TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Becoming young again

My contribution to this weekly message will be quite brief as I am presently on the Gold Coast assisting my daughter Angela and her husband Sam with their newly arrived baby, Spencer. Regular readers may recall that Angela and Sam lost their daughter Ada, at five months, to SIDS last Christmas.

They bravely made the decision to let life take its course and now they are blessed to have Spencer as a brother to Ezekiel. As you can imagine they have had a particularly busy and emotional year, partly because they felt the need to re-construct their home. They could not move but they also could not bring a new baby home to the house that was. So apart from supporting them, I will be spending this week assisting them to move back into the fully renovated home.

Once again I am grateful for all the prayers that people have cast our way during this year. I have no doubt that Angela and Sam have been held with God’s tender love and care because of this collective support. It has been a difficult year and we still need to get through December and all that anniversaries of loss entail. So I may be ‘missing in action’ over the coming months as we create a safe environment for this family.

I must admit it has been good to witness my children being wonderfully supportive of each other. Spencer is our ninth grandchild, with the eldest being ten. As cousins they get on well, particularly the ones who are over five. There are two three-year olds who love each other but ‘fight’ incessantly. I find I am honing my skills of negotiation with both of these grandchildren. I realise that patience is learned by looking after children of this age. How many times can one answer the three-year-old’s question ‘why’?!

Tracey Edstein has offered to complete this message with a reflection on the wonderful celebrations of Religious Life in our diocese over the past 150 years. I understand it was a wonderful day and one where people felt a deep sense of pride in what has been achieved by so many men and women.

From Tracey

A news report on the celebration of the contribution of the religious congregations to the diocese’s 150-year history is online now. Since last Wednesday’s celebration, I have reflected further on the immense goodness of the vast majority of the members of these groups of men and women. You will understand why I have to say ‘the vast majority’.

Sometimes commentators speak or write of an individual ‘giving up’ his or her life to enter a religious congregation. Observing, and speaking to many of those gathered at St Mary’s, Maitland, I saw no evidence of men and women who felt they had ‘given up’ their lives for a greater good. I saw many who were full of life, happy to be together at a diocesan event, eager to share news and ideas and to participate fully in a liturgy of celebration.

Of course, religious life – like any life path – has its moments, and the liturgy booklet’s potted histories of the congregations who have served (and in some cases continue to serve) in our diocese indicated the difficulties many faced, particularly in the early days. Accommodation was often primitive, there was no guarantee of anything resembling an ‘income’ and sometimes there were issues of autonomy. However, commitment to the founder, the charism, and the mission trumped those difficulties.

The list of ‘works’ initiated and supported by congregations – now often across two or more congregations – is very long, and includes education (primary, secondary, tertiary, adult), liturgy, pastoral care, chaplaincy, the healing professions, aged care, counselling as well as ‘front line’ ministry to the poorest and most marginalised.

As Bishop Bill acknowledged, the future of religious life is unknown, and members of congregations could be forgiven for mourning the security they once felt. But again, the atmosphere was all about joy, and the satisfaction of being part of something bigger – the particular congregation, the diocese (currently or previously), the Church, God’s creation…

A hymn important to each of the Dominicans, Sisters of Mercy, Josephites and Marists was sung with gusto and it was interesting to observe the smiles this simple exercise engendered. Displays around St Mary’s Hall prompted recollections and there were stories, spontaneous reunions and photos to capture the moment.

If you were not there to hear composer Basil Morrow’s “Take heart, God is among us”, an encapsulation of the diocesan story and an expression of hope, rest assured you will hear it sooner rather than later!

Take heart, for God is among us,
in each gath’ring of Word and breaking bread,
in each act of sacrament and service,
in the faith of all assembled here.

Speaking in New York in 2014 to a gathering of Josephites, Ilia Delio said, “We are dying – and that’s OK. It just means something new is emerging. We need to become young again.”

Bring it on!

Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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

Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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