Careena Craven is a 51-year-old Peakhurst mother of two, who grew up in a household where faith was an unwelcome stranger.
“I grew up in a house with no faith at all. There was no church, no Christmas, no Easter,” she recalls.
“My family was not a family of faith. We would only enter a church if we were invited to a wedding, or a funeral and it would always be preceded by the old joke: ‘Be careful the church doesn’t fall in when you guys enter it!’”
This continued through her teenage years until her early twenties when, in 1994, she met her husband, Danny, a practising Catholic.
As their relationship deepened, she felt the pull towards her husband’s church.
“It was Our Lady of Fatima, Peakhurst. And as our relationship became more serious, I actually felt compelled to go to church,” she said.
For the first time, the sacred wonders of the Eucharist revealed itself to her. Here, she discovered “the Holiness in the Catholic Mass and the reverence to Christ.”
But it was the homilies that truly pierced her heart. She felt a supernatural stirring when hearing them—feeling that the sermons spoke directly to her.
“I often wondered how God was doing that. And I began to want to partake in the Eucharist but couldn’t,” she said.
For the next few decades Careena watched as a faithful observer, but one on the sidelines.
It all changed in 2020, when she listened to the “Bible in a Year” podcast. Suddenly, “the Bible came alive. And I wanted in.”
Fortuitously, Careena found the perfect “in”, through the Archdiocese of Sydney’s RCIA course—the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults—facilitated by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation.
“Here was something designed for adults who wanted to enter the Catholic faith later in life. That was amazing. I learned so much with that,” she said.
I was then invited to do “The Search” program and I learned a lot about the Catholic faith there as well. In particular, the Holy Spirit.”
The culmination of this formation finally saw Careena enter the Catholic church at the age of 50.
“Magical isn’t the right word to describe that day. It was pure sacred wonder!” she said.
Now, in the very parish where her journey began, Our Lady of Fatima, Peakhurst, Careena is hoping to inspire others toward a deeper discipleship.
She has now signed up for the Arete course, an opportunity led by the Missionaries of God’s Love, and wants to take on a leadership role.
“I want people to know that it doesn’t matter who you are or what’s going on in your life, that we are just so loved by God and he has so much for us.”
“It’s never too late. Come find out how Christ can work in your life.”
From those who have encountered the Gospel and church later in life, like Careena, to cradle Catholics who have lapsed in their faith, we all have a story to tell about our journey with Christ.
This year, The Catholic Weekly will be sharing some of the inspiring stories of Sydney parishioners who have incredible, inspiring stories of faith.
Daniel Ang, director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, explains what motivated this new initiative, “Disciple Diaries”, as part of the centre’s work and communications efforts.
“As Archbishop Anthony’s vision for our parishes comes to life through Go Make Disciples, it is vital to share the stories of discipleship that are emerging, a fruit of the Holy Spirit who draws people to truth and love of Christ,” said Daniel.
“We know that Christian testimony can encourage others to walking a disciple’s path.
“Sharing stories of real lives and deepening conversion helps to build up a culture of evangelisation, which is one of the principal aims of the Archbishop’s Mission Plan, Go Make Disciples.”
“It can be hard to embark on a journey of faith and holiness if you have never heard anyone else talk about it, if Catholics don’t share the impact of conversion on their life and on those around them.
“So that’s one of the hopes of this new series for 2024—to break the silence around God’s action in people’s lives and bring the personal stories of faith and conversion taking place here in Sydney into the light.”
If you have an interesting faith story you would like to share, please contact us via email: [email protected]