasn’t officially a Catholic, and found that out only later, when my sister did the family history.”
Ultimately, after his stroke in 2014, the former governor-general said he discovered “more to life than just me.” He continued, “I had to make a dedication of myself for the good of others, before God. I felt that strongly.”
The Catholic priest who baptized Hayden, Father Peter Dillon, said the well-known lawmaker had a change of heart several months ago.
“It was a big thing for him … an act of submission to the fact that there was no denying for him that God is real and he had come to discover that,” the priest explained.
Hayden noted he was prompted to finally turn to God after a hospital visit from Sister of Mercy Angela Mary Doyle, a 93-year-old nun famous for her work with the poor. Hayden said he “always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example.”
“Dallas [his wife], our daughter Ingrid and I recently visited Sister Angela Mary in the Mater Hospital where she was a patient,” he recalled. “The next morning I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman. So after dwelling on these things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs — the Church.”