FAITH MATTERS: Someone watching over me

For the last two years in July I have been blessed to travel to the Solomon Islands. This July I felt a great longing to be back with the Dominican Sisters and the community from the little island of Wagina, which I have come to know and love.

I appreciate the simplicity of life in the Solomon's. Their world is not full of the materialistic items which are deemed as essential to bringing happiness in Western culture. I am in awe of their deep sense of faith which is naturally handed down from one generation to the next. Travelling to the Solomon's forced me to reconsider a consumeristic mindset and discern over wants verse needs and what is most important in life. Each meal is experienced with a blessing because we need to feel gratitude and give thanks for what we have. It is the simple things in life which bring richness, meaning and joy. Relationships are paramount between family, friends and even tribes for each person and community to live their life to the full.  I feel transformed because of these experiences and on several occasions really believe there was someone watching over me during my time in the Solomon’s.

Growing up I had heard stories about my Great Uncle Brian (Marist Brother Cyrillus) living and teaching in Papa New Guinea. He was also drawn to a simple existence one that was based on the joy of life, faith and relationships.

Uncle Brian had a love of nature, he loved roses, his rose gardens can be found at St Joseph’s Hunter Hill and The Hermitage-Mittagong. He was always and everywhere I nurturer, he wanted what was best for people, he worked to bring the best out in others and promoted human flourishing. His superiors recognised quickly and early this special gift because after only 18 months teaching at Darlinghurst, he was appointed to the staff of the Juniorate at Mittagong at the age of 24. From there he spent 20 years directly involved with the Brothers’ formation programme. Since his death, 7 years ago many messages have been received about Brian being a great role model an extraordinary teacher and one who brought enormous joy to so many people. So, what was it that made Brian so well suited to teaching forming and educating that enabled him to have such a significant impact on so many?

First and foremost was his radiant humanity and his capacity to build and maintain warm human relationships. He applied his AAA principle to all people: He was always affirming; he accepted individuals in all their differences. He had the ability to see goodness in others and he deliberately affirmed the good qualities he saw. He would announce to all and sundry, ‘God don't make junk’, and encourage them to be their best. He showed affection whether by word or a hug or that captivating smile. In this way he showed how much he enjoyed being in your company. He made himself available to others, especially those who were facing difficulties and enduring tough times. He would visit the sick, console the dying and the grieving. When he was living in Newcastle later in his life, he was a member of the Sisters of Mercy walking Team, (for which he was made an honorary Sister) he would make home visits to many aged and isolated. His availability must have been a challenge even to him because he was constantly in demand with many people seeking his advice, support, and company. Affirmation, affection, and availability, was his recipe.

Brian was able to put people at ease. His focus was always on the other person not himself. An important element of his relational capacity was his availability as an able and effective communicator. He wrote prolifically; cards and letters where is mainstay. He wrote to congratulate or commiserate, to affirm and encourage, his messages were always personal warm and a little humorous, often quotes, poems or cards were enclosed. But if he believed you needed a bit of a kick along, he could also write to challenge, in subtle yet effective ways.

Brian carried with him a sense of God's presence, he would pray anywhere he went, while fishing, travelling on a train, but particularly in the garden while he planted his roses. He was keen to express his faith and to help others express theirs.  At the end of his life he wrote, ‘I am not afraid of death and I look forward to that wonderful event as the one great day of my life. How could I fear meeting Him who has been the great love of my life? He continues, ‘My favourite scripture line comes from Saint Paul to the Philippians: ‘All I want is to know Christ and experience the power his resurrection……’. “So I know Him”, ‘in whom I have believed’ and am confident that he will bring me a joy that will never end when my time comes to meet him.  With the great Teresa of Avila, I can say: The mercies of Lord I will sing forever!” Deo gratia!

Uncle Brian was a bit apprehensive about going to Papua New Guinea as he had heard many stories about violence. But when he got there, he had a strong feeling that God was protecting him and would take care of him. When he was in a plane crash and the plane went into the sea, he could remember that he was not in the least anxious or worried because he felt God was by his side.

I can relate to this story as in 2019 our 16-seater plane travelling from Kaghau to Honiara hit a storm and the torrential rain poured into the plane through the cockpit. I was not confronted with fear but turned to the rosary and Mary to help us through.

When we ended up landing in Auki another island in the Solomon Islands (because we would have run out of fuel if we tried to land in Honiara for the fourth time) we learnt that this was the pilots first flight. We all felt that someone was watching over us that day.

I believe I would not be here today if it were not for my Uncle Brian.

As it was in his younger years as a pharmacist in the East End of Newcastle that he warmly welcomed a Second World War American soldier on R&R into the Horton Family home. It was Brian that introduced his sister Mary to this soldier.

The solider was Herbert O’Mullane my grandfather and Mary Horton (Brian sister) my grandmother, they have a wonderful story built on love and faith which I would love to share with you one day.

We invite you to share your faith story.

Everyone has a story.

No matter how ordinary yours may seem, we all have a story to tell and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it.

You could use the following questions as a guide.

  • Who are the people who guided your faith journey? How did they do that?
  • Describe some defining moments of your faith journey? What made them significant?
  • How has your faith been reflected in your work, your hobbies, your values, your choices, and your priorities at various times in your life?
  • In what ways has your faith guided and supported you over your lifetime? How has your church/faith community guided and supported you?

We hope to use the stories as part of a Faith Matters.

For more information or if you would like to be interviewed please contact or send your story to

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