EP#3- Family (feat. Mark and Myrna)

In this episode of the Catholic Influencers Podcast Fr. Rob Galea and Danii Sullivan talk about the beauty and importance of Family. They share about their own experiences of family and the impact a loving, Christ-centred family can have on the world. 
Fr. Rob interviews Mark and Myrna, a young married couple with five beautiful children. Mark and Myrna share the joys and challenges of having five young children and how they hope to influence their children by serving Jesus joyfully and faithfully. 

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being an example to your children, putting Church first. Showing them it's a priority, it's a part of our lives. We work around the church because it's important to us and they see the value and importance of that.


Hey everybody, welcome to the Catholic Influencer's Podcast, a conversation to help the Catholic influences like you and me to go deeper and further in our influencing of the world for Jesus. I'm your host, Father Rob Galea and I'm your cohost, Danii Sullivan, and we look forward to talking to you today about family.

Hey, Danii. Hey, Father Rob. It's such a blessing today, a nice hot weather here in Victoria, and while the rest of the world seems to be in cold. It doesn't feel like a blessing we're in this disgusting little room with no air conditioner. Yes. It's our small office, but we will be moving soon. To a bigger office With an air conditioner. Just in time for winter. That's nice. I can't wait and, well, you spend more time in the office than I do. Yeah. I don't know if you'd call it your office and be honest. I think your office is like maybe Qantas. Yeah, sponsored by Qantas. No, not really. But if Qantas is interested. Yes, exactly. Just to give us a call.

So today we're going to talk a little bit about family. I love family. Do you love your family? I'm so excited for today's topic. It's a bit dangerous though. If you ask me about my family and I can talk for hours. Yeah. You talk about your family quite a lot. They're my favourite people in the world. Family's such a blessing. Not everyone has a good experience of family, but when it's rightly ordered, the families, the most beautiful place where we can discover God, when we can discover ourselves.

I 100% agree with that Father Rob, I mean I learned who I was in my family and my parents definitely brought me into the faith.

Also the popes. A lot of the pope's talk about the family being the first school of worship, the place where we discover God first, but it's also a place where we learn to struggle, where we learn to forgive, where we learn to move on and we learn a lot about relationships, don't we, in family.

Absolutely. I grew up in a family. I'm one of five, so, there was a lot of forgiveness growing up. I have three brothers, so I'm jam-packed in the middle of three boys and we've got an older sister as well. But growing up around three boys, there was lots of forgiveness on both sides. I think I would kind of poke them. They would hurt me. I would run to mum and dad and play the baby sister card.

Lucky you. And cupboards as well. Yeah. One of them locked me in a cupboard. For a long time. It was 30 minutes. 30 minutes locked in a cupboard. And forced me to listen to classical music as like a 12 year old. It was, it was pretty funny. Yeah. Funny now, but not funny then. I forgiven him, which is a beautiful thing. I learned from that awful experience.

You see this is the beauty of family and you come back always coming back to understanding about forgiveness, always understanding about mercy and that we love people and even though we disagree with them and I think one of the things is the family disappearing as an institution. So we're becoming less forgiving, we're becoming less tolerant, we're becoming more precious and more offended. We get offended about so many things. The world gets offended when we say the wrong thing or even think or assume the wrong thing. And I think that's connected. I'm not hundred percent, but I would say that is connected with the brokenness of the family.

Or another thing that I've noticed in more recent times is that when something is broken, we've got this more of a throwaway kind of culture. Where like this family is a bit broken we're not going to try to repair it as much as we would have in the past. Which has it's positives and it's negatives. But when you see a family really striving to stay together, they're learning so much through that experience rather than if a family runs into troubles and they dissipate.

So it's about fighting, fighting for what is God given. And we're in a disposable generation where everything is thrown away. We just changed our dishwasher here in the parish. And mind you, I think it's an old one. So maybe not a good example. It's been there like 19 years. I think it blew up. So not a good example But I get where you're coming from. But we tend to throw things away before even try to repair before we try to fight for something that is worth fighting for. But also the family's a place of responsibility. It's a place where we have to reach out to one another.

