TWENTY-ONE years ago, Michael Jones walked away from the Catholic Church.
The 37-year-old described this decision as a form of teenage rebellion.
“I was a cradle Catholic, but as all 16-year-olds do, I rebelled,” Michael said.
Michael didn’t set foot in a Catholic Church for another 10 years.
In 2003, he met his now-wife, Judith, known affectionately as Jude, a practising Catholic.
“She would go to Mass, and I would go with her sometimes, sometimes I would talk her out of it,” he said.
The couple married in August 2004.
For six years, Michael experienced his own “Augustine moment”.
“I always call it my Augustine moment, because Augustine’s mum prayed and prayed and prayed that he would have a conversion,” he said.
“And my wife prayed and prayed and prayed, and I did,” he said.
His wife’s prayers and the witness of her family paved the way to a conversion of heart.
“One year, my in-laws participated at Ignite by volunteering, and I said to my wife, I might like to go and check this out,” he said.
At Ignite, he had a “stupidly overwhelming” experience of conversion.
“It was massive,” he said.
“I really experienced Jesus wanting me there.
“For the first time, it wasn’t like some mythical person or creature in the sky, it was real, and personal, and there.
“It’s changed my life since.
“The funniest thing was I was then so alive that I was dragging (Jude) to Mass.”
Michael’s new enthusiasm for the Church has borne much fruit, but it has been a constant struggle to trust the Lord.
“Now when I choose to surrender my life to God on a semi-daily basis, I find things work out, and I find if you say no and try and take control and fight, it hurts until you say yes,” he said.
Last year, Michael said yes to a job as education officer for Catholic Mission Brisbane.
Then, at the close of 2013, Michael and Jude said yes to God in a bigger, more life-changing way.
The couple welcomed two foster children into their home just in time for the New Year.
“My wife and I can’t have kids, so we thought we’d do fostering, and give kids who have a bad home or no home, a chance at a better life,” he said.
The couple did consider adoption, but found the current laws and processes made it too difficult for them to even consider being adoptive parents.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said.
“My wife went to an information session, and I think there were about 50 couples there, and that was just one session for the year – there were another three sessions.
“And I think there were already another 200 people or so, some massive number of people, already on the waiting list.
“And the number of kids adopted the previous year was, like, less than 20.
“It appeared to us the chances of us getting a kid in Australia was pretty much slim to none.”
Realising they could not adopt a child, the couple applied for foster training.
After “a very long and extensive process” Michael and Jude were accepted as future foster parents.
“It’s freaky how God just worked everything out, perfectly – the way the whole fostering thing worked out, and the beautiful children that we’ve got,” he said. “There are those times when you’re like, ‘Really? Are you sure? Do you really know what you’re doing?’
“It can be really, really challenging, and so you really do question whether He was sane or not at the moment, but He knows what he’s doing.
“Being a foster parent is a combination of amazing, awesome, fantastic, exhausting and ridiculously challenging.
“Once you have foster kids, it’s a whole different rollercoaster.
“Even just the whole concept of being a foster parent, it’s a continual emotional rollercoaster ride.
“The good times outweigh the challenging times.”
It’s not just the new children that the Jones’ have opened their home to, but many other parties who come as part of the foster care package.
“You’ve got the biological family of the children, the department (of Communities), the natural extended family of the children and you’ve got people who come in to visit for check-up, and your community agency who also works with you.
“It’s about 12 different people who you now have to accept, work with, incorporate.
“So our family has gone from two, technically, to four, with the children, but also their immediate and extended natural family.
“You need to make your calendar available to all those people.”
But the Catholic faith is helping Michael to survive the “emotional rollercoaster ride”.
“Catholic faith plays a pretty damn big part,” he said.
“Prayer, prayer, and lots of prayer.”
It’s also a new opportunity to evangelise and teach the faith to his new foster children, who are not Catholic.
“We were at Mass recently and the youngest one was saying, ‘What are they doing? What is the priest holding up?’
“I said ‘He’s holding up Jesus’ body and blood’.
“And looking mortified, he said, ‘Why is he holding up Jesus’ body and blood?’
“Because we’re going to eat it and drink it.
“And he said, ‘We’re gonna eat Jesus’ body and blood?’
“It’s really challenging but exciting at the same time to explain to them the whole Catholic faith.
“The department and agency we work with are really accepting, and the children’s natural guardians and their extended family are really accepting of us taking them to church.
“Whether we’re able to get the boys baptised or not down the track is a massive question and is massively up in the air.
“Essentially it’s not up to us, and there’s quite a lot of people we have to get the okay from, but if that ends up being a possibility, then that would be great.
“They’re just little, starting school, and so we can sort of help them develop and grow and become good – whether Catholic or not – good, decent men.”