IT didn’t take long to feel right at home with Michele and Warwick Adeney.
Warwick’s humble presence met my daughters and I at the Milton address, a stone’s throw from Brisbane city, at the end of a narrow “No Through” street where much renovation is taking place in and around them.
Before long Michele greets us inside, cradling 10-month-old Bede Benedict, the couple’s youngest of eight children, and the warm welcome continued.
My girls were drawn to the treehouse with Ambrose Lawrence, 3, Leo Francis Geoffrey, 5, Edwyn Gregory, 8, and Peter Jerome, 10.
Eldest son, Luke Oliver, 18, was away studying radiography while daughters Esther Mary, 15, and Eleanor Madonna, 13, were in the city “busking”.
Sitting at the Adeneys’ kitchen table, still adorned with a dozen red long-stemmed roses from Warwick’s September appearance at Faith on Tap, so continued a delightful conversation with the co-concertmaster and first violinist of Queensland Orchestra, and his wife of almost 25 years.
Amid everything – a lively household plus construction next door and plans for their own kitchen to be “moved” downstairs – there was a certain peace and it emanated from the charming couple themselves, both new Catholics following their 1985 marriage.
“We’re very excited to have found the Catholic Church,” Michele said almost immediately, still nursing bright-eyed Bede whose arrival came after the family attended World Youth Day last year.
“As a Protestant I was always trying to get to the bottom of things myself … Now I have that fantastic history of the (Catholic) Church to fall back on … and its wisdom.”
Looking much further back Michele admitted that at 15 she “had a crush on Warwick”, a non-practising Anglican, and convinced him she’d “make a nice girlfriend”.
Their paths had crossed at the Conservatorium of Music, Brisbane, Michele on a scholarship for the viola.
During their “three-year courtship” the statuesque woman of faith almost “jilted Warwick in a letter” because he wasn’t practising his faith.
But then God worked.
“At that point Warwick said to me, ‘I don’t feel like God is there but it all makes intellectual good sense and I’m going to read the Bible and pray more …’
“God really met him where he was and he became quite a zealous Christian.”
The couple then went through what Mich-ele described as their “high Anglican phase” and married.
Soonafter, drawn to a Pentecostal church, Michele spoke of their shared conversion to Catholicism.
“There’s a wonderful big family in Brisbane – Margaret Wallace and her boys,” she began.
“I’ve had all my babies at home and I had a cracked rib (when pregnant with Esther) and my midwife said, ‘You should speak to this lady, she’s expecting her ninth child and also has had cracked ribs and it’s a privilege to be in her home and, by the way, she’s Catholic’.”
Saying they were “unhappy” in their Pentecostal community, the meeting led to Warwick and Michele being received into full communion with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in Dorrington parish before Esther was born – hence the inclusion of Mary in Esther’s name and a saint or holy name in the name of each child after.
While the Adeneys were “childless for six years” after they married and Michele, at one stage, felt more called to “take care of children without homes”, caring for two teenage wards of the state three years into their marriage opened their eyes.
“It was a big learning curve,” Michele said.
“You don’t realise how deep-seated people’s problems will be if they haven’t come from a loving, happy family.
“Even if it’s a single parent … if it’s not a happy home it’s hard for kids to make the right decisions later in life.
“So many things that people do that aren’t sensible or wise come from not being happy in childhood and not being grounded.”
Michele and Warwick, who have home-schooled and will continue to home-school all their children until Year 11 – Luke went to a Marist college in Year 11 and 12, and Esther is in Year 11 next year – believe in the “quantity time theory”.
“Whether parents work or not, if they can just be with their children as much as possible it’s very important,” Michele said, backed up by Warwick who performs almost all-year round to hundreds of thousands of classical music lovers here and abroad.
“I think it’s a constant struggle (to find that quantity time),” he said.
“(And) we always talk about the dynamism of doing other things – work things, house things, things for other people or neighbours, things we should be involved in, like politics.
“There are so many things one should be involved in outside the home and of course you should be – you can’t just shut the door and say, ‘We need family time and that’s it’.
“You always need to keep talking about these things and about how to divide it (time) up – you just can’t lock yourself in, (and) a mother can’t be home all the time as she goes spare.”
The Adeneys’ day is fascinating, beginning with Michele’s morning walk for that “time” to herself.
Esther and Eleanor “wake by 8am and pray, eat breakfast, dress and do their jobs” before 8.30am, Warwick explains, while the younger boys do the same routine before 9am and he “sets the maths and English” schedule for the day with the girls.
The family prays together at 9am – including a morning offering, The Lord’s Prayer, a proclamation of the Gospel of the day, reflection and their own prayers plus one child “leads a Hail Mary, Glory Be and (an) Angel of God”.
Warwick then leaves for work on his bicycle.
Michele remains “on hand” for studies dur-ing the day and encourages oral dialogues where the children research and present particular topics.
Other hours are spent musically or at sport, each child proficient on the piano plus either the cello, flute or harp.
The maestro extraordinaire returns some time before 5pm, often earlier, his “flexible hours” allowing him to be more present and available to the family, Michele said.
They aim to eat the evening meal together, Warwick adamant of its importance.
“It’s important not to skimp on dinner together,” he said, adding other priorities.
“We always make sure we have morning prayer, that we have dinner (together) and say the Rosary.
“Now we (also) have adoration weekly as a family.”
So accustomed are the Adeney children to prayer, the girls reminded their parents of the absence of the Rosary recently, Warwick saying, “They harassed us into being more consistent.”
He also admitted “often nobody’s asleep at eleven o’clock at night … (but) it works for us”.
Encouraging their children to follow their own dreams and not necessarily a musical career, Michele and Warwick were humorous and philosophical.
“We thought the girls’ future was at McDonalds,” Warwick said, grinning, his wife adding, “(But) they can get anything from sixty to one-hundred-and-twenty dollars for an hour-and-a-quarter, busking.”
On a more serious note, Warwick said, “One thing Michele and I agreed when we read the lives of the saints was that many had ordered, happy, settled childhoods – (like) Francis of Assisi and St Therese of Lisieux …”
“Any parent knows it’s not a bed of roses (raising children) … (but) our idea of parenthood is based on the greenhouse effect,” Michele added.
“A young plant, you let grow strong before you plant it out,” she said.
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