Francine in New Zealand
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! My name is Francine. I’m 29 and a few months into living my vocation as a married woman (we got married in Feb 2018). I work full time at a bank as a Business Improvement Consultant, which I find both challenging and rewarding.
Where are you located?
I live at the bottom of the world, in beautiful Aotearoa New Zealand (Land of the Long White Cloud), aka land of Lord of the Rings.
Are you a cradle Catholic, convert or revert?
I’m a cradle Catholic, but consider myself to be very much a revert. Growing up, we went to Sunday Mass as a family and Cathecism classes were part of the weekend routine. But despite that, my knowledge of the faith was limited. I didn’t really know why we do what we do, the purpose of the sacraments, the meaning of the Holy Mass etc. It’s hard to grow your faith and be interested in the Mass when you can’t see the point of it.
It wasn’t until a youth camp in my early teens that I first encountered this whole other world of practicing the faith –praise and worship, adoration, having a “personal relationship with Christ”. It was all new to me and I was intrigued about how enthusiastic all these young people were about our faith.
But the real change came in my early twenties, when I met a boy who I thought was my forever. He was decidedly anti-Catholic, so I spent three years trying to convince him otherwise. What began as a desire to convert him and a longing to articulate what I knew in my heart was the truth, led to learning a lot about my faith in a short span of time. I also learned a valuable lesson about evangelisation – that faith is called “faith” for a reason. An argument, no matter how well-formed, will probably not be enough when there isn’t an open heart for God to work in.
So I started my journey out of desperation to hold on to a relationship that was destined to (and did) fail. But despite being broken hearted for a while, I was at peace and joyful. For it paved the way to deepen my knowledge and appreciation for our faith, which is what I needed to fall in love again, this time with my actual forever: Jesus.
What’s been the biggest game changer in your Catholic faith?
Between finishing University and starting work, I had the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage to Catholic shrines in France with my mum. It was never something I had contemplated doing, but as always God works in mysterious ways and I found myself travelling through France learning about the lives of Saints like St. Bernadette (Lourdes), St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Lisieux), St. Catherine Laboure (Paris) and St. John Vianney (Ars).
I was blown away. To be walking the streets where these Saints once walked – people like you and I, who experienced life’s challenges and human limitations but nonetheless resolved to live a holy life – it was the first time I understood what our calling “to be holy” meant. It’s not a lofty and unattainable idea, but a very real and achieveable goal (with a lot of grace from God). It was the first time I realised the role of the Saints in our Christian life, and the joy in having an entire community of brothers and sisters to call on for support and help.
Name a saint you identify with and share why.
St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I read her autobiography “The Story of a Soul” a few years ago, and it had a profound effect on me. She speaks candidly of her faults and struggles, which make her very relateable. Not to mention she lived among us only 100 years ago. But more so, I was drawn to her overwhelming desire to be holy, and her simple, little way in trusting in God’s mercy and love. I would definitely recommend reading it!
What’s your favorite way to pray?
My favourite way to pray is with my husband, Marino. In times of stress, sorrow or thanksgiving, we turn to prayer. We pray together or over each other, and in placing our joys and burdens at the foot of cross, it reminds us that there are not just two but three of us in our marriage.
Favorite liturgical holiday?
When I was younger, it used to be Christmas (for all the obvious reasons). As I’ve grown in my faith, it’s the Triduum. There’s something very peaceful and joyful about being able to share in Christ’s suffering and walk in his footsteps (even in the smallest way), and to contemplate his great love for us.
For the last 11 years, the Auckland Diocese has organised a city Stations of the Cross. Hundreds of Catholics gather to process through the streets of the city centre. It’s a beautiful way to witness for our faith in community, and remind Aucklanders of the reason for the holiday (Good Friday is a public holiday in NZ).
What do you do for fun?
Last year I co-founded the Auckland Catholic Young Adults Community (CYAC) for young people in their 20’s and 30’s to come together to grow in faith and fellowship. We meet weekly for prayer, praise and worship, formation and importantly to share our triumphs and challenges in faith, work and personal life.
Apart from that, I love travelling. One of the most memorable trips was to Europe in 2016 for World Youth Day, Krakow where my (now) husband and I were among the millions of young people on fire for Christ. We also went to Dubrovnik, Croatia where we got engaged – a very memorable trip indeed!
Other things I do for fun are: cooking, sport and exercise (field hockey and boxing), and watching shows on Netflix.
Three words that describe you — go!
Not perfect… yet.
In the words of St Therese of the Child Jesus, “Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.” (The Story of a Soul)
I’m passionate about living the faith and try very hard to do the right thing, though it’s not always easy or straight forward to know what that is. I’m definitely still trying to figure out what it means for me to live in the world and not be of the world. I’ve been told it’s a lifelong battle, but I’m armed with God’s grace and a lot of prayer, so here’s to hoping I get there.