Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 1, 2008
Big city lawyer found meaning in building culture of life
Lea Singh will tell her story at launch of Nothing More Beautiful
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"Everybody has a mission in the Church and our call is to find that mission."
"Everybody has a mission in the Church and our call is to find that mission," Singh says. "Everyone is been called to somehow serve the Church and spread the Gospel in their own particular way. Just because the corporate world was not the place for me doesn't mean it's not the place for many people."
Born in the Czech Republic in 1976, Singh and her parents - Vladimir and Zita Sevcik - immigrated to Edmonton in 1985 to escape communist persecution.
"We were political refugees," explained Singh. "We were Catholics and many members of my family were persecuted (because of their ideas). My father was thrown out of the Prague Academy of Fine Arts (because he confronted the regime)."
Singh attended Oliver School and then various Catholic schools before completing Grade 11 at Archbishop MacDonald High School. When the guidance counsellor asked Singh about her career goals the teen said she wanted to go to Harvard Law School, to the embarrassment of her mother.
At the end of Grade 11 Singh won a scholarship to the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, where she spent two years. Upon graduation, she studied international relations at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Then she went to Harvard Law School.
Originally Singh wanted to do international human rights law but became disillusioned "because the human rights field is overwhelmingly dominated by people who are advocating for the wrong things. (For example) there is constant pressure at the United Nations to recognize abortion as an international human right."
Singh decided instead to study corporate law. She graduated in 2003 and went to work for a large New York City law firm doing financial restructuring and bankruptcies. Her starting salary was $125,000 a year plus $10,000 in bonuses. The job was intellectually stimulating but Singh was not happy.
"It was not really fulfilling for me," she said. "So while I was working there I was really deeply discerning what God wanted me to do in my life because I needed something much more meaningful - I wanted to feel like I was contributing towards building a culture of life or somehow helping to transform our culture for the better."
"I wanted to feel like I was contributing towards building a culture of life or somehow helping to transform our culture for the better."
Singh didn't come to this realization in a vacuum. "My conversion really started in law school," she recalled. "My whole perspective changed in law school because I sort of fell in love more with my religion and with Christ and I started to love to pray."
She started to seek out friends who were practising Christians, joined a prayer group and became a person of prayer. Singh even got a spiritual director who helped her determine her course in life.
"I started to think what is the meaning of life? Why are we doing all of these things? What is the purpose in pursuing a certain goal when after you achieve that goal it doesn't give you permanent happiness or fulfillment and then life just goes on like before?"
Singh's prayer life got deeper "and I really did develop a relationship with Christ as a person and had this deeper sense of wanting to serve him. And it wasn't just about me anymore and what I wanted to do in life but about what I was being called to do."
Eventually Singh realized that she had gone into corporate law "because I had lost my direction in terms of my career."
"I knew I didn't want to go into international human rights law so at that time I really wasn't quite sure what else to do and I thought, 'Well, you know, this is interesting. I'll try it.' But then, once I did that, I felt that wasn't where God was calling me."
That's how the immigrant girl from the Czech Republic who made it to Harvard ended up rejecting her career choice.
While at the law firm, Singh prayed to the Lord for guidance and even explored religious life. "I felt a deep desire to do something different."
Then all of a sudden Singh's prayers were answered. When she opened the magazine Catholic World Report her eyes went straight to an article about the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a Catholic lobby group based at the United Nations.
"When I read about them, I thought it was just perfect," she recalled. "This is exactly what would be a great job for me."
Singh was hired and immediately quit her job with the law firm to serve as legal counsel of C-FAM, on whose behalf she lobbied the United Nations. Her salary went down dramatically.
She went from having a two-bedroom apartment to being a roommate in an apartment.
"But I was actually very happy to do it because I felt I was doing it for a cause," she said. "I was doing it for the Church and for Christ because I really felt a very strong personal relationship with Christ. I was happier during that time than for the whole four years before that because I felt like I finally found what I was supposed to do in life."
Singh stayed with C-FAM for only one year because she then met Jasbir, a quality assessor with the Canada Revenue Service, who lives in Ottawa.
Singh moved to Ottawa May 2005 to work for COLF as assistant director. She and Jasbir married on July 1, 2006, and they are expecting their first baby. The couple attends weekend services at St. Patrick's Cathedral and prays often as a family in their own private chapel at home.
COLF is a small non-profit organization co-sponsored by the Canadian bishops and the Knights of Columbus.
"Really we were created to defend the family and to promote a culture of life and to build what the pope has called a civilization of love in Canada," explained Singh. "We do mainly educational activities. We produce educational publications, we intervene in the public square, we advise the bishops and we contact members of Parliament."
Is COLF making any inroads?
"I mean, we try," Singh laughed. "It's a difficult climate in Canada." The organization was heavily involved in the same-sex marriage debate and is now dealing with the issue of euthanasia, which comes up almost every parliamentary term.
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.