I think it's John Paul II he said this, 'As the family goes, so goes the whole world in which we live". The family is a reflection of what society will become because that's where we learn. That is our first society. And so it is our responsibility as parents, as children, and even myself as a priest who is there to serve the family is to make sure that we learn to love Jesus within the family.

And there are so many great examples of families like this that put Jesus at the center and it's obvious. There's the Holy Family. Jesus was very much at the center of that. And that is the perfect model.

I don't know Father Rob, you may have heard- I have this beautiful God-daughter. She is the most beautiful, God-daughter in the world. But her family so her parents Erika and Alan. Um, they are, to me, the most perfect example of the holy family. I mean there's little baby number two on the way. I think I'm allowed to say that 'cause it's pretty soon and it's on Facebook so it's fine. But just seeing them and I love going and having dinner with them and just seeing how they interact with each other and how much Alan Loves Erika and how much Erika loves Alan and how Stella is the product of that and how much they both love Stella because they love each other and it's just this beautiful dynamic and they have their struggles but they always, fight through that or open up communication and they are these beautiful example to me of just, you know, family goals pretty much.

And reaching out to the community as well. They volunteer in parish, they help out. I also am involved, I'm also the Godfather, mind you of this beautiful Stella. But also that they don't isolate themselves. They're very involved in youth ministry and Adult Ministry.

And I think, you know, as soon as someone comes into the parish that, you know, might need a home, they're the first ones to open their door and welcome them home for a meal. Like it's just this beautiful place of welcoming and hospitality and love. And that's just what a family, in my biased opinion, it should be.

These are beautiful examples of what families should be. Yes. And it's not the only form of the family. But let's talk about this, you know, about priority. Because I think one of the things that we need to understand is that family, yes, there are kids and what happens is when kids come into the family all of a sudden the children become the priorities as they should. But one of the things we need to understand is that in a marriage, in a family, it is first God, God should come first in everything. Even before your husband and your wife. You think this is crazy. But yes, God should be the number one and then it is each other, the husband and wife. Now one of, I think, the breakdowns of families sometimes happens when they start to put the children before each other and when the children come before the husband and wife, then the children don't have the example of love, of selflessness, of giving and the of, of just what a holy family should be.

One time I remember talking with my mum. When you grew up in a family with four siblings, you're always trying to just get a foot above the other. So you'd ask mum like, who do you love more me paddy? And she'd never answer. And then one day I came up with a better example. I was like, 'Okay mom, who would you save if there was a fire in the house, me or Liam?' And she looked at me and I was about 13 at this stage, so I understood that she would probably choose my seven year old brother and I was fine with that. But instead she looked at me, she said, 'I would make sure that your dad was safe. I'd save him first' and as a 13 year old I was shocked, I was like, 'mum, how dare you? He's an adult, he can save himself'. But then later when I was thinking about it, I was like, 'oh, like mum must really love Dad. She's going to say you him first'. And I remember that 12 years on just because it was such an eyeopener for me to see how much my mum loved my dad, that she was going to go make sure he was safe and save him instead of me or my little brother. I didn't even get to win my own self made argument.

But this is the point as well is that when a husband and wife love one another and they love each other selflessly and affectionately then that is a beautiful example of love to the children and the children feel loved. I remember my parents for example, showing affection. My mum would always hug and kiss my dad and my dad would, while my mom was washing the plates, would come from behind and just hug her and kiss her. And it's like at the time you like, ew, get away. But now I think, 'wow, that's taught me affection that taught me that family is about love.' And is about romance. But also they would put the children, they would love the children. But as a team, and this is one thing that always frustrated me, but I understand it now, is that my mum always, always took my dad's side and I'm thinking like, you go to mum for mercy, you go to mum for your side. But no, she was always on Dad's side. She would try to help dad see things the way she did. But she would always defend that and never go against him. So I think again, the priority of Mum and Dad and if that is ordered, then the children will see that and, and be ordered. But again, it doesn't end within the family itself. Like you talked about Alan and Erica, they reach out to the community because if family that's is stuck within itself, will stagnate. It'll just become dry. It will become about ourselves, us against the world when it is us to serve the world.

