A life-changing experience

It was late at night on the day the Pastoral Placement Program application was to close that I decided to apply for the position.

After a friend told us about this “amazing opportunity” to work with the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese on the Pastoral Placement team, my brother Curtis and I were very interested to explore this position. My brother was at the stage of his life where he was looking to explore his vocation, so, stepping back, as little sisters do, I supported him in applying for the position rather than myself. However, the Holy Spirit had other plans. Curtis was moved to explore another pathway, opening up the opportunity for me to apply for the role.

On the night the position was to close, Curtis told me he had decided not to apply. Immediately I began typing up the answers to the application questions. I submitted my application roughly an hour before the closing time at midnight. Looking back on that day I can clearly see that I was moved by the power of the Holy Spirit. God had a magnificent plan for me. At that stage in my life I had drifted from God. I had only just begun to come back to my faith, testing the waters of attending church for the first time in years. Applying for this position was an incredible leap of faith. I have no doubt in my mind God wanted me to be a part of this amazing experience in the Pastoral Placement team.

My first Pastoral Placement occurred when Mary-Anne DeLuca invited me to the Youth Evangelisation Leaders School retreat in Sydney. The opportunity to be immersed in God’s word, surrounded by other young Catholics, was a life-changing experience for me. It opened my eyes to the beauty of living with God and the impact he can have on your life. Ever since that moment I have been closer to God and can see his workings in my daily life.

Next came my first Pastoral Placement, at the University of Newcastle Chaplaincy. I was excited to learn more about the Chaplaincy. I had seen it in passing when I was on the university campus but had never entered its doors. I was surprised to learn of all the things it does, from providing an environment that comforts and supports students, to celebrating Mass every Wednesday. As part of this placement I was provided the opportunity to help organise the Mass with Father Camillus for a very special event — Ash Wednesday. It was inspiring to witness students and staff take the time out of their busy university schedule to come and gather in the chaplaincy to celebrate together — a reminder of the importance of taking the time to be with God and appreciate all that he has done and continues to do. Another opportunity I had on this placement was to work with the University of Newcastle Catholic Society.  The society is a community of friends joined by faith, love and service — a place for students to learn more about Catholicism as they participate in different events on and off campus.  I was blessed with the opportunity to sit on the UoN Catholic Society table at the Orientation Week Clubs and Societies event. What an incredible experience this was to talk with students about God. The most rewarding part of this placement was watching the courage of students who would walk up to the stall and engage in conversation about their faith, whether they were practising Catholics or interested in exploring their faith.  To hear the stories of the students was truly a blessing. It was on this placement I received from one of the chaplains my first-ever Bible. God has really provided for me. What an incredibly God-filled experience this placement was.

Then came the news we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. This time of social distancing has provided the opportunity for me to step back and be creative in my work. Moving to the online platform has brought the Pastoral Placement team closer than ever. We see each other every week, sometimes three times a week, via Zoom. Rather than going out and doing individual placements in the different agencies of the Diocese, we are working together on new and exciting projects that are supporting our community during this period of uncertainty. I have had the pleasure of partaking in numerous faith formation courses online, such as Special Religious Education, Alpha series, and Prayer and Liturgy Workshops. A very special moment for me was delivering a “Topic Talk” to my Pastoral Placement team on the theme of love. During this talk we explored God’s love within the scriptures, focusing on how we have witnessed God’s love working in our lives over the past weeks. An exciting venture I am currently working on is developing my own resource to teach faith formation lessons online. I am very blessed with this opportunity as coming from a primary and childhood education background I am incorporating all my passions into the one project. Exciting times ahead.

My Pastoral Placement team has provided such incredible support to me, and everyone around them. To think I have only known my team for roughly five months seems unbelievable. The team has come to feel like a family, checking in on each other, praying and providing support when needed. The new initiatives and ideas I see from my team daily continue to have me in awe and I look forward to seeing what ideas we come up with next on this incredible journey of which we are a part. This opportunity has truly been a blessing from God.


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