Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open

13/02/2015

Catholic Outlook February 2015: John Paul Attard & Theresa Attard
For John Paul and Theresa Attard their bond, cemented in solid faith and years of service to their parish communities, has only magnified their marital experience. Photo: Marions Photographics.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook February 2015

By Sarah Christie

A coffee catch-up in the hope of a relationship proved fruitless for John Paul Attard of St John Vianney’s Parish, Doonside, but a blind date from a Catholic dating site led to answered prayers, and a beautiful new bride.

Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be open. The old adage that has been the guiding light for many Catholics in their times of need has never been more poignant for John Paul Attard, who will celebrate his first Valentine’s Day on 14 February as a married man content in the knowledge that with a little faith, persistence pays off, and it pays well.

A long-time parishioner at St John Vianney’s from his early teens, John Paul served as an altar boy, acolyte and youth leader before joining the parish’s Legion of Mary praesidium, a move he describes as “just another way of spreading the word of God”.

During this time, friends tried setting him up, which he said shaped his patience and faith towards his future. So when he met Theresa De La Cruz from Holy Spirit Parish, St Clair, at a Legion of Mary BBQ, God’s providence took on a whole other meaning, and John felt that he had met the woman he would spend his life with.

Unfortunately for John Paul, that love wasn’t exactly reciprocated.

“He immediately fell into the friend zone!” Theresa laughed. “I thought he was a good guy, but dating was not on my mind. I was discerning my vocation.”

The year was 2008, and John Paul pursued Theresa with enthusiasm, visiting different parishes in an attempt to track her down and ask her out on a date.

But his success was short-lived: when he turned up at her Legion of Mary meeting, she assumed it was because her group’s locale was closer to his home, and when they finally went out, she did not see it as a date.

“I put John Paul through a lot,” she said. “The first time he asked me out, he didn't specify it was a date so I didn't think much of it. I declined (his offer of a lift) and I left straight afterwards. I actually cringe when I think about how clueless I was.”

Despite his disappointment, John Paul left it to the Lord, believing that it was not their time. Hope was restored a year later when they met up for coffee, but this time Theresa revealed that she was off to do some travelling.

“I had no idea that I had just put him through an emotional rollercoaster,” she said. “But JP had misunderstood me when I said was travelling … I wasn’t packing a backpack to go around the world, I was travelling with my family. I always knew my place was Sydney, but I guess it turned out that maybe (we) were not meant to be.”

Deflated, John Paul let her be. Still called to marriage, he tried his hand at online dating. Registering at a Catholic dating website, he sent a message some years later to an anonymous woman who appealed to him and shared his interests.

That message appeared in Theresa’s inbox. She had joined the site on a whim one year earlier in an attempt to be more open to the possibility of finding a husband, even though she was still discerning her vocation. But the mystery was one-sided: she knew it was John Paul straight away.

“Unlike me he had been completely open about who he was,” she said. “I still thought of him as a friend and that’s the only reason I agreed to go on the date, because I knew him outside the dating site.”

John Paul said it was a blind miracle.

“When I clicked on Theresa's unknown profile, and it happened to be the same person that I had pursued six years before I was shocked, but cautious, and happy too,” he said. With mixed feelings, he asked her out on another date, and this time, she said yes.

Theresa realised on that date that her view of him had changed – he was no longer just a friend, but now a potential husband.

“We clicked really well, (but) this time I knew that marriage was for me and I could see the qualities of a good spouse in John Paul.”

John Paul said online dating was daunting at first. “You have to be careful, but really it’s just another way of meeting people,” he said. “If you dismiss it you're cutting yourself short. If you don't try, you could regret it in the years to come.”

But the real credit, of course, is to their active roles in the Diocese – the way that their relationship has played out is plenty more than just ‘meant to be’. In late 2014, more than six years after meeting, the couple wed at St Matthew’s Church in Windsor.

John Paul said that years of adoration, reception of the sacraments and spiritual direction prepped them for their calling to marriage.

Their bond, cemented in solid faith and years of service to their respective parish communities, has only magnified their marital experience.

“By being involved in the Church, and not just attending the minimum of Sunday Mass, I grew in my faith and in greater love for God,” Theresa said. “Without that I wouldn't have married the love of my life.”

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