Former Governor General, politician, atheist, finds God

A former Australian governor general, Labor leader and avowed atheist says he has found God again at age 85.

“There’s been a gnawing pain in my heart and soul about what is the meaning of life. What’s my role in it?” Bill Hayden says.

Hayden has often been cited as one of Australia’s most prominent atheists. According to the priest who baptised him, Hayden had a change of heart several months ago.

“I think Bill’s been spending a lot of time in the service of people in government and in the general community, and he took a while to discover there’s a context for all of that,” Fr Peter Dillon says.

“I think he’s been living a very Christian life. He’s got a name for what he’s been doing all along.”

Dillon says he felt a “real closeness” with Hayden as he baptised him.

“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,” he said.

Despite being wheelchair-bound and suffering health setbacks including a stroke and a recently broken shoulder, Hayden wants to do volunteer work with St Vincent de Paul.

“This is a man who is totally dedicated to the service of the community and now he’s doing that from a platform of the Christian faith,” Dillon says.

“Most of us learn about God from somebody whom we admire and respect and I think that’s going to be the case for a lot of people when it comes to Bill Hayden.”

Hayden credits his conversion in part to his Catholic mother and the Ursuline Sisters who taught him at primary school and stressed the principles of humanity, social commitment and service to others.

However, he admits the pivotal moment came during a hospital visit to see 93-year-old Sister Angela Mary Doyle, whom he had admired for years.

“I have always felt embraced and loved by her Christian example,” he says.

“The next morning I woke with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a holy woman, so after dwelling on those things I found my way back to the core of those beliefs — the church.”

Hayden hopes his new-found faith might encourage others as the Church passes through difficult times.

“This took too long, and now I am going to be devoted. From this day forward I’m going to vouch for God.”

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News category: World.

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