The celebration of 150 years since the arrival of the first resident bishop of Maitland, Bishop James Murray, has also coincided with the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and Frances has been integral in driving those commemoration activities in her parish and the wider diocesan community.
One of the projects Frances has been working on this year included the 150 Years Bishop Murray Pilgrimage. The guided pilgrimage, from Morpeth to Maitland, included six historic stops with ‘voices’ from the past sharing stories of faith, fear and delight, fleshing out factual information, giving a voice and building the identity of the diocese in the late 1880s. “We can read birth dates and statistics, but it’s the context and the human aspect that makes it real,” said Frances. When recognised for her work on the 150 Years Pilgrimage, her humility is evident. She’s quick to share praise with others and highlight how much of a community effort it has been, bringing the event together, “We just need each other,” said Frances.
The hospitality of organising and participating in the 150 years pilgrimage has also opened more ‘doors’ within Frances’ community and beyond into the wider diocesan community. “It’s the team that works together and the connections that you make. I’ve made so many new connections since being part of those teams,” said Frances. She also referred to a prayer from the celebration of Religious Congregations in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, “May the blessing of hospitality be upon us. May we make room for other people, other ideas, other ways of living.”
Frances’ parish community also enjoyed a visit from Missionary of Mercy, Fr Richard Shortall sj, earlier in the year. She enjoyed getting back to basics with her faith community and called several parishioners whom she hadn’t seen at church in a while. They came along to hear Fr Richard’s series of talks, heading out after to enjoy a meal at the local fish and chip shop. “Fr Richard was just a breath of fresh air to have a new face in our parish because we’ve had the same parish priest for so long, it was another person to connect with. Our church is very small and it really brought a stronger sense of community to our parish,” said Frances.
Frances acknowledged the need to be open and transparent in the way diocesan history is recorded and has this year led a project to find and digitise every copy of diocesan newspaper, The Sentinel. “The Sentinel is now complete on trove.nla.gov.au, able to be updated to the newest technology at every stage, making it accessible to everyone. Opening such a big door on the church and we really need it! We need as much as we can to show we’re open.”