Yeah. And Alan and Erika are this example of this young couple in the parish. So going outside of your home into the parish and then outside of the parish, into the community and then everything that they do as a family is going to point back to Jesus because people are going to see them say that there's something different about them. This isn't just Alan and Erika. This is all families that are focused on Jesus. We'll have to tell them to listen to this podcast, we didn't plan to talk about them. I just thought of the best example I could, but all families that are centered on Christ- they're going to be an example in their home, in their community. So any family that's focused on Jesus, centered on Jesus, they need to be out in the world because that's where the people are going to see them and going to see what's different about them.

And that comes with a life of prayer, doesn't it? Because it's impossible for a family to put Jesus first, to put each other first and to reach out to the world if it it is not with a time of prayer. Praying before meals, praying as a family together, praying the rosary, or lighting a candle together and reading scriptures together, but not only the parent with the child, but as a family together. I meet so many parishioners, for example another family that comes to mind is a family- A husband, wife and two children. The wife is not even a Christian. She's a Buddhist, but the husband and the children are Catholics, but she joins in the prayer and it's their prayer together and they have a beautiful shrine devoted to Jesus, Mary Joseph. And as a Buddhist as well, she enters into that time of prayer. But it is God, God that is at the center. Jesus who is at the center even of a marriage that is not both Catholic. So it is possible. It is possible.

One of the great families that I met just recently, I didn't know them too well, but I was having a conversation with, with Mark. His name is mark and he's married to Myrna now Mark and Myrna are young, actually, when you look at them, they look in their early twenties, but they're in their early thirties. But they have five, five children already. They're found everywhere. Like they volunteers in the parish. They help out in youth group. I just had a big event with 700 young people in Sydney and they were at the forefront of organizing all of this and getting all of this together. And so it's just that that always at the forefront of everything standing at the forefront. And I just love to see people who are just so outward looking.

They sound like an amazing couple. I listened to this interview just before we record this and it's amazing just hearing them speak together and then about their relationship about their children. It's really beautiful. So we're going to go into that interview now with Mark and Myrna.

So I'm here in Sydney at Eastfest. We're about to begin a big youth rally and two of the great volunteers here who I got to know a little bit, are Mark and Myrna. Mark and Myrna are a married couple, a young married couple who have quite a large family. I'm just going to let them introduce themselves and just a little bit about their family, who their family is.

Hi, my name is Mark. I'm a registered nurse from Saint Vincent's private hospital and I'm part of the Saint Michael's Daceyville parish.

Hi, my name is Myrna. I'm also from Saint Michael's. Obviously. I work for the Saint Michael's parish. I'm a secretary on one day a week and I work also at the hospital part time. And we have five children.

Five children, and you both work and you both serve and you both volunteer. This is just amazing. What a blessing. I complain because I'm a priest and I think I have too much to do and I don't have the family that you have the juggle the family that you have. So I'm just going to start off with this question. Look you're here, you're married and you got married in your early twenties and then five kids later, and now I imagine, in your thirties and you found yourself here, did you ever imagine yourself being where you are today?

Never. No. I always complain to my wife that we never really had a meeting about having five kids. Because sometimes at home it can get quite hectic and quite crazy. And when I complained to my wife, I'm like, we never had a meeting about having five kids. Like, how did this happen? But you know, at the end of the day, having such a large family and being involved with the church is, is a real blessing for us all.

Amazing. And so tell me a little bit about, um, you didn't have a meeting to have this family, but you, you meet, you did plan to get married but before that they must've been a story. How did you guys meet? Where did you guys meet? And tell us a little bit about you?

