Good people telling good news in good ways

When he teaches adult groups under the auspices of the Tenison Woods Education Centre (TWEC), Michael O’Connor, parishioner of Wallsend, describes himself in terms of “four Xes”.

He says, “I’m an ex-priest. I married and had three (now adult) children but now I’m an ex-husband. I worked for the Department of Community Services for 33 years as both field officer and manager, so I’m an ex-employee.

"But the most important 'X' - which I share with everyone - is that I'm extremely loved and blessed by God!"

“My father died when I was 16, so that led to questions. But even before that, I feel I was asking bigger, metaphysical questions. I knew the teaching, the formulae, but words are only symbols. They’ve got to make sense, they have to mean something. How do you understand more than the words?”

Michael acknowledges his parents’ faith and commitment to education, and the wisdom of teachers such as Sr Clare Kelly rsm, as forming foundations that have stood him in good stead. He thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and stimulation of studying philosophy and theology at St Columba’s and St Patrick’s Colleges. “It was fairly recently post-Vatican II which meant that all sorts of ideas were being opened up. I didn’t have any sense of disruption – I had a gentle run I suppose.” Unsurprisingly, Michael’s study and learning have been ongoing and he describes it as “self-driven and self-guided”.

As a retiree, Michael is highly committed to both his parish and the diocesan church. He leads two scripture study groups, focusing on the Sunday lectionary, and is also an award-winning member of the Aurora editorial team. He has been involved in TWEC for many years and has led workshops on discernment for members of the diocesan community.

In response to the question, ‘Who inspires you?’ Michael says without hesitation, “Augustine of course! Just the honesty of the man, the way he probed his own thinking and motivations. That stayed with me, and now I’m reading his homilies...”

John Henry Newman and Julian of Norwich are also sources of encouragement and reassurance – and there are many more… He describes his heroes collectively as “Good people telling good news in good ways”.

The wonders of the worldwide web have opened more windows and Michael delights in keeping up with the words and actions of Pope Francis, commentators he particularly admires, the Australian church scene and beyond.

This good news – that each of us is loved unconditionally − is really the heart of the matter for Michael O’Connor. He is refreshingly open to opportunities to learn, to grow, and to share the gleanings.

As far as adult faith formation is concerned, “I just thoroughly enjoy it and I want others to enjoy it too.”

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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