“SOMETHING happened” to Karen Doyle when reading the then Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Women.
As a newlywed in 2001, the mid-90s document “grabbed a hold of” her soul and “shaped and directed” life’s purpose.
Today, Karen and husband of 16 years, Jonathan, spearhead CHOICEZ MEDIA, a thriving and progressive online and consultative ministry to individuals and groups in Australia and overseas.
Jonathan specialises in empowering educators and school staff to reach their full potential while Karen is heavily involved in writing and offering a variety of programs, especially for women.
She’s begun a National Catholic Women’s Movement called Sisterhood.
Karen represented the family’s various ministries at last year’s Ignite Conference in Brisbane, saying the event “was a joy to be at”.
Rewinding the clock a few decades, she shared about her family’s origins in Canberra, which, after some travelling, her family of five now calls home.
“My parents did family life really well,” she said.
“We had many family rituals and routines which created a strong sense of family and being together.”
With one parent being a Catholic and the other an Anglican, ecumenical faith was well lived.
“We’d always attend Sunday Mass as a family but then we would also go to Mum’s service,” Karen said. “(And) we prayed as a family at night.”
Her father bought a Christian bookstore when Karen, the eldest of four children, was 10.
The influence was “formative” on her faith, Karen said, “being around the books, people and experiences”.
Meanwhile, her future husband, born in Perth, began his education in Ireland.
Brisbane, too, was home for a stretch, with Jonathan educated in Indooroopilly before the Doyle family of four sons eventually lived in Canberra.
The former altar boy who has “clear memories of going to Mass every day during Lent”, studied education at a tertiary level while Karen moved into nursing studies.
“First connecting and having a conversation” at a church event, Karen said she “distinctly remembers being drawn to” Jonathan.
“He stood out from all the other guys as a man rather than a boy,” she said.
“He had a clear sense of what he wanted in life and he was a deeply interesting person.
He also had a deep respect for me as a person and woman.”
The attraction was instantly mutual.
“Karen’s character was deeply attractive and her sense of her own personal dignity and value,” Jonathan said.
“We developed very early on a really great friendship. We would talk about everything for hours and hours.”
The romantics wrote letters to each other, Jonathan holding the record with a 16-page litany.
At that stage, Karen, who “still has every letter”, was nursing in Sydney.
The letters and the couple’s mutual respect developed “a foundation of friendship and deep regard”, Karen said.
In his book “How to Get the Man of Your Dreams”, Jonathan explained his three-year navigation of waiting for Karen’s “yes” to dating.
“We often joke that perseverance is a man’s greatest quality,” Karen said, “(And) it certainly is true for my husband, because … I really liked him but the timing wasn’t right for me.”
When the time was “right” Karen said their courtship was “magical”.
They married after a five-month engagement and a year of dating, Karen saying she’s “always been grateful” for their years of written and spoken dialogue.
“This friendship, along with our faith, has been a bedrock over our sixteen years of marriage,” she said.
With a constancy of lived faith and the support of each other’s prayer life, Karen said they “fight” for the other’s prayer time each day.
Prayer was key when they struggled to have children.
“So many people had been praying for us to have children, so at the baptism of our third child we joked and said to the nuns, ‘You can stop praying now’,” Karen said.
Today, Karen and Jonathan’s children are aged nine, eight and six.
Despite “no plans for ministry” after marriage, God soon unveiled His plans.
“Jonathan came home from work and said to me, ‘Do you want to go on an adventure?’,” Karen said.
“This adventure involved moving to far north Queensland to live and work in a boys’ boarding school.”
It was a number of years later and throughout a time of living in Melbourne and studying at The John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family that CHOICEZ MEDIA was born.
“The work just poured in,” Karen said of their resolution.
“We were really pioneering something here in Australia in this area at the time we began.”
Karen continues to pursue the emotional and spiritual needs of women, inspired by St John Paul II and her studies.
“My heart is that women would know their incredible value and dignity as the beloved daughter of God,” she said.
“There are so many pressures and messages that women absorb about their value, role and purpose in life.
“Over the years I have seen women living with the subtext that their lives, their femininity, is a problem, and my heart is to communicate to them that they are, in fact, an answer to so many of the problems that beset our culture.”
Karen said her aim was to help women “transform a culture of death into a culture of life and love”.
“The Genius Project” is a study assembled to speak this truth.
She’s also producing an online resource to address the impact of pornography.
“More recently I have encountered a large number of women whose lives have been deeply impacted by the devastating impact of pornography,” Karen said.
“These women are deeply affected but there is nothing to help them navigate (this) and then begin recovery from the pain of discovering their husband, boyfriend is using this material.”
The Doyles said they used “priorities and disciplines” to carry out their many obligations.
“For us these are, in this order, prayer and exercise, marriage, children (and then) work,” Karen said.
“We also discern every opportunity carefully with each other … (and) are constantly praying and talking through each decision as they come up.
“We’re very careful about managing the balance of ministry with family life, and our children’s needs always come first before ministry.”
The highly sought after duo are undertaking “a global speaking tour later this year”, Karen said, with Jonathan the keynote speaker at a Catholic teacher’s conference in America, among an estimated 8000 attendees.
Suffice to say all that adds up to the Doyles’ collective “something” ultimately providing a divine “everything”.
For more information about CHOICEZ MEDIA go to www.choicez.com.au and, on the Sisterhood Movement, visit www.sisterhood.org.au
By Selina Venier