From Hinduism to Catholicism
by Katie Bahr,
It was three years ago when Uma Krishnan says she first dreamed of the Virgin Mary. It was January 2006 and she was living in Singapore with her husband, Kumar, and her son, Karthi. In her dream she saw a “very humble lady” surrounded by candles.
She and Kumar were devout Hindus and they knew the lady in Uma’s dreams was not a Hindu god. They knew little of Christianity, but they thought this lady might be the Blessed Mother. Still, because they came from a long tradition of Hinduism in India, they didn’t give the dream much thought.
Later that year Kumar got a job that took him to San Diego. A few months later, he found a new job in McLean. Uma and Karthi joined him that December.
This past April, Uma began to have more dreams of Mary.
One night she dreamed she was walking into a church she’d never seen before. Once inside, she turned right and found a little room where there were red candles and a statue of Mary.
The second night, she was in the same room, but this time she saw a big cross made of palm leaves.
Another night, she dreamed she was in a boat. On her right was a black woman with dark hair and on her left, a lady wearing a blue scarf and holding a Bible. The woman in blue showed Uma some verses to read to make her worries disappear. In her dream, Uma read the Bible verses and both women disappeared.
Uma and Kumar talked about the dreams and, by the fourth night, they decided to visit a church to see what was happening.
Kumar typed “St. Mary Church Fairfax” into Google and entered the address from the first result into his GPS device. The address was for St. Mary of Sorrows Church in Fairfax.
When they got to the church, Uma was shocked. On the outside, it looked just like the church she had dreamed about the first night. When they went inside and turned right, there was a small chapel with red votive candles, a statue of Mary and a cross. It was just like her dreams. Uma started to cry.
“The moment was so touching,” Kumar said. “We were not even Christians and we were not even worshipping when we got such a thing. We were Hindus and we didn’t exactly know how to pray, but we just sat there and said, ‘Thank you. Thank you for all these visions and thank you for bringing us here. We don’t know what to do, you tell us, you guide us, show us what has to be done.’”
After the first visit to the church, a few days passed and Uma and Kumar didn’t return. Instead, they went to their Hindu temple.
Uma had another dream. She saw the statue of Mary on the outside wall of the church. Mary’s arms were out and there was a bright light coming from behind. In Uma’s mind, the statue seemed to be saying, “Come back to me.”
When Uma told Kumar, they decided to go to St. Mary of Sorrows that day. It was a Wednesday, and this time, they went into the main meeting room, where the Charismatic Prayer Group gathered. They shared their story and prayed with them.
After that, Uma and Kumar began to attend Mass and the Charismatic Prayer Group every week.
Uma’s dreams continued, but the couple also started experiencing strange “spiritual disturbances.” Uma would have nightmares, and during the day, alone at home, she would hear strange laughing, heavy breathing or footsteps. Sometimes she would feel a pressure on her neck and would have trouble breathing.
The disturbances were so bad that Uma was afraid to be alone. Kumar would drop her off at St. Mary of Sorrows when he went to work in the morning and she would stay at the church all day.
Frightened, Uma and Kumar talked to Father Stefan Starzynski, St. Mary of Sorrows parochial vicar.
Starzynski told them the disturbances might be coming because they were moving away from Hinduism. He told them not to worry and that they’d be okay if they just went toward the one, true God.
“Even as Hindus they were coming to the prayer groups and the healing Masses and praying the rosary every day, so I think something was trying to stop them from entering the Faith fully,” Father Starzynski said.
Kumar and Uma decided to get rid of all of their Hindu belongings and devote themselves entirely to Catholicism.
Because of their circumstances, the parish had a team of four parishioners teach the couple a condensed version of the traditional yearlong Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults program. Uma and Kumar went to the program every Saturday to learn about the sacraments and to discuss the Bible.
“It sounded like Mary was calling them to us and I felt like we had a responsibility to them,” said Father Starzynski. “They told me they wanted to become Catholic and they were so excited and eager that I thought this was an opportunity to be flexible.”
By the end of August, the group decided the family was ready to become Catholic. Sept. 12, Uma, Kumar and Karthi were baptized and the couple received the sacraments of confirmation, Communion and marriage.
In the days leading up to the ceremonies, Uma and Kumar feel they received lots of help from Mary.
Though they had a very limited budget and hardly any time to plan, Uma and Kumar wanted to have a nice wedding ceremony. They only had $400 to spend on a wedding dress for Uma, but their son found a perfect dress for $399.
Then, after deciding wedding photographers would be too expensive, a photographer from the parish offered his services for free.
Before the baptism and wedding day, Uma had another dream. This time Mary was standing outside the historic St. Mary of Sorrows Church, with a big smile on her face. She was holding two wedding rings and three rosaries — red, orange and yellow.
The couple decided to use those colors in Uma’s bouquet and on the wedding cake, all donated by fellow churchgoers.
On the actual day, the whole parish was invited to see Uma and Kumar receive the sacraments. A reception was held in the hall of the historic church, decorated with red, orange and yellow flowers.
“Even though we hadn’t planned things, God had planned for us,” Kumar said. “He planned everything so perfectly and he took care of everything, right down to the photographs. It was like he has predicted this marriage for us. We are so glad and so thankful and so lucky to be here.”
Father Starzynski said Uma and Kumar’s conversion story shows that God works in mysterious ways. He felt honored that he could be there to help the family.
“I think it speaks to how beautifully God can work and does work,” he said. “It makes you think, are we flexible enough to understand the ways God may work that are outside the box that we have constructed?”
Since they received the sacraments, Kumar and Uma say the disturbances and nightmares have stopped. Uma feels stronger and is able to stay home by herself with no fear.
“We feel like the Holy Spirit in her has just given her this total protection,” Kumar said.
The couple says they are constantly impressed with the parish community.
“I feel like I’ve been wandering all over the place and that I’ve come home,” Kumar said. “I never heard of such good people, such good Catholic people.”
And through it all, Uma’s dreams of Mary continue.
“Whether it’s good or bad, we want to share them with everybody so everybody knows about it,” Kumar said. “Some may take it badly, but we want to share it. We are very fortunate. I feel lucky, I feel honored and I feel blessed.”
Published originally in The Arlington Catholic Herald