“Welcome to Newcastle” is a phrase that Novocastrians are again becoming accustomed to saying as more and more people are deciding that the once Steel City is home. This week we excitedly await the installation of Bishop Michael Kennedy as the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. You will also have seen the construction works on the corner of Tutor St and Parry St as our new Diocesan Christian Library takes shape. We envision the new library as a special space for human connection and enlightenment by God’s infinite grace.
One of the blessings of the ongoing growth of Newcastle is the diversity of new people arriving here bringing with them a wealth of gifts, ideas, and experiences. Many are passionate and generous individuals who have a genuine desire to share these with others and to contribute to our community.
This week, Faith Matters sat down with Australian Writer, Michael Hislop. A recent settler in Newcastle, Michael Hislop moved from Sydney a year ago and was warmly welcomed by the parishioners of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Tighes Hill. As a newcomer, he enrolled in the Christian Formation Course run by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and it was here that Michael shared his love of Philosophy and Writing.
Poetry is Michael’s first Love which he confesses to writing every day under the pseudonym “MH.” He has just Released two Books entitled ‘A Tale of Opposites’ and ‘Soul Searching’ both of which are available on Amazon and Kindle. He is currently finishing his first novel and several other Projects.
Michael is accustomed to writing of various kinds as he holds degrees in Politics, International Relations, and African Decolonization, as well as holding a Juris Doctor. In our interview, Michael described how writing poetry and literature was different than the formulaic writing of the academic and business worlds. For him, a writer must seek to engage and interrogate the world from a place of Heart and Soul and a foundation of abiding Faith alongside a wide experience of the Human condition. “I am a Writer and a Poet. I write about the good, the bad and all sorts. I aim to hold a mirror to our World. I strive for a better World.”
Michael, the first of seven children, was born in India to Christian missionary parents. Due to the strictness of his upbringing, Michael said that he walked away from his Faith in his teenage years. Yet, he says that as he grew older, he came aware of a compelling and abiding Faith that was strangely strong and a source of great comfort and wonder. He says that he found his relationship with The Divine provided him with a crucial foothold in which to understand himself and his place in the greater scheme of things. Forming a connection and a community of Faith which placed him in a more fundamental communion with The All. It was these experiences of reconnection with his Christian cultural roots that spurred him to begin to write.
Having travelled widely, Michael is well-versed in the world’s societies and cultures, and he has an abiding love and respect for humanity, its history and traditions and stories, as well as the natural environment.
Michael’s writings are born out of his diverse personal experiences and the rich library of ancient stories and ideas about being Human. He gets emotional talking about this, expressing an enduring love and appreciation of the legacies bestowed on us by those who walked before. However, he notes that it is important to reimagine them so that they fit into a contemporary context as relevant to how people today choose to live their lives.
Historically “God” was seen as all-encompassing, omnipresent, and omniscient, however, when God is talked about today this is most often not the case. God in contemporary Australia is not well understood within the context of the ancient and rich ideas from which our understanding has been born.
“Our most ancient stories are about Being Human… We are not just bags of skin and bones living in a physical sense. We are much more than this… Most of my peers today do not even realize that they are a sovereign and eternal Soul. And in much of the modern domain, it is almost unseemly to talk about this… And, I wonder and ask why…”
“Our world is supposed to be based on the ideas and ideals of our greatest thinkers and scientists, but there is a vast and growing gulf between how our world works and how it could and should be…” Michael’s two million plus readers around the world regularly tell him of how tough Life is becoming… “It is generally harder to meet the needs of Life, it is harder to feed and educate the kids… People the world over still suffer most often needlessly.”
Michael believes and argues that a central Principle of Christianity is the need to respond with kindness and compassion to those most vulnerable and those in need. “The power of the Story of Christ is his exemplar of compassion and self-sacrifice as an ultimate expression of love and surrender to The All. Faith for some can be a lofty idea only for Sundays, whereas for others like myself, Faith and Belief are the core of a feasible and Right relationship with both my fellows and The Divine. Being a Christian means replicating as far as we are able the Example of Christ.”
“Most people don’t realize that the Catholic Church is one of the most present and active agencies in our world responding to the needs and demands of the most vulnerable of us across the world. This is rarely publicized or reported. The scale of these endeavours is truly enormously and is only made possible on the strength of our communities.”
It is always important to consider those in need but more especially during the season of Lent. Each year, Project Compassion comes as a timely reminder of the importance of solidarity and how a single act of kindness – whether big or small, can make a life-changing impact in the lives of those who need it most.
Through our acts of compassion and generosity, we can be the change we want to see.
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