Happily placed

The opportunity to apply for the Pastoral Placement Program came towards the end of last year when I was invited for a Group Discernment Day.

I prayed that if it was God’s will that I was to be accepted as a participant, I would let the Holy Spirit guide me and take total control of the year ahead. I invited the Holy Spirit to lead not only my personal life but my work life as well, trusting in His placements and the people I would meet.

As one of the older participants, the Pastoral Placement Program provided a welcome opportunity to delve further into the Catholic faith I have always loved. It was surreal to meet and be surrounded by not only other Christians, but Catholics who understood the importance of Mass, the Sacraments and who adored the Holy Trinity. It was an eye-opening experience to know that there were other young people who loved Jesus and wanted to talk so openly and freely about Him and His mission.

I enjoyed seeing other young Catholics share their faith and I was encouraged to do the same. It seemed a perfect fit that the Holy Spirit would lead me to be assigned to Mission and Outreach as my first placement. I was fortunate to witness the University of Newcastle Chaplaincy at work and to meet members of the UoN Catholic Society. We celebrated Mass every Wednesday and I realised how blessed the students were to have a young priest available on campus for Holy Mass and Reconciliation. I was amazed to see that even during the rush of university life, there were students and staff coming to worship in between lectures and tutorials.

All Pastoral Placement participants were invited to volunteer at the Caritas Launch on Shrove Tuesday. We attended a liturgy and were invited to help serve pancakes. I witnessed Sacred Heart Cathedral full of vibrant primary and high-school students entering alongside their dedicated teachers. It was a shift in realising the importance of our Catholic schools and the influence principals and teachers can have in shaping students’ faith as they mature into young adults living out the Gospels.

We were also invited to attend a morning talk with Sam Clear at the Student Leader Retreat, held at Newcastle Quest Apartments. He spoke about his mission, Christian Unity. It was a motivating and inspirational talk that encouraged me to reflect on my own calling from baptism, in being a “missionary disciple”.

When COVID-19 restrictions were introduced, the transition from being around exciting new people to now working creatively from home was at first, challenging. As a group, our monthly gatherings are now scheduled online and the web-based videoconferencing tool Zoom is the new way of keeping up with each other. Working online has given us the opportunity to slow down and carefully plan how we spend our hours over the next few weeks. I have been able to delve into creating visual and written content for the new Facebook page, Graced in Wisdom Catholic Media. The inspiration is to present traditional prayers, Novenas and with Mass suspended, homilies. At a time where people are using devices and social media more often, Graced in Wisdom Catholic Media hopes to break up the mundane scrolling with inspirational, thoughtful and prayerful visual and written content based in Catholicism.

The Pastoral Placement Program has opened not only my eyes, but my heart as well to exploring God’s work. It has given me the opportunity to discover and improve on the talents that I knew, and did not know, I had. It has pushed me to step out of my comfort zone in meeting new people, talking about Jesus with strangers, and welcoming the Holy Spirit to take total control of not only my work life, but my whole life, in surrendering everything to Jesus.

Natalee Bonomini

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Natalee Bonomini

Natalee Bonomini is a Newcastle writer.