“TORRENTIAL” but inconsequential rain greeted Nick McAlpine as he awaited Caroline Woods before their June 4 nuptials in Brisbane this year.
Nick “only had eyes” for his “beautiful bride”, Caroline for the man who makes her heart “sing”, their union soon sealed by the God who inspires shared and active faith.
The striking duo first met through mutual friends in 2014.
“We went out a few times but it didn’t work out,” Caroline, 28, said.
Nick related their love story to a well-known classic.
“I’m told that our story is a lot like (the book and film) Pride and Prejudice (by Jane Austen),” the 30-year-old said.
“(As in, being about) two headstrong people who don’t click at first and then fall madly in love and get married very shortly thereafter.”
After first encountering her intended spouse Caroline pursued voluntary work overseas.
Her family of origin had modelled the value of giving time and talent.
“I grew up with a very practical expression of faith,” Caroline said.
“As well as going to Mass each Sunday, my family has always volunteered in the Church in some way.
“Mum and Grandad taught religion in state schools, Dad is a Vinnies member and volunteer, and my sisters do lots of good work in their roles as health care professionals.”
Caroline’s “giving” was also nurtured throughout high schooling at Stuartholme School, Toowong, in Brisbane’s inner city.
“The work and spirituality of the RSCJ sisters (Sisters of the Sacred Heart who founded Stuartholme School) had a big impact on my perceptions of faith and Catholicism,” she said.
“The sisters are very enlightened women … (who) allowed me to develop a deeper sense of faith in word, community and, importantly, in action.”
Nick was educated at Iona College, Lindum, on Brisbane’s bayside with the influence of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Born in Sydney and moving to Brisbane at five years of age, he’s the middle child of three sons whose family “went to Mass every week”.
Nick said he “learnt a lot about the faith … particularly at Iona”.
His Year 6 teacher was Brisbane priest Fr Paul Chandler, who was then “Mr Chandler” and Nick’s “favourite”.
Fr Chandler remembered “a diligent, obliging student with a warm personality”.
Nick went on to study International Relations and worked in several levels of government including as an advisor to Brisbane’s Lord Mayor.
The diligent student said “the ability to do good” was his “main love … to influence ‘big picture’ outcomes and be part of teams that were working for a better community”.
Also doing much “good”, Caroline volunteered for a further 10 years with Rosies Homeless Outreach after high school.
“(That voluntary work) certainly had a profound impact on my outlook and development,” she said.
Such “a profound impact” spurred Caroline to continue “giving”.
“I volunteered with the MSC community in (the Pacific Island nation of) Kiribati as an English teacher at Sacred Heart College,” she said.
“Afterwards I spent a couple of months as a volunteer with the RSCJ community in Samar in the Philippines.”
Nick now works as a director of strategy for an advertising firm and Caroline for the Department of Housing, saying her voluntary roles had “far greater impact than any office job”.
Preparing for marriage, the couple came back into contact with Fr Chandler who presided at the Nuptial Mass with Melbourne’s Fr Nick Pearce, a fellow pilgrim with Nick on the Camino de Santiago last year.
Fr Chandler remembered Nick and his groomsmen praying the Rosary in Stuartholme School chapel directly before the Nuptial Mass.
“Nick and Caroline are both people of great faith who accept the teachings of the Church unequivocally,” he said.
“This was demonstrated by … their keen sense of preparing humanly, theologically and spiritually for their marriage.”
With such firm foundations of shared and lived faith, the McAlpines were asked to help promote the work of The Catholic Foundation, a branch of the Archdiocese of Brisbane who exist to help financially support four intrinsically generous Church agencies.
The Catholic Foundation, and more specifically its Annual Catholic Campaign promoted in parishes today as part of a Commitment Weekend, supports the work and ministry of Centacare’s social services, Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary and the education of future priests, the Priests Foundation which cares for retired clergy, and the MacKillop Fund which offers educational bursaries to students in critical need.
Catholic Foundation director Mary Macuga said Nick and Caroline were chosen to appear in a promotional video with Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge because “they are a great example of a young couple who are active in their faith and supportive of the good works of the Church”.
About 140 other ambassadors will also promote and co-ordinate the campaign across 100 parishes this weekend.
“The enthusiastic commitment from our Parish Ambassadors is a key reason the Annual Catholic Campaign is able to expand and enhance the work of our vital Catholic agencies,” Mrs Macuga said.
Nick was humble about their involvement, saying, “We’re one very, very small part of a great machine that does wonderful, incredible work in our community”.
“The work that Centacare does (for example), as the largest social services provider, aside from government, is truly outstanding and is at the forefront of the Church’s mission,” he said.
“The sheer breadth of work that is made possible by the Catholic Campaign never ceases to amaze.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that every person in Brisbane is touched, in some way, by the work done through The Catholic Foundation.”
As Caroline has worked with Centacare and her mum Rosemary Woods with the Priests Foundation, both women have seen first-hand what the generosity of donors has allowed.
That also spurs Nick and Caroline to add their voices to the encouragement of people of all ages in giving of their “treasure” too.
“It’s through the organisations that the Annual Catholic Campaign supports that the Church helps the most vulnerable members of our community,” Caroline said.
“(And) our Church is such a powerful force for good in the community,” Nick said. “Our generosity is the only thing that keeps that force strong.”
With generous hearts for the Church and each other, there’s certainty that the McAlpines’ love will also continue to deepen with every June anniversary in rain, hail or shine.
To donate to or find out more about The Catholic Foundation go to www.catholicfoundation.org.au or call (07) 3324 3200.
By Selina Venier