FAITH MATTERS: A Dance Changed My Life

I was born into an Irish family along with my four siblings. We grew up in Waratah and attended the local catholic school. Ours was a typical catholic family of the era with regular attendance at Sunday mass - a habit I dropped in my teenage years.

That all changed the night I went to a dance in Newcastle when I was 18.

A certain young Scotsman asked me to dance, then later walked me home.  Saying goodnight at the front gate, he asked: ‘Do you go to church?’ ‘No,’  I replied. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘would you like to go to the beach on Sunday?’  I nodded. ‘I’ll pick you up at 10 am then,’ he said, ‘after you go to mass.’ 

We married, of course, and I have never missed a Sunday mass since, in almost sixty years.

I went to the Redemptorist Monastery in Woodstock Street Mayfield for decades until its closure. After that, I went to St Columbus at Mayfield, where my six children attended school.

The monastery became a source of great spiritual strength to me, and I helped out however I could. For 27 years, I was in charge of decorating the altar for the Novena every Saturday.  I had four helpers, all of us looking after the brass and flowers.  It was a big job.

Then I started going to meditation with the priests every Tuesday in their private chapel. We had about 10 - 15 people in our group.  Eventually, they asked me to become a leader.  We meditated in front of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes before sharing together downstairs. 

So we had the Meditation group meeting at the monastery and one other -  a Taize group run by Anna Hill.  When the monastery finally closed down, Anna and I ran our groups at the St. Columbus Church for many years before it too closed down.

I decided to join the Tighes Hill parish, being warmly welcomed by the people there. To my delight, Sr Moya and Jenny Byrnes a Uniting Church Minister, were running a meditation group. They asked me to join.  I fell in love with this group and have never missed a session.

Meditation makes still my body and thoughts.  We initially do a relaxation breathing exercise, followed by a bible or spiritual book reading, before going into a meditative state by slowly repeating in our minds our own chosen mantra. If my mind drifts towards worries or the concerns of the day, I go back to my mantra, slowly repeating, ‘Body of Christ, Body of Christ.’  I chose this mantra because I believe we are all the Body of Christ and bear His love within us.  

Sticking with meditation over time has caused me to become a relaxed, calm person. As a result, I see things I haven’t seen before. For example, I see all the love of Christ in other people.  It doesn’t matter how people look or speak; I see the love of Christ in each one of them.

I meet the world in my little Shop of Antiques at Mayfield West.  When people come in, I often make them a cup of tea. I see such distress in people at times and try to be the Christian lady I have grown to be through the strong influence and teachings of many other Christians in my life.  I don’t preach to others but treat people with as much kindness as I am able.

I was married to that young Scotsman for almost 60 years.  He had a great devotion to Mary and said the rosary every day of his life until he died three years ago. Doug and I had our battles, but we always stuck together and helped each other.  Together we looked after our elderly parents, especially when they were ill.

Religion is not a popular subject in our society today, and we are called to have uncommon courage in living out our Christianity.  We can all do our bit. I like Pope Francis’ words: - ‘Preach the gospel at every opportunity.  Only use words when necessary.’  And I guess it is fair to say that while circumstances may change, the love of Christ is constant.


Compiled by Pam Tierney.

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