Love life but don’t fear death

In keeping with the diocesan vision to live the joy of the Gospel and share it with the world, the 2018 Family Faith Forum will explore the potential of parishes to be centres of living and proclaiming the Gospel.

Keynote speakers will be Leanne and Shane Hyland of Warnervale. The Hylands – Leanne, Shane and Joshua (12), Alyssa (8) and Lachlan (5) ‒ have been chosen as the official family delegates at the World Meeting of Families (WMF) in Dublin in August.

Shane was part of the 2016 diocesan Pastoral Placement Program while studying for a Masters of Education. Last year he worked for the diocese as a prison chaplain in Cessnock and he’s now a specialist Religious Education teacher at St Mary’s Campus, All Saints College, Maitland. Shane and Leanne are deeply committed to MacKillop Parish, Warnervale, and Leanne teaches at MacKillop College.

I asked Shane and Leanne to share something of their faith. Leanne said, “I was raised in a large Catholic family where faith was of great importance. All my faith experiences influenced my life and I always wanted to have a family that goes to Church, loves God and helps others. I was so excited when Shane and I decided to make Church and our prayer life a priority, even more important than weekend sport! My mother is my spiritual advisor and great friend in faith. I believe ‘faith’ teaches ‘faith’ and parents and teachers must be authentic, as it is through authenticity that faith can be experienced and understood.”

Shane shared a poignant experience from his family life. “Our son Lachlan was not expected to live after complications at birth. I prayed in the nondescript chapel at RNS for God to deliver my son from the horrible fate that was expected for him. Leanne and I prayed together and committed ourselves to the long term care of our beautiful child, no matter the outcome. We believe that God was profoundly present to us during these times. I quit my job and began studying Theology as a result of some deep prayerful discernment and consultation with Leanne. God was asking me to do life according to his plan and I am now a specialist religion teacher.”

The potential of parishes to be life-giving and supportive is a key aspect of the Family Faith Forum. Shane and Leanne are deeply committed to their parish, and the wider church, and they ask much in return! “I believe we’ve been charged with the task of reforming the institution, and families such as ours have a large part to play in being that change. We expect the Bishops to listen very closely to their flock in the 2020 Synod and to implement the changes recommended by the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.”

Leanne says, “I ask that the Church puts into practice recommendations from the Royal Commission, recognises and honours the role that women hold in the Church, listens to the reasons families have left the Church, engages with our youth and provides support for families in a variety of ways.”

That’s a tall order, but one that would I think be echoed by many who remain faithful in spite of all that Catholics have had to come to terms with.

Pope Francis wrote in Amoris Laetitia, “For nine months every mother and father dreams about their child…. You can’t have a family without dreams.” (#169)

Shane is very clear that his dream “is that I can be the Father that my children look back on and say ‘Dad loved us and showed us how to love God’”.

Leanne sums up her dream: “I hope they love life and don’t fear death.”

The Bishops’ invitation to participate in the WMF in August is, in Shane’s words, “the opportunity of a lifetime. To travel to Ireland and be part of the “big C” church with other families from Australia is sure to be transformative. The kids are very keen to meet Pope Francis if the opportunity presents itself.”

Leanne adds, “We look forward to learning more about Amoris Laetitia so we can provide formation experiences when we return. We welcome the opportunity to learn about what other Catholic Churches are doing well and to share the information with the Australian Catholic Church.”

The Family Faith Forum workshops will focus on revitalising parish life ‒ particularly through the ideas of keynote speakers, Fr Michael White and lay associate Tom Corcoran, in their best-selling book, Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter.  White and Corcoran suggest a three-pronged approach to renewal: improve the music within liturgical and other celebrations, work on the delivery of God’s Word beyond the homily and offer more hospitality. Thus the forum’s tagline is “Meals, Music, Message more than Mass.”

Director of the Office of Life and Faith, John Donnelly, says, “This forum is intended for those who are interested in the development of parish life beyond Sunday worship. All are welcome!”

To learn more or register for the Family Faith Forum, please P 4979 1328 or email.

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is a member of the Raymond Terrace Parish and a freelance writer with a particular interest in church matters.

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