Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 21, 2002
They made each other wait
Maria took 2 weeks to check Graham's credentials; he took years before becoming a Catholic
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Maria Nanette Jimenez knew what she was getting into when she married Edmonton Sun columnist Graham Hicks.
She realized a public figure like Graham would lead a hectic life, always be under public scrutiny and have to attend scads of social functions.
But laying their cards out right from the beginning was crucial for this couple. He was upfront about his career. She was equally straightforward, telling him faith and family life are two important realities for her.
Two totally different agendas, but the couple's initial head-over-heels attraction to each other let them know this relationship was worth pursuing.
Graham admits he was smitten when a friend first introduced him to Maria.
The attraction was mutual, and Maria told her friend in jest, "I'm going to get that man." But Maria comes from a conservative family and would not settle for a man who does not value family life or practise his faith.
Graham wanted to ask Maria out. She told him to wait two weeks. During that time, Maria read his Sun columns and checked Graham's background.
After two weeks, Graham phoned her. Maria told Graham he had to meet her parents and several relatives first.
"I remember him telling me, 'Maria I did not come here to ask for your hand. I came for a date,'" Maria laughed. "That's just the way it is with my family tradition."
Graham remembers, "I had to go to church with her on the second date. I have never been so slow with anyone I dated in my life until I met Maria."
That was 15 years ago. Now married with three daughters, Graham, who was born Anglican, took his time before converting to Catholicism.
While attending the Catholic Church with his family Graham studied faith traditions and, on the recommendation of Father Luc Lantagne, read books written by the late Cardinal John Henry Newman. Graham became a Catholic in 1994. To this day Graham still remembers Sister Annata Brockman (pastoral associate at St. Joseph's Basilica) telling him: "One day you'll be Catholic."
As Graham came to embrace Maria's family and faith values, Maria came to terms with Graham the columnist.
"His being a public figure doesn't bother me," Maria told the WCR. "I make sure I pull him down whenever something is getting to his head and he knows that."
So "Okay Graham, here is reality," is a familiar refrain for the Sun writer.
Graham's job also means he socializes as much as he can without neglecting his wife and their three daughters. Sometimes Maria joins him at important functions. "He knows what level I'd like to be involved in his (career) as a journalist."
Graham is proud he still goes on a date with his wife despite his packed schedule. "Even for an hour or two, couples need to spend time with each other away from the children, friends and family."
But because of Graham's stature, he cannot go anywhere in Edmonton without people recognizing him and wanting to talk to him. And Maria sometimes says "Can't we have a quiet dinner, just the two of us?"
But she knows that is just the way it is when you are married to a celebrity.
The happy couple point to the marriage preparation workshop they attended before they got married as a wise move to creating a strong foundation for the marriage.
Graham says the workshop taught him to "try to put your mate's needs ahead of your own. If they've got something important to them and you don't want to do it, if you love them, you do it. And if you're both doing that, I think that's one of the biggest keys to a successful marriage."
When Maria is asked what makes their marriage work, she says it's her husband's motto, "What woman wants is what God wants."
"How can you disagree with that," she laughed.
But on a more serious note, Maria said she believes for a marriage to really work, "you got to have faith in God, faith in your husband and faith in yourself."
If one believes in God, she said, one would have the peace of mind God will always be there, no matter what.
As a couple, Graham and Maria share a common interest in Church history and both are eager to take courses and go on trips to enrich their historical knowledge when they retire. For the meantime, they do what they can for their parish of St. John Bosco where Maria volunteers in a summer Bible camp.