TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Laetare Sunday

Here we are in March and half way through Lent. Today, Sunday, is Laetare Sunday, which means "rejoice".

When I lived in Tweed Heads, some of our priests actually wore rose-coloured vestments on this day to remind us of looking deeply for the light. As Christians, this time of Lent calls us to reflection, so that like the blind man in the Gospel story we may be able to see the light, and then grow in our understanding that Jesus the light, is God, the one who has come to redeem us.

Last Monday I attended the opening of St Aloysius Primary School at Chisholm, a new suburb of the Thornton area. The opening was wonderful and this school will be immersed in the charisms of the Mercy Sisters, St Aloysius Gonzaga and Caroline Chisholm. The school motto is We are Called and it was certainly apparent to me that the Principal, Mrs Suzanne Fern, along with the staff, parents and families, will be exploring this Catholic identity for the young people in their care over the coming years. I have had the good fortune of having been taught by the Sisters of Mercy, I attended St Aloysius High School for one year and I also taught at a girls’ high school in Penrith, Caroline Chisholm Catholic Girls High School. There are so many stories to share with this new emerging community of faith.

Monday was followed by the Catholic Schools Week Mass on Tuesday, and once again this was a wonderful experience in which those who gathered were filled with the joy of being part of a Christian Community of faith. I invite you to go to the gallery of pictures from this Mass and link to the video of the Offertory Hymn sung by many enthusiastic young people. The hymn, You Shall Draw Water Joyfully from the Springs of Salvation, filled the Cathedral space with an awesome spirit and energy, which is what can fill, and in some instances does fill, our Catholic schools. Our schools are learning, faith communities in which young people are formed with both academic instruction and Catholic instruction. That is why they are places of excellence. I hope some of you took the opportunity to visit your local Catholic school last week.

On Saturday, I was in attendance at the Three Ecumenical Commissions meeting – Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, Catholic Dioceses of Broken Bay and Maitland-Newcastle. One of the people there claimed that we Catholics do not do anything for our youth, like the other Christian Churches, especially the Pentecostal Churches. While I understood what she meant, I resisted commenting that we certainly do more than any other faith tradition for our young people. In our diocese, there are over 18,000 students in our schools every day. This involves more than 2000 staff members, and the purpose of these schools is to educate those who attend in God’s mission. I realise that most of our schools have lost their connectivity with the parish and I think it is time that we who remain connected with the local parish reach out to our schools and involve ourselves in them. It is up to us to imagine what our engagement with the thousands who attend our schools, and the many more thousands who form part of their families, might be like. We are the ones who are called to evangelise.

On Friday, I spent time with some ten catechists from one of our parishes. These faith-filled women treasured their ministry with young Catholic children in our State schools. The numbers putting their hands up for this ministry, to take God into the minds and hearts of those who attend our State schools, are significantly reducing and those who are still committed to this missionary work are ageing. My formal ministry in our church began as a catechist when I lived in Bowral and was expecting our first child. I had the time, the inclination and calling, and the parish was most supportive. I remember the First Communion classes which I taught and the faith of the young people in them.

One of my daughters told me on the weekend that my grandson, Angus, six, was keen to come to our Way of the Cross again. He was staying with us last year when this was on and he remembered it and was keen to be at it again. I was thrilled that it had made such an impression on him that he remembered and wished to go again. Unfortunately, the family lives on the Gold Coast, and won’t be visiting on that day this year. Faith is mostly caught, and as Pope Paul VI said in 1975, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers it is because they are witnesses.”

Please consider all the good things we do for our young people. There are great opportunities for them to meet God – in our schools, at Mass, in other faith and worship opportunities. We just need to keep on inviting them and ensuring that if they are present they are welcomed and see the face of God. Once again I remind you that the Way of the Cross will take place on Palm Sunday at St Joseph’s Parish, Toronto. It is on this holy ground that we are pilgrims together.

I leave you with a piece of writing I came across this week and I think it apt to share with you while I ponder the wonder of our Catholic School system. I know it may not be perfect but we have it and I encourage us to make the most of it:

A century from now,
what shall be said
of our journey in these times?
And who shall the shapers have been?
Who shall have shaped the future more?
The hopeful dreamers
who were strong enough
to suffer for the dream?
Or the fearful pessimists
who were convinced
that dreaming and hope
are for sleepers only,
not for those awake to the age?

A century from now,
shall hope and humour
have been strong enough to enable living
with unanswerable questions?
Or shall the pain
that a transitional age necessarily brings
have caused a retreat to old answers
that no longer acknowledge new questions?

A century from now,
we shall have indeed journeyed …
and real journeyers know
that the direction is always chosen
by those who make the journey.
Who shall choose the direction?
…So the question is still the same …

A century from now, what shall be said
of our human journey in these times?
And who shall the shapers have been?

Lilian Smith - The Journey, 1954

I invite you to be the hopeful dreamers, the journeyers and the shapers.

This is the time of fulfilment; the reign of God is at hand.

(James J. Chepponis).

Oh! And happy St Patrick’s Day, today, and St Joseph’s Day on Thursday.

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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

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