So it's quite funny. We actually met at a youth group. It was YFC (Youth For Christ.) But we didn't really see each other. She was actually on the Internet ,and Myrna my wife was using her sister's account and then I actually spoke to her and I was like, 'Hi, my name is Mark. I'm from YFC as well'. And then she said that she was using her sister's account and then eventually we met and we started hanging out. We started dating. So yeah, that's how we met.

So it was one of those deceiving things you thought she looked one way and she looked the other.

Yeah, you could've married my sister.

And so you met, you dated and then eventually you decided to get married. That's right. But why get married so young? How old were you when you got married?

I was 23. And I was 27.

And I actually proposed to him. because it was a leap year. I think that was the only time that a woman can actually propose to a man. But I think eventually I ended up buying a ring and proposing back to her.

So, look, I'm just going to ask it and we're talking in this podcast about being a Catholic influencer and influencing the world, but also I think one of the greatest influences we have, one of the greatest powers we have as families to influence our family, that they too may become influences, may fall in love with Jesus and impact the lives of others. Now I think it all starts, I suppose with a life of prayer. You are both devout Catholics. You both live out your faith. And you and I know how impossible it is to live out your faith if you don't pray, if you don't have a life of prayer. So how do you, with five children, two of you with work, find time to pray and to put God first.

So I'm also an Acolyte at my church where I serve every Sunday and I'd been serving now for the past 19 years. I think just involvement in the church and getting involved, you have to participate in the church, I think really gets the family involved as well. My son, the oldest son at the moment is reading. Our second one is doing the offertory.

Being an example for your children. We always put church first. There's never a time where we go on holidays during Christmas or Easter, it's the busiest time for the church. And we're showing them that it's a priority. Definitely showing that example to say that this is part of our life. We work around the church because it's important to us. And having said that they, they see the importance of it, then they value that.

'Cause they see you putting God first. They, as a result put God first as well. And what about prayer? Do you pray as a family?

Every night we pray before we go to bed and the novelty of it is we light candles and the kids take turns, take turns reading. We have passage from the Bible or children's Bible, and then they can blow out the candle after. But even just as simple as sharing a meal together, when we ever get a chance to be together as a family, we actually say we say the grace first. We even sometimes say grace for breakfast, lunch and dinner if we are all together.

Yes. And that praying after mass, I remember my dad, we used to come and pray together during meals and my mum who was more the religious use to say, 'come, let's pray together.' And my dad would say things like, 'why? Why are we going to pray again after we've just come from mass?' Now there are a lot of struggles and in the future, you have young kids the oldest is 12. And how old is your youngest? One. She just turned one? Yeah.

So he has a five year gap with the second. So the second is turning seven. So in the last six years I had the four.

Wow. There you go. The last six years has been intense to say the least. But that's amazing. And so these kids are being brought up in a culture which is very secular, very nonreligious. And there are a lot of temptations, a lot of difficulties. And do you have any fears like that your kids might not embrace the faith and how do you deal with those thoughts? Those fears?

I guess one of my fears for my kids is as they grow up and they grow in a such a secular world, they may lose their faith or may not want to go to church anymore. But I guess the best thing to do is just try and keep encouraging. Encouraging them to go to church, keep praying and I guess just to keep praying for them as well.

Yeah, that's right. So it's praying, like you said, praying with them, seeing them, them seeing you serve the church. So that there's this community, there's service, there's prayer, but also praying for them cause that's so powerful. And your little one says she goes to sleep with my song 'Angel.'

That's it. Yeah. It's actually saved my sanity because for the past year we've been using your song 'Angel' to put her to sleep and she just goes to sleep, no matter how cranky or how angry she is, as soon as she hears that song, hears your voice, she is out and she sleeps like an angel.

10 to 12 hours.

