Austin and Catherine Mardon meet Pope Francis Nov. 6. Credit: Vatican Media.
.- For Catholic couple Austin and Catherine Mardon, mental illness is personal.
Austin has schizophrenia, Catherine has PTSD, and together they foster children and young adults with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Austin and Catherine have been married since 2003. Both are writers, and their experiences have led them to devote themselves to working on behalf of people with mental illnesses, many of whom, they said, end up without a family and living on the street.
The Mardons met Pope Francis after the general audience Nov. 6. They were inducted, in 2017, into the Pontifical Order of Pope Saint Sylvester, a papal Order of Knighthood, for their work on behalf of the disabled.
A native of Oklahoma, Catherine told CNA she has always remembered what one of her childhood teachers, a Carmelite nun, once said: “We don’t help people because they’re Catholic, we help people because we’re Catholic and we’re called to do it.”
“Look around,” she said. There are people in need of love and support all around, but “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid” to reach out.
Austin, a Canadian, is an assistant adjunct professor of psychiatry at the University of Alberta.
A scientist by education, Austin was part of a NASA meteorite recovery expedition to the Antarctic in the 1980s at the age of 24. Unfortunately, the extreme difficulties of the expedition affected him mentally and physically.