Posted February 15, 2017 - by Emily Woodham
It was extremely meaningful for Patricia to have Father Dan there because he helped her heal emotionally from her previous marriage, which enabled her to be open to a new marriage.
She was candid with me about her journey from an abusive marriage to her happy life with Geoffrey in Auckland, New Zealand. Both in their 60s when they met, they were thrilled to find each other and have a fresh start at life.
Patricia explained, “I had endured an abusive marriage of 25 years that was annulled and deemed a paper marriage by the Catholic Tribunal about eight years ago. Annulment was not in my game plan because I had pledged my love for a lifetime. But at the suggestion on my spiritual director, Father Dan, I decided to do it in case God had something else planned for my life.”
She continued, “My annulment process went forward quite quickly because of the strong witnesses who came forward on my behalf.
Writing my story for the Tribunal and talking with the professional who asked searching questions was the most difficult for me as it took me back into my pain, as though I were still living it. Eight years of work with Father Dan brought me to a place of wholeness. A place from which I could consider another as a husband.”
Ready for a new beginning
One of Patricia’s daughters was struggling with caring for her child with Autism, so Patricia moved to Dallas, Texas to help in 2011. After a few years, as the family adjusted to life with caring for a child with special needs, Patricia’s help was needed less and less.
She decided to try one Catholic dating site, but she felt the people she met on there weren’t sincere about their faith. Thankfully, she discovered that CatholicMatch made it easier to discern where people stood on important issues.
“I was free to marry, but not really looking. CatholicMatch, however, had the questions I would have asked in a dating scenario, so I plunged ahead,” Patricia said.
A cry for help, and a call to come home
Geoffrey was also a person who needed healing. His first wife had left him for another man. He left the Church and remarried. His second wife had died from dementia, a slow and painful death. He had been his second wife’s primary caregiver, and became ill himself as he devoted himself to her needs. After his second wife died, his first wife also passed away. He was despondent.
One day while on a hike thinking about all the turmoil he had endured, he found himself in a secluded area of the forest.
He remembered, “I cried out to the Lord for help when I was deeply depressed over my wives’ deaths and my illnesses. It was a secluded glen next to a bubbling brook with a little waterfall in the middle of a nature reserve. It was there I received a message from the Lord to go home.
Later, I passed a Catholic church with a sign that simply said 'Come Home' with a photo of Pope Francis. Then I understood what to do. My prayer had been answered, and I did just that.”
Cancer, lung clots and DVT didn't stop them
Geoffrey's and Patricia’s journeys through pain and healing brought them together. They found they were able to be open with each other and found comfort in one another.
Patricia said, “Geoffrey and I wrote emails to each other and his were so open and full of life that I wanted to know more and more about him. When we began talking on FaceTime, four hours a day, we found we could still talk openly, laugh, and cry with each other. I thought this man was either a great actor or the best gift the Lord had ever given me."
“He had prostate cancer and was going through therapy, had survived a clot to the lung and a DVT (deep vein thrombosis). And yet, Geoffrey was full of life and purpose. I had always thought that if I met someone, he had to be healthy because I didn’t want to play nursemaid. But, now I wanted to know more about this man.”
Geoffrey added, “Our Catholic faith brought us together. Without that it would never have worked. As a lapsed Catholic who became passionate about my faith after my second wife died, I needed someone who had a deep commitment to her faith.”
Dad, she's just trying to scam you!
With Patricia in Dallas, Texas and Geoffrey in Auckland, New Zealand, the greatest obstacle they faced was being on opposite ends of the globe! Technology provided the way for them to get to know each other before meeting. “Distance was our biggest challenge. If it hadn’t been for FaceTime, I don’t think we would have made it this far,” Geoffrey said.
Patricia’s two daughters and Geoffrey’s three children had concerns about such a long distance relationship, which was started online! It was six weeks before Patricia told her daughters, wanting to explore the relationship through email and phone calls before talking about it.
Patricia explained, “I didn’t tell my girls for about six weeks because I wanted to savor this special relationship without any outside comments. It was new and fresh and fragile. My oldest daughter learned of it when I received a phone call in her kitchen. I excused myself because it was obviously a New Zealand number.
After the call, Jessica asked who I knew in New Zealand. She took a while to process what I had just said and was quiet. That is her nature—contemplative. My youngest daughter was immediately concerned, as well as her husband, because they wanted to protect me from the dangers of dating on the internet. She began a campaign to get Geoffrey and me to do FaceTime. There was a similar campaign on Geoffrey’s end.”
Geoffrey's children badgered him with how quickly his relationship progressed with Patricia. They feared that she was trying to scam him. His children checked out Patricia online to make sure she was real. They then urged him to use FaceTime to get to know her better. Geoffrey explained, "As our relationship matured and grew, they realized how happy I was. They had been through my journey with me, and they were pleased that I had found love again.
My family has embraced Patricia and welcomed her every time we meet. We have had many friends and family gatherings since our first meeting. The overwhelming welcome has been so warm and genuine.”
Being able to cry together
Patricia agrees that after FaceTime, their relationship bloomed. It allowed them to become more intimate in their conversations. “The fact that we could be open about our hopes and fears and pray with each other definitely brought us closer together.
"When Geoffrey was going through radiation, he stayed positive, but there was a time when he called me late at night because he was facing his fears. We were able to talk, pray, and love each other through that moment. I had a similar moment of difficulty in another area, and Geoffrey encouraged me, prayed with me, and allowed me to cry. After that we were very close."
New Zealand or bust!
Patricia arrived in New Zealand for the first time on her birthday in August of 2015, five months after they met on CatholicMatch. During that time he proposed, in the same glen where God touched his heart and called him back home to the Church. They prepared for their lives together, and then Patricia had to go back to the States.
Eight weeks later, Geoffrey arrived to meet her family and friends and prepare for the wedding. His sister and brother-in-law came from New Zealand to participate in the wedding, too! They were married, using favorite hymns as a nod to their background and journey.
Now they can share everything
At their home in New Zealand, they share a full life together. They enjoy sailing, traveling, and doing business together—helping university graduates find jobs in Asia teaching English.
Patricia said, “Both Geoffrey and I are family-oriented and love being with our children and grandchildren. All five of our children are in stable marriages and have given us beautiful grandchildren. My dream was to live and work with a man who was as passionate about helping others as I am. What a surprise that we are doing just that!
"We try to keep our personal time free from work conversation, but our work is so much fun that we often digress and find ourselves talking about it on Saturday and Sunday. Our work is play to us and makes us feel young again. (At the moment we are limited to discussing our plans while Geoffrey does the work until I receive my work visa)"
"We especially enjoy attending Mass together and go to daily Mass as often as possible. Geoffrey is a Eucharistic Minister, and we will soon be taking Communion to the sick together."
"I enjoy participating in the Mass by reading the Scripture and by leading the congregation as a cantor. We are committed to helping our parish priest as best we can. We also enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles together and walking on the beach rain or shine, which is a block and a half from our home.”
The couple is overwhelmed by God’s love towards them in their relationship. Geoffrey says to all those who are looking for a loved one: “If you feel God is leading you to meet someone else, go for it! Ours was a surprise, but a most precious surprise that we treasure every day.”