TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: We have been chosen to bring people to God

I hope your consciousness was raised during Refugee Week in Australia. On Thursday, 21 June, our shortest day, I stood in silence and in solidarity with over one hundred others, on King Street, at Civic Park, in support of Refugees across our globe. This is a weekly event, however more gathered on this day because of Refugee Week and World Refugee Day (June 20). I also hope some of you attended the Unity in Diversity Festival at Hamilton, or other events that may have been held across the diocese. Those people who come to our shores show great courage in choosing a new way of life, away from their homelands, their culture, language, food, work, and all that is familiar to them.

Refugee Week provides a platform where positive images of refugees can be promoted in order to create a culture of welcome throughout the country. The ultimate aim of the celebration is to create better understanding between different communities and to encourage successful integration, enabling refugees to live in safety and to continue making a valuable contribution to Australia.

We certainly are blessed to live in a peaceful land in which diversity is apparent and, in the main, respected. I believe, at a diocesan level, we attempt to honour diversity through our Social Justice and our Ecumenical and Interfaith Councils. This diversity is also embedded within our schools, which was demonstrated with students of all nationalities displaying their talents at last week’s DIOSOUNDS. Each year I enjoy being present in a packed Civic Theatre, watching students from each of our high schools having fun and displaying a variety of talents through music, song, dance and stage support. It is one of the highlights of the diversity of students in our schools.

The high point of the past week however, was the ordination to the diaconate of Anthony Coloma, who has been in our diocese for over a year, having come to us from the Philippines. The cathedral was packed and Anthony exuded joy, as did his family and the many people from the Filipino community. Anthony chose the normal Sunday morning Mass on the feast day of the Nativity of St John the Baptist. Bishop Bill reminded all of us that Anthony has been chosen by God and sent by God to serve among the people. It is not a position of power or authority but one of service. This ministry of diaconal service remains with every bishop, priest and permanent deacon.

I hope, like me, you were struck by the events around John the Baptist’s conception and the naming in the Temple on the eighth day. It is his elderly mum who speaks up and names him John, before those gathered check with Zechariah. The name ‘John’ means ‘gracious’. In the reading of the day from the Prophet Isaiah (49:1-6) we hear the words: “The Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.” This is the same for all of us. We have been chosen, formed to be God’s servants in order to bring people to God. Anthony has listened to God’s voice and has discerned God’s call for him to the ordained priesthood in our diocese. During Mass, I became conscious that this call of God is not a ‘one off’ event but continues in each of us as we mature and grow in our faith. It is what keeps me committed to being a wife, mother and working in ministry in this diocese. Psalm 138 provides us with such wonderful poetry for all to receive and pray; just the awesomeness of being created in the first place for some purpose, but also being known and loved by God.

As I listened to the promises made by Anthony in entering the Order of the Diaconate, I thought that they were worth repeating for you to contemplate.

Bishop Bill asked him the following questions:

Do you resolve to be consecrated for the Church’s ministry by the laying on of my hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Do you resolve to discharge the office of Deacon with humble charity in order to assist the priestly Order and to benefit the Christian people?

Do you resolve to hold fast to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience, as the Apostle urges, and to proclaim this faith in word and deed according to the Gospel and the Church’s tradition?

Do you resolve to keep for ever this commitment to remain celibate as a sign of your dedication to Christ the Lord for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, in service of God and man?

Do you resolve to maintain and deepen the spirit of prayer that is proper to your way of life and, in keeping with this spirit and what is required of you, to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours with and for the People of God and indeed for the whole world?

Do you resolve to conform your way of life always to the example of Christ, of whose Body and Blood you are a minister at the altar?

Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?

Anthony responded to each of these questions which were then followed by Bishop Bill’s words: “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfilment.” Then all of us prayed the great Litany of the Saints while Anthony prostrated himself before the altar. I always find this to be a powerfully moving prayer.

While all this was occurring, I was conscious not only of my own call and commitment but of the people of the whole diocese. We have all been called to the service of others, especially the afflicted and poor. We have been entrusted to live as witnesses according to God’s word, and we have been appointed as stewards of God’s mysteries, to imitate his Son and to be ministers of unity and peace in the world.

If we take our call by God seriously we should be rejoicing each day for being called to live and proclaim the mysteries of God to the world.

I recognise that not everyone is comfortable with the ongoing ordination of men to the diaconate and priesthood. When challenged once again about our church’s position on this, I found myself saying that if God desires for this change to come about, it will be in God’s time. I know we all have a part to play in the ongoing understanding of God’s purpose for us at this time in history and to keep reading the signs of the times. As I have indicated previously, we are in the painful time of transitioning and transformation and I trust that with the grace of God, all will eventually be revealed. Patience, dialogue, discernment, wisdom, trust, hope, faith and respect are great virtues to keep cultivating while we wait for that revelation.

I hope you are staying warm during these nippy days and cold nights.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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