TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: faith, community and relationships

Well, here I am again, at my desk after a holiday break of a few weeks. Thanks to Louise Gannon, Helene O’Neill and John Donnelly who shared with you their wise words and thoughts while I was away.

I hope you savoured them because they were writing to you post the Easter Season as we celebrated the feasts of Pentecost, the Holy Trinity and the Body and Blood of Christ. Louise picked up on the theme of what it means to be Catholic. I believe each of us could read this message over and over again - it would indeed make for a good reflection in our parishes and schools. Helene explored the space of spirituality in light of Pentecost and the many celebrations of Confirmation she has been attending. John also explored the place of the Holy Spirit and its place as we prepared for the Australian Plenary Council. I think the common element of these reflections was faith, community and relationships.

And that is a true reflection of my first week back at work. I came back home the week before last so as to prepare for Allen’s dad’s 100th birthday celebrations. As you can imagine, it was a great day.  About 100 people gathered to share food and companionship, to listen to him reminisce about his life, and for us to offer our words of gratitude. All of his children, their children and his great grandchildren were present. Also there were other relatives and companions from the village in which he now lives as well as people from the local Probus which he established in the late 1980s. He is very proud to be 100 and the accolades he received have been well earned.

Upon returning to work the staff that make up the Diocesan Curia – Chancery, Catholic Schools Office, Catholic Care, St Nicholas Early Education, DARA (Development and Relief Agency) and the CDF (Catholic Development Fund) along with some student leaders from our secondary schools - went out for a day of field experiences. The following is a footprint of the experiences they encountered:

Parishes:

  • Chisholm Pastoral Region
  • St Joseph’s Parish, Toronto
  • All Saints Parish, Blackbutt South (Adamstown, Cardiff, Kotara)

Schools:

  • St Kevin’s, Cardiff
  • St Bede’s, Chisholm
  • St Patricks, Cessnock
  • St Mary’s, Gateshead
  • St Joseph’s, Lochinvar

St Nicholas Early Education:

  • Cardiff
  • Chisholm
  • Lochinvar
  • Newcastle West

Chaplaincy:

  • University
  • Hospital – John Hunter Hospital, Calvary Mater, Maitland
  • Port – Apostleship of the Sea

Calvary Aged Care Facilities:

  • St Francis Elebana
  • Cessnock
  • Cooinda, Singleton

Other Catholic Organisations and Agencies:

  • Caritas
  • Catholic Mission
  • Mercy Services - Tighes Hill and Newcastle
  • St Vincent de Paul – Matthew Talbot, Compeer, Vinnies Retail, Ability Links
  • DARA – Van and Refugee Hub
  • Diocesan Resource Centre
  • Sisters of St Joseph
  • Mum’s Cottage

Some of the staff were also walking the first attempt of a diocesan pilgrimage.

Upon their return, the staff gathered with Bishop Bill to share their experiences while reflecting upon our diocesan song from our 150 year celebrations – Take Heart for God is Among Us, composed by Basil Morrow. I remind you of its chorus:

Take heart for God is among us,
In each gathering of word and breaking bread,
In each act of sacrament and service,
In the faith of all assembled here.

I hope, like those who participated in the day, you are overwhelmed and impressed by our footprint of service to the communities of our diocese. As one student at the Bishop’s dinner for student leaders, at the end of the day, reflected: “It seems that the Catholic Church needs to market itself more.” Our community would be the lesser if we were not present in reaching out and making a difference.

I hope you have visited our mnnews.today webpage and read Britten Thompson’s account of our Ecumenical and Interfaith Council’s Interfaith Forum – Our Faiths and Finding Spirituality. The photos speak volumes of the engagement of those who attended and shared their faith encounters. I encourage you to log onto mnnews.today on a regular basis to keep you updated on our diocesan stories.

Interestingly, the week came to a close on Friday on the Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. I remembered my mum, in particular, who had a great love and devotion to the Sacred Heart. The first reading of that day from Hosea (11:1, 3-4, 8c-9) is beautiful and worth contemplating:

Thus says the LORD:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
out of Egypt I called my son.
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk,
who took them in my arms;
I drew them with human cords,
with bands of love;
I fostered them like one
who raises an infant to his cheeks;
Yet, though I stooped to feed my child,
they did not know that I was their healer.

My heart is overwhelmed,
my pity is stirred.
I will not give vent to my blazing anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again;
For I am God and not a man,
the Holy One present among you;
I will not let the flames consume you.

I then found myself singing the old hymn, which we would often sing at the end of saying the family rosary, and so I write these words for you to recall and possibly sing if you are of that particular age:

O Sacred Heart, what shall I render Thee,
For all the gifts Thou hast bestowed on me?
O Heart of God, Thou seem'st but to implore,
That I should love Thee daily more and more.

Then I will love Thee,
Then I will love Thee,
Then I will love Thee
Daily more and more.

O Heart of Jesus, come and live in me,
That with thy love my heart consumed may be;
O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I implore,
That I may love Thee daily more and more.

O Sacred Heart, be this our life's one aim,
To labor for the glory of Thy name;
O dearest Heart, this grace we Thee implore,
That all the world may know and love Thee more.

How apt to finish with this prayer as, I think, it reflects the messages of the past few weeks which calls us to be a family of faith and hence of love.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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