That's the main thing, the power of the music. But that's what that song is about. It's about praying for your children. It's about interceding for your children that they may grow up to know, to love and to serve Jesus. Now a question maybe a bit more intense of a question. Is that culture today, even you as a young married couple is all about self, you know, and married at 22 and 27. The 22 and 27 year olds today want, you want to live for yourself, you want to build a business, finances, you want to be free and it's a culture also that's not open to life. So what gives you the strength to be open to life in a culture that doesn't encourage that?

I guess for me, I think since I've got a family, I've got five kids. It's not really about me anymore. It's all about them now. When I was growing up, I used to sit at the front seat, I always got the skin of the chicken, I used to get the front seat for the plane. Everything was all about me. But now it's my kids, my family now, I have to give up everything. I have to give up my chicken now to them, you know, that's the best part is the chicken skin, you know. But then they split it out. No they love it. They love it. They eat it. Um, so yeah, I don't know. It's just for me now- it's just about them.

For me, I've always wanted a lot of children, 20 to be exact, but I knew that was impossible. But definitely four. So that's how much we talked about four. But not to say that Marley was an accident. She was definitely planned. All of our children of were planned. I guess you learn, you know, I'm not a perfect mother. I stress a lot. I yell a lot. But I do pray a lot when I'm by myself. I pray a lot. Then my children understand when I yell, sorry. No, that's good. And that's human. And I pray that they will understand and I pray that God will. And to be honest I've never been so patient in my life. I think I have more patient with children than adults because it's something I've been doing for 12 years and I learned to have patience with God's help

It's amazing. And the love you have is unbelievable. I just see, even like as I have some of my friends who are having kids, you know, I look at them and they've changed. They're different now because now that they're in love, they have been in love with their wives and their husbands. But it's just different now. No more self. And the more you can be patient doesn't mean you don't lose. It doesn't mean you don't lose your patience.

I definitely think it's brought us as a couple, a lot stronger. We used to fight so much.

We still find now, every now and again we do have our disagreements.

about silly things, but we used to fight a lot. And since having our children, I think we've become a stronger team and our bond is a lot stronger. Which, you know, we hope our children will learn from us. Appreciate it.

Yeah. It's through the example and the love we have for each other. I think that's one of the most powerful things is that even that children see that you put each other first even before them in a sense. 'Cause it's first God, then you've committed to love and serve one another and then together as a team, out of that love, you serve each other. And that's not always easy. It's not always easy, especially after an argument.

Yeah, that's right.

I just want to finish off this interview with one more question. When I see. I just didn't see that Jesus tells us to have childlike faith. And now for me, as a celibate priest, I look and I think look, God asks us to have childlike faith, but I suppose I have a different vision and a different understanding to what that means to have maybe a mother and a father who had five children. What do you think Jesus was saying? What do you think he was meaning and what do you understand by Jesus saying, have childlike faith?

I get asked this question a lot at work. What does it mean when Jesus say to be childlike? And I always start off by saying it's important to remember. You need to be childlike, not childish. Okay. And to me to be childlike is to be, to have the innocent, innocentness in a child, you know, the, the wanting, the needing of wanting things and needing things, but in a very innocent, I guess in an innocent way, you know what I mean?

yeah. So it's about just not questioning everything but trusting at the end of the day what God says has more wisdom than what we think. That's right. Yeah. So look, um, Mark and Myrna, I really thank you for your time. I really appreciate you making even the sacrifice to bear your hearts and your souls through this. I just want to say I really thank God for you. I thank God for your selflessness, but also thank God for, for using you in spite of your mess. Like, we are all messy and then it goes the same with me. It goes the same with everyone else, but how beautiful that God has trusted you with these five beautiful children. And we as listeners will pray for you both. We'll pray that they will grow to know, to love, and to serve Jesus like you do. Yes. Thank you. So thank you so much for your time. Thank you for your words and thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you. Thank you, father.

Thank you so much for joining us today on the Catholic Influencers podcast. We'd love to hear from you. So please get in touch at frgministry.com/podcast or any of our social medias, So Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, @FRGministry, and we'll be back next week. Until then, God bless.

Danielle Sullivan