New college graduate sought journey of faith at SJE

ST. JOHN – Jay Chen immigrated from China to the U.S. with her family when she was a sixth grader, and had no knowledge of Christianity.
Fast forward 10 years later, and the Schererville college senior steps into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City during a 2023 summer internship on the East Coast. “It felt like heaven to me,” said Chen of attending her first Catholic Mass. “The incense, the chanting, the homily … it all hit me.”
Chen acted on that personal epiphany by attending more Catholic Masses upon returning to Philadelphia after that weekend trip to NYC. “I went to other cathedrals, all beautiful,” she recalled.
When she returned to classes at Purdue University Northwest in Hammond last fall, Chen said she “Googled ‘churches’ and found St. John the Evangelist.”
Cut to a weekday Mass in St. John, where Katherine Carlson, the parish’s pastoral associate for discipleship, noticed a newcomer studying a liturgical guidebook. “There aren’t many people at a weekday Mass, and I know most of them. I noticed that Jay was trying to keep up with the parts of the Mass, so afterward I went up to her and introduced myself, asking if she needed any help.”
That led to Chen and Carlson talking, and Chen enrolling in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program for catechumens seeking baptism. Having graduated from PNW last December with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Chen started a new job in February as a data engineer for a medical company and is anxious to take another step forward in her life.
“It is amazing how Jay has been touched by God,” said Carlson. “She is so smart, and it is such a blessing to share her journey.”
“I believe baptism will help me connect more with Jesus,” said Chen before her baptism. “I have been learning about the parts of the Mass – each part helps me – and the sacraments. What I look forward to the most is having a closer relationship with God and having my sins washed away (in reconciliation).”
In a short video she taped to introduce herself to the SJE congregation, Chen said she wanted to be baptized “to get closer to God and receive his grace.” Her parents, Amy and Nam Chen, of Schererville, are happy for her, she added.
She has also been attending Alpha sessions to learn even more about the Catholic faith and receive answers to questions about how to live life as a Catholic.
If she were asked to tell a nonbeliever about Catholicism, “I’d probably tell them that we serve the poor, help those who need help, and preach through action. I would probably take them to Alpha, too.”
Having been accepted at the Rite of Election on Feb. 18, Chen received the sacraments of baptism, Holy Communion and confirmation at the Easter Vigil on March 30, at SJE.


Caption: Jay Chen (right), of Schererville, is a recent college graduate who was baptized a Catholic at the Easter Vigil liturgy on March 30 at St. John the Evangelist in St. John, where she has been attending Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults classes. She was welcomed to the parish last fall by Katherine Carlson (left), pastoral associate for discipleship at SJE, who noticed the newcomer at a weekday Mass. (Marlene A. Zloza photo)