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Disciple Diaries: How a mid-life malaise lead this lapsed Catholic back home

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Carl Pavia’s Italian background growing up in Hurstville saw him also growing up in the Catholic faith. 

“We went to Mass with Mum most weekends on Sunday. That was my faith— going to Mass, attending school and doing the sacraments,” he recalls. 

But like many lapsed Catholics, his faith journey took a common turn when he finished school and went to university. 

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“Faith really didn’t play all that much of a part in my life,” he said. 

Having completed his degree, Carl was on the traditional path of many Australian men, finding love with his wife, Susie, fatherhood and a successful career as an engineer. 

“It became the daily grind of the corporate world, and looking after my family,” said Carl.  

“There was a lot of responsibility, a lot of workload. And, you know, there were times where I wasn’t all that much of a happy person.  

“But at the end of the day, I’m going to endure this heavy workload to provide for my family.” 

Carl serving at Mass.

While the traditional role as a “bread winner” and “family man” brought him great satisfaction as a career man, loving husband and doting father, as he hit mid-life something felt wrong. Carl felt the gnawing feeling that something was missing.  

“That starts to get to you. And then you sort of think what’s the meaning of life? How do you deal with life?“ 

Little did he know the answers he sought were living in his own house. 

His wife, Susie was also asking similar questions, when she started going back to their local Catholic church, St Raphael’s in Hurstville South.  

That was the start of his journey back to the church and to the faith. 

“I didn’t have to go too far because my wife, Susie was going to the church and I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ll come along too,’” said Carl. 

He also started attending a Bible course at his local parish. 

“And I thought, well, yeah, let me investigate this. I mean, I’m an engineer. I’m supposedly an educated person. I’ve been looking at all these other things.  

“But maybe I should start looking at what’s really real and investing in my faith,” he said. 

“I got to rediscover the beauty of the sacraments.  

“At my local parish I found welcoming parishioners, who are now considered my close friends who live locally,” said Carl.  

“A higher purpose, that’s what I was seeking. And they were lovely people at the church. We get to know them, talk to them at the church and it’s just a lovely feel to it and a sense that, we could be like that if we continue on this journey,” he recalls. 

After being made redundant from work, he leaned into his new family even more, taking on a role as acolyte at his church. 

Photo: supplied

“From there I started getting involved in the church and feeling as if I’ve got to give back from what I’ve received,” said Carl. 

“Now, with Susan, we do quite a bit for the church because as I’m sure she would agree, the Lord has done marvellous things for us.   

“So in our small, imperfect way, we try and try and help out as well where we can.” 

Soon his community would grow as he found similar men experiencing the mid-life malaise he was navigating. 

“One of my good friends from church said there’s this men’s retreat coming up. He had done it the year before, a five-day silent retreat, and said it was wonderful,” he recalls.  

Carl hopes his return to the faith and daily involvement in parish life can inspire other Catholics, especially the youth, to bring their energy to help renew their own parishes.  

“It’s a grounding, you know, it’s a place to turn to. It’s a daily routine and daily observance where you have your prayer time and can grow in your discipleship.” 

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