CatholicNews ■ Sunday May 13, 2007

11

PEOPLE
dream to attend her concert was truly a wondrous blessing and an experience of Godʼs abundant love for me. It was also a celebration of the gift of a truly wonderful and phenomenal woman with not only a voice of gold but a heart of gold as well. I can only echo the lyrics to one of her songs, “Stronger Than Before”: “I believe in miracles, I believe in dreams!” It was indeed a marvellous gift of grace for me welcomed with much gratitude. ■

I FIRST BECAME a fan of Olivia Newton-John when I was 10. That was 30 years ago in 1977 when I first saw her perform on a television special and was mesmerized as a child would be by such a beautiful singer with the loveliest voice. She was then enjoying a blossoming musical career. The next year saw the release of the hit movie “Grease” which made her a household name the world over. The first records I bought were two Olivia Newton-John vinyl LP albums. As I grew through my teens, 20s and 30s, my taste in

music expanded and grew more diverse but Olivia remained my favourite singer. I faithfully collected each album she released and knew every song by heart. Olivia was part of my growing years. I grew to admire her not only for her musical talents but also the gift of her person and her inner beauty as she contributed to numerous humanitarian, environmental and charity concerns. As a breast cancer survivor since 1992 she has generously promoted public awareness of the importance of early detection and has become a positive inspiration to thousands battling cancer. As I matured spiritually, Oliviaʼs music also evolved from pop songs with trivial messages to inspiring songs with implicit Gospel values. Her self-penned and produced album, “GAIA” (1994), a personal album reflecting her experiences with cancer, contains songs that I use for classes on Human and Faith Formation. “No Matter What You Do”, my favourite song from that album has helped me personally in dealing with others.

Sister Wendy Ooi, long-time fan of Olivia Newton-John, meets her favourite singer. Meeting Olivia in person was a celebration of the gift of a truly wonderful and phenomenal woman with not only a voice of gold but a heart of gold as well, says Sister Wendy.

“No matter what you do, Iʼll send you love / No matter what you say…” With such Christ-like lyrics and a positive outlook in life, it is easy to believe the testimonies of other celebrities when they say that Olivia is authentically one of the nicest persons in the entertainment industry. Her personality extends to her music. Her penultimate CD “Stronger Than Before” (2005), features affirming songs of inspiration, courage and hope for those facing cancer or any difficult journey. It includes a rendition

of the well-loved “Prayer of Serenity” and a portion of its proceeds benefit cancer research. Oliviaʼs latest CD, “Grace and Gratitude” is her most spiritual music album thus far. It is an ideal album for inter-religious prayer sessions as it combines music and religious chants from Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism to Islamic and Hebrew prayers to a Latin Benediction and a song based on a prayer of St. Francis. (More of this in the next issue of CatholicNews.) Meeting Olivia in person recently and fulfilling a lifelong

Born Sep 26, 1948 in Cambridge, England, the youngest child of Professor Brin Newton-John (Welsh) and Irene (German), daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Max Born. Her family moved to Australia when she was five. Winner of four Grammy awards, nine American Music awards, numerous other music awards and accolades for environmental, humanitarian, breast cancer awareness and charity works. Presently, helping to raise funds to build a cancer support centre in her hometown, Melbourne, Australia. The centre will provide a comprehensive range of services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and research. Is an animal lover. Her first ambition was to be a veterinarian. Considers her daughter Chloe (21) as her greatest achievement. Website: olivianewton-john.com

· · · ·

Q: In 2000 you performed at

the Jubilee Celebration for the Sick and Healthcare Workers at the Vatican, and had a private audience with Pope John Paul II. What was that experience like? and we were waiting in a room and I remember seeing this head and the little white cap, thatʼs all I saw at first because he was stooped – I saw his head come round the corner and it was just one of those magical moments! My daughter was with me and he presented each of us with a rosary and gave us a blessing and he was very sweet. My daughter, who is half Italian, half Polish (on her fatherʼs side) and so she has Catholic grandparents, burst into tears. She was a teenager at that time and didnʼt think she would be so impressed, but when she actually met him it was a very emotional feeling, as it was for me. He was a very special man. It was a very wonderful moment in my life.
(Olivia sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the Vatican, a track found in her 1989 album of lullabies, “Warm and Tender”.)

Olivia NewtonJohn accepting a gift from the late Pope John Paul II during a private audience in the Vatican.

Olivia: It was an amazing experience to meet the pope! I had been invited to fly to Rome to sing and did not know what to expect and unfortunately on the night of the concert the pope was sick and he wasnʼt there but I got to sing – Iʼve never had an experience like that – it was in the Vatican hall but there were people lying on stretchers with IVs in their arms and people in wheelchairs all around the stage and it was a really emotional experience. We were due to leave a couple of days later and I said, “I canʼt come to Rome and not meet the pope!” “You have to arrange this meeting somehow. Please!” I begged. And so two days later we got a call to say that he was feeling better and we were invited. I just remembered being led through these beautiful halls with all those amazing artwork

Q: Youʼve survived so many

battles. What helped you get through them all to end up becoming “stronger than before”? What accounts for your resilience and positive outlook in life that might perhaps inspire those who are in some form of loss or tragedy right now? Olivia: I think I realize that weʼre all the same. When I got breast cancer, I never thought “Why me?” I was never a victim because I thought, “Why not? It happens to so many people and so why not me?” Maybe in the future thereʼll be some reason why Iʼve gone through this. Iʼm pretty grounded and have very strong parents. My mother was a very strong woman who went through a lot in her life and you pick up from your parents even though they may not say anything to you. She was a great

role model for me. And I think Iʼm so fortunate in so many ways that I see that as an opportunity for me to move forward and help others if I go through these things. My life is a fish bowl. I try to accept things in life because I know they happen to everybody. Iʼm not being singled out. This is what happens to people. Itʼs not what happens to you, itʼs how you deal with it because a lot of people deal with loss and pain and itʼs how you cope and get through it.

And I have a child to set an example for also. I have my private moments. I am human and I get down like everybody does, but I think I have a strong resilience and I love life and I feel very grateful. I think gratitude maybe is the key to it. Being thankful for what you do have, whether it is big or small, because it really boils down in the end to the people you love, thatʼs what pulls you through. If youʼre able to be thankful for something, it helps you get through to the next day. ■

TAIPEI – A 114-year-old

woman was welcomed into the church at Easter. When Bishop Luke Liu Hsien-Tang, bishop emeritus of Taiwanʼs Hsing Chu diocese, poured the water on the head of Xu Song Re Ai, the people present burst into warm applause to welcome the oldest Catholic in Taiwan. The event was announced by all the media in Taiwan,

Catholic and non-Catholic. The diocese arranged for Miss Xu Song to be baptized on Easter Sunday, after 21 people had received the sacraments of Christian initiation during the Easter Vigil Mass. Over 200 people were present for the baptism. Wang Tong Min, diocesan press officer, said, “Miss Xu Song, who never married, is still very clear-headed and lively. Her baptism gives new impulse to evangelization and pastoral care.” ■ FIDES / CWNEWS.COM