Newly baptized, Shriya Chawariya says the Eucharist was a stumbling block at first — and then a light guiding her to the Catholic faith
This story is part of a series of profiles on new converts who entered the Catholic Church at this year’s Easter Vigil in Metro Detroit. For others in the series, check back weekly.
TROY — Finding Jesus was life-changing for 25-year-old Shriya Chawariya.
“When I came to know that Jesus is the only God, that’s the time I decided to learn more about the Catholic faith,” said Chawariya, who recently was baptized at St. Anastasia Parish in Troy during the Easter vigil.
Growing up in the Hindu faith in India, Chawariya was taught from a young age that there are many gods.
“My whole family worshiped Hindu gods,” she recalled. “One of my favorites was a man named Sathya Sai Baba, who has millions of followers in India, as well as throughout the world.”
Sai Baba, she explained, is an Indian guru who claimed to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, and called himself a god — one of many in the Hindu belief system.
“So all of this was fixed in my mind that there are many gods and to whom I am worshiping is the head of God,” she said. Chawariya admits she was deeply attached, singing prayer songs, watching his videos, and reading his books. “I was totally into him,” she said.
In August 2018, she moved Michigan to attend Michigan Technological University. Her life began to take another turn a month later when her friend, Clive Pinto, asked her to attend Mass with him at St. Albert the Great University Church in Houghton.
“I said, ‘Sure, why not?’” Chawariya said.
She noticed immediately something was amiss.
“When I went the first time to Mass, I saw it was very different how they were worshiping,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘Yeah, but all are having different ways of worshiping God as all gods are one.’”
The Eucharist, however, was a dramatic moment for her.
“At that time, my friend told me, ‘You don’t come in line with me to take Eucharist; it is only for Catholics,’” she said.
Chawariya was not happy with that.
“How come someone is doing partiality, because as I know, all gods are one … so why? I asked my friend why I am not allowed, and he was allowed. My friend replied that I was not baptized. From there, my debate started with my friend.”
Chawariya began to ask him questions about the Catholic faith, and he answered, despite her insistence that there were many gods, instead of one.
Pinto went on to explain who Jesus is, why he had come, and what life is like as a Catholic. The debate lasted for about a year and a half before one day, “I finally realized that there is only one God,” Chawariya recalled. “I immediately threw out idols and fake god images and completely accepted Jesus as my only God.”
Of the Catholic faith, she is most grateful and excited to receive the Eucharist, she said: “I’m thankful that I now at least know the truth.”
Pinto, who served as her sponsor, is happy for Chawariya, and has been committed to walking with her on her journey to the Catholic faith.
“When I came to know Shriya, she was a very faithful Hindu girl,” Pinto said. “She was highly interested in divine aspects of life. All I did was channel that faith to Jesus. And now, after almost a year into the RCIA, she’s becoming a Catholic. What a blessed and adventurous journey it has been. Praise God!”
Although they now live in different states, Pinto remained by her side on Chawariya’s faith journey.
“He used to come every weekend from Chicago to Detroit to take me to church, the cathedral, museums and to show me more about the Catholic faith,” Chawariya said.
Along the way, she learned about the saints, including the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina, who greatly affected her.
“Mother Mary is a true disciple. I learned that she appeared in many places — Fatima, Mexico — and her powerful rosary prayer,” Chawariya said.
She enjoyed watching the movie, Thérèse: The Story of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “and I liked her life. Of St. Faustina, one of my favorite prayers is the Divine Mercy (chaplet). I am currently reading her diary.”
Fr. Jim Houbeck, associate pastor of St. Anastasia Parish, said he is amazed to see how Jesus has been at work in Chawariya’s life.
“Shriya has been an absolute joy to get to know,” Fr. Houbeck said. “For one thing, she is naturally kind, and she has been quick to grasp the truths of our faith. For another, it is clear that Jesus has sent some good people to walk with her. She has been supported by a terrific sponsor, a good RCIA team here at our parish, and she has been joined by some other great (RCIA) participants.”
Chawariya feels fulfilled and is ready for the next big step in her faith life.
“What I am seeing now makes sense,” she said. “I’ve fully accepted Jesus.”