TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Stronger Families, Stronger Communities

I am conscious, as I write this message, that many of your will read this on the eve of the United Nations International Day of Families, 15 May. Each year, in Australia, we celebrate National Families Week from 15 to 21 May. Interestingly, for us it falls around Mother’s Day, a day when many families celebrate with their mums or gather to remember them.

The aim of National Families Week is to celebrate the vital role that families play in Australian society. Its enduring theme is:

Stronger Families, Stronger Communities

The National Families Week website https://nfw.org.au/ states: 

National Families Week is a time to celebrate with your family, make contact with your extended family and friends, and share in the enjoyment of family activities within the wider community. It is a time to celebrate the meaning of family and to make the most of family life.

Let’s take the time to reflect on the critical role that families play in teaching, supporting and nurturing children especially as they grow.

This theme continues to highlight the important role families play as the central building block of our communities and deliver the message that community wellbeing is enhanced by family wellbeing.

I am also conscious of writing this message as we prepare to celebrate our son Edmund’s wedding to Karen, which we will have celebrated on Saturday 11 May, the day before Mother’s Day. Allen and I have been blessed with the gift of five children and Edmund, our fifth child, is the last to marry. Edmund and Karen have ensured that it is their family and close friends who will gather with them as they make their commitment of life-long love to each other.

While driving in the car over these past weeks I have been listing to some Andrea Bocelli CD’s and came across this poem, which introduces his song L’Incontro on the Cieli Di Toscana CD. I thought of Edmund, our other children and of our grandchildren and I share this with you as it may also touch your soul.

Introduction Poem written by Andrea Bocelli & recited by Bono

While like a giant - proud and happy
I take my baby in my arms - Fragile, innocent and alive
And like a little bird he's pushing against my chest
Abandoned quiet and safe; For an instant - almost sweetly
My destiny appears to me like a dream

And I see myself, old and surrendered,
Seated there near the coalfire
Waiting for the evening with the anxiety of a child,
Just to see him coming back home
With the gift of his smile,  Of his words and kindness
It's like a promise that can solve the enormous joy
Of one of his caresses

Then I wake up and I've already forgotten
But inside of me, the kid's trapped soul advises me
That this new born child is already more important to me
than that of my own life.

What a fabulous image of love and or parenting. For a mother, I think this feeling begins from the moment you realise a life has been created within you, while this poem speaks of a similar moment for the father. There is this intimate connection beyond life, and that is the mystery behind the bonds of family. It needs no explanation, but just is.

On the National Families Week website, Dr Brian Babington, the CEO of Families Australia writes:

Families are the most important building blocks of communities, societies and nations. I believe strongly that we need to think more about the value of families and do more to support our and others’ families, whatever form they take. What does your family mean to you? What do you give to and get from your family? At times family life can undoubtedly be challenging, but families are the best places to be understood. National Families Week is a great opportunity to pause and take stock of how we can all work for great family wellbeing.

I think the Gospel passage for Sunday (John 10:27-30) provides us with a good image of belonging to God’s family:

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father, who gave them to me, is greater than anyone,

and no one can steal anything from the Father. The Father and I are one.

I think of the work of CatholicCare, of our Family Ministry Coordinators, of Marriage and Relationship Education, of our schools and of St Vincent de Paul as they attempt to support families and keep them together, such is the importance we place as a Catholic community on the value of families. I am also aware of the diversity of nature of families in today’s context. What I know about humans is that we have a right and a need to feel safe, and my hope and prayer is that this can happen within a birth family, but recognising that this may not be the case for some. Let’s keep working towards enabling families to be safe places for both the child and the adult. This is my hope for Edmund and Karen as they formally begin their lives as husband and wife. 

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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