A Catholic man whose wife was murdered on their honeymoon last year said his faith has helped him come to terms with his loss.
John McAreavey, 28, has set up a charitable foundation in memory of his late wife, Michaela, to help young people celebrate their Catholic faith.
Michaela McAreavey, 27, was murdered as the couple honeymooned in Mauritius just 12 days after the wedding. Two hotel workers charged with her murder were acquitted after a lengthy trial earlier this year.
Asked if the murder of his wife had led him to question his faith, John McAreavey said: “Quite the opposite. My faith gave me great resolve. Thank God I have my faith.”
His wife, a religion teacher in a Catholic school, had “an unwavering faith”, he said.
Mr McAreavey established the Michaela Foundation so that “the values which Michaela lived in her life should live on, and [so] that young people can succeed in life fulfilment and happiness with faith, confidence and fun as their foundation”.
The campaign received a huge boost with a charity Gaelic football match in Belfast, Northern Ireland, last Sunday. The “Match for Michaela” drew an estimated 20,000 fans to raise funds for the foundation.
Mr McAreavey said the messages on social media sites from young people inspired by his wife’s story – which they read in the match programme – made him emotional and hopeful that “the foundation will continue to be a positive inspiration in peoples’ lives in years to come”.
“It’s going to be a busy 2013,” he said of plans to introduce the foundation to at least five counties next year as well as finalising plans for a centre in his wife’s home parish of Glencull in County Tyrone. The initiative will be coordinated from the new center.
“Without my faith, God knows where I would be,” he said. “It has given me the heart to put all my strength into the foundation. I really have relied on my faith.
“Our relationship has changed, but I still have her. Nobody will ever be able to take that away. To be married was a wonderful experience and thank God I had that chance,” he said.
He said his faith was also crucial in helping him with the grieving process.
“I was able to go to quiet places and visit Michaela’s grave and go into church and just sit there and try to make sense of everything.
“Sometimes, [God] would give me signs, and I just have to take them for their value, and I know that’s God and Michaela saying: ‘We’re here, carry on, we’re going to get you through this.’”