TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Stories continue as new paths emerge

I am scribing this message from my daughter’s home on the Gold Coast, as she has just given birth to another son and I am caring for the other two boys. As you can imagine the schedule is a busy one and so I don’t imagine this will be a lengthy message, as I write between pick-ups and hospital visitation and preparing meals and doing the washing!!! Mum and baby are doing well and we thank God for the blessings of the safe arrival of another member of our growing family.

I am keen for this message to pay tribute to Tracey Edstein, who finishes in her role this week, as editor of Aurora. Tracey has ministered in our diocese by being actively involved in her parish of Raymond Terrace, teaching in our high schools, being part of the Tenison Woods Education Centre (TWEC), editing Aurora and by being a member of the Diocesan Communications Team. I can’t imagine how many words Tracey has crafted into her own stories, capturing the faith life, experiences or opinions of people, or how many words she has read and edited over the thirty-six years of working with the diocese in education and in communications.

She is definitely a wordsmith who loves the value of capturing the many aspects of people’s lives through story. These elements may be religious, spiritual, historical, social, physical and so on. For Tracey, storytelling brings to life the deep mystery of life to which most people can relate and in our context, how people understand the living out of their faith in a higher power in the here and now.

Interestingly, this is the method of collecting information that has been chosen by the Plenary Council Team. People are being asked to gather in small groups and to share their experience, through story, of faith, life and the church and to feed this back into the process of collecting data, which will form the content for the 2020 Plenary Council. The diocesan process for informing people and inviting them to gather will soon be announced. This gathering of people’s stories will assist with both our Diocesan Synod and the Plenary Council.

Last week, I spent three days in Brisbane, with about 600 other people, at the Proclaim Conference. The Conference theme was Make your home in me…. (John 15:4)

Mark Coleridge, the Archbishop of Brisbane, wrote the following regarding this particular conference:

Proclaim this year is part of the journey of the Plenary Council which has already begun. The Plenary Council is a process, not just an event. It is not a program that replaces anything, but a journey which gathers everything, including Proclaim, simply and gracefully to itself. At the Plenary Council the Church in Australia will have to make big decisions about the future, and our hope is that Proclaim will be an important moment in that process.

It is time for us all to listen anew to what the Spirit is saying to the Church, knowing that the Spirit’s voice is both consoling and disruptive. Proclaim is a time for us to listen to each other in new ways and to recognise in what we hear the often surprising accents of God.

I found the theme of Make your home in me very powerful because of the image of home and what that means to me – it is about building relationships and taking the time to develop those intimate and safe places. There is something very sacred about the word ‘home’.

The Conference was not so much about ‘the church’ but captured the image of our going out on mission, by focusing on leadership, cultural change, the connection between belonging and evangelisation, the meaning of mission and, in this Year of Youth, what young people need and expect from the Church.

I have no doubt that Tracey Edstein has played her part in being the voice of cultural change and connecting us to what it might mean for us to lead in these changing and challenging times, to be a more evangelising missionary church where people go out with a desire to belong and to inspire others to belong. The change is slow and frustrating and yet it is to this that the Spirit is calling us.

To connect to story, we must communicate, and this has been the thinking behind Aurora and the other tools of communication which we utilise – parish bulletins, school newsletters, Dio Update, mnnews.today, Facebook, Twitter etc. These tools must not take away from the face-to-face encounters when people connect with us at Mass, at funerals, at baptisms or weddings or other sacramental times. The key question is ‘how do we provide opportunities for transformative conversion?’

Tracey’s farewell function will be held at the diocesan offices on Wednesday 18 July. Thank you Tracey for your dedication, commitment, giftedness, wisdom, loyalty and willingness to listen to the voices of many people so their stories could be shared. I am sure the whole diocese wishes her well as the next part of her own journey unfolds. May she continue to be blessed and to be a blessing.

Back to nana and mum duties!

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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