This week we will send our submission on the Family Synod questions to the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC). Over the past couple of weeks, we have had online submissions as well as people gathering for conversations, in small groups, around the diocese.

About seventy people participated in this invitation to dialogue and to provide a diocesan response. The Lineamenta and the questions provided an opportunity for people to consider the place of the family in our society and our church. I wonder how many people really think about these deeper realities of living life to the full?


We know that when God chose to come to us, he did so in the form of Jesus, born into a family, with a Mum and Dad who cared for him, educated him, played with him, fed him, guided him, nurtured him, disciplined him and watched him grow – they loved him with their whole being. Mary then watched him mature and take on the mission destined for him, that of suffering and dying on the Cross.

Once again I share with you one of those old songs which invited to me to consider the mystery of life and the discovery of the answer:

undefinedAh, Sweet Mystery of Life (Herbert)

Ah, sweet mystery of life
At last I've found thee
Ah, I know at last the secret of it all
All the longing, seeking, striving, waiting, yearning

The burning hopes, the joy and idle tears that fall
For 'tis love and love alone, the world is seeking
And 'tis love and love alone that can repay
'Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all of living

For it is love alone that rules for aye
Love and love alone, the world is seeking
For 'tis love and love alone that can repay
'Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all of living
For it is love alone that rules for aye.

So like this song, in our discussions around the family, we have been contemplating the place of love in the lives of those who live in relationship with us. In listening to people sharing their stories, it seems that once we enter into relationships, there is no roadmap to show us the way, because we each bring our own story to the ‘table’. It is in, and from, relationships that family is born. And this love brings with it joy and pain.

undefinedDuring the week I received an image and words which spoke strongly to me, so I now will share with you. UbuntuI am because we are – what a great image both visually and intellectually!

As the Gospel of the Family we long for perfection and yet we know that this is not the reality. Not only in our domestic families but also in our church families, there will be dysfunction and disunity. What we have come to realise and to know is that love is the overriding force which holds us together. It seems that this is what we have lost. We expect relationships to be perfect – in our partners, spouses, children, groups, workplaces, communities, churches... Instead, Jesus' message of love is about forgiveness, compassion, healing, hope, joy, peace, justice, humility, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Our church is there to help us discover the meaning of love, in the variety of contexts of life in which we find ourselves. It is within this community that we seek and are formed, and this in turn forms our own church. Hence, the need to ask people at the grassroots level what they are presently thinking and feeling. We grow together and not in isolation. What a pity so many choose not to exercise the invitation to be involved and to share their wisdom. I must admit that I hold a great concern for our future church when people are not responding to the invitation to be involved.

undefinedWhile I realise that if you are reading these words you are possibly reading the rest of our Dio Update, I implore you to ask others to sign on so that they may be informed about the many opportunities available to them within the Catholic Church as well as other Christian Churches and the wider community. I would like to think that even for those who have chosen to walk away from our worshipping communities, there is a possibility that they might connect through the many activities on offer. I know how sad I feel when I become aware that people are estranged from their immediate families. I become equally sad when people walk away from our church. From my own family experience, there were times when certain members of the family became dissatisfied with some others in the family and chose to walk away. We were then not complete as a family, because someone was missing from the table.

As we move into Lent, let us begin a time of fervent prayer in asking God to hear our prayers for those who are alienated. The remnant is missing them, and longing for them to return so we can rejoice. We are a church of sinners and a very few saints.


Teresa Brierley
Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries
17th February 2015



Upon leaving work this evening (Monday) I was walking past the front of the Cathedral when I came across two young adults kneeling on the steps of the Cathedral, close to the door and facing the altar and praying out aloud. Their prayer and posture were fervent. They did not notice me, such was their prayer. I felt compelled in ask them if they would like to go inside. They were pleased to accept this invitation, and proceeded to go right down to the sanctuary, kneel in reverence and pray. How amazing and awesome for me to meet these angels in the night. We bade each other farewell, pleased for the chance encounter. I hope their prayer is answered, because mine was. God smiled on me at the end of this day and said, “Everything will be OK”.

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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