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Sydney couple to celebrate Anniversary at 2013 Reasons for Hope Retreat


Reasons for Hope Retreat News Story
Adrian and Philomena Middeldorp with Cardinal Pell on their wedding day.

Originally published at the Sydney Archdiocesan site

When under-35s from across Australia participate in NSW's annual Reasons for Hope weekends, they aim to strengthen and deepen their faith with other like-minded young people. What most don't expect is to also meet the girl they will marry.

But that's exactly what Adrian Middeldorp did when he participated in 2009's Reasons for Hope weekend. Not only did he meet theology student, Philomena Smith but just over two years later the pair became husband and wife.

The couple were married by Father Terence Mary McNaughtin OFM at St Benedict's Church, Broadway on 30 April 2011. The wedding at one of Sydney's most historic churches was not only attended by family and friends of the couple but Adrian says he and Philomena were further "blessed and honoured" by the presence of the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.

"We had wanted to ask the Cardinal to be at our wedding but the date we'd chosen coincided with the Beatification of John Paul II in Rome. We thought His Eminence would be going to Rome but speaking with him the week before we married, we discovered he wasn't going and instead would be in Sydney. So we asked if he'd like be at our marriage and he said he'd like to very much!" Adrian says and adds that he and Philomena continue to feel extremely honoured and blessed to have had the Cardinal sitting "in choir" on what was the most important day of their young lives.

Since the couple first met at the Reasons for Hope weekend retreat, the demands of their careers, studies and other commitments have left little time for a return to the important weekends of faith retreats. But this year on the eve of their second wedding anniversary and on the fourth anniversary of that first meeting, they will both be at the Reasons for Hope weekend to take place in just over two weeks time.

Joining other young people from across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and from as far afield at Western Australia, the annual weekend retreat which is now in its 16th year, will take place on Friday 8 March to Sunday 10 March at the Chittick Lodge Conference Centre at Gerringong on the NSW South Coast.

Not only will the couple participate in the faith retreat but Adrian, a former well-known radio announcer in South Australia, and now a member of the media and communications team with the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta will host a panel discussion on "Evangelisation in the 21st Century: Challenges and Strategies."

The panel discussion will follow ABC television's Q&A format with Adrian taking on the role of moderator, Tony Jones.

Also included in the program for this year's Reasons for Hope retreat will be the celebration of Mass as well as a keynote speak on "Why we Need to Pray" by Archbishop Barry Hickey, Emeritus Archbishop of Perth. Archbishop Hickey who will stay for the entire weekend, will also speak on "What will Heaven be Like" and take part in the panel discussion hosted by Adrian which will also include Christian Ellis a University of Sydney student a former proclaimed atheist who recently converted to Catholicism and well known young Catholic communicator and writer, Bridget Spinks.

Others giving talks during the weekend include Sister Mary Julian Ekman RSM who is a former student from the Tangara School for Girls and who now tutors in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame; Catholic politician and the youngest member of the NSW Parliament, Castle Hill MP Dominic Perrottet; Katie Fulllove from the Diocese of Broken Bay's natural Family Planning Education & Fertility Care Centre; Rocky Mimmo well known Sydney lawyer and founder and chairman of the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty; Maronite Catholic, Madonna Eskander who is highly regarded for her work in youth ministry; Father Anthony Bernard, Parish Priest at St Joseph's Camperdown.

Other speakers include men and women from university chaplaincies, religious education programs, religious communities and the Archdiocese of Sydney's Life, Marriage and Family Centre.

"I was still living in Adelaide when I decided to attend the Reasons for Hope weekend back in 2009," Adrian recalls. At the time he was forging a career in radio but working in the mainstream secular media he says was testing and he needed help to strengthen is faith.

"I was looking for a retreat and that's when I heard about Reasons for Hope and that Archbishop Mark Coleridge would explore the theme that year which was 'Oh Lord Increase my Faith.' I knew he was a fantastic speaker and that this was what I needed to hear, so I booked a flight and flew to Sydney for the weekend."

In 2009, the Reasons for Hope weekend was held at the Benedict XVI Retreat Centre at Grose Vale and Adrian says he clearly remembers listening to Archbishop Coleridge and being riveted by what he was saying. "He was so amazing and put me on the right trajectory. But it was also the entire weekend of different speakers along with the fellowship, the spiritual side and the whole mix that strengthened and deepened my faith."

Adrian says the weekend more than fulfilled its promise of "Oh Lord increase my faith" but was equally memorable for introducing him to his future wife, Philomena.

"I wouldn't say it was love at first sight for either of us but we became friends and later began emailing and talking via Facebook. We had faith in common to start with and then discovered so many other areas we had in common and we fell in love, " he says.

Moving to Sydney, Adrian worked with CRADIO before being appointed to the media and communications team with the Diocese of Parramatta.

At the time they met, he says Philomena was studying theology at the University of Notre Dame and working at the Archdiocese of Sydney's Confraternity of Christine Doctrine. She has now graduated with a Masters degree in theology and teaches at one of Sydney's secondary schools.

Both Philomena and Adrian realise the importance of refreshing and renewing their faith and say Reasons for Hope is an ideal way to replenish and recharge and learn about God and their faith.

"The weekend is the perfect balance between prayer, fellowship along with sport and relaxation," he says.

To find out more or to register for this year's Reasons for Hope weekend to be held on 8-10 March log on to

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