TUESDAY WITH TERESA: Share your voice

Thanks to Helen Belcher for her message to you last week about the Plenary Council and our own Diocesan Synod. I trust by now that you are aware of both, and are keen to be involved. Some of our parishes are inviting people to engage in the Plenary Council Listening and Discernment process before Christmas, while others are going to wait until February. It is important that as many of you as possible respond to the process at a national, diocesan and parish level. We are attempting to ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying’.

I am conscious that there are people who do not believe that there is any point being engaged with the processes to which they are being invited. This disappoints me, because if you fail to share your voice, how can we discern what the Spirit is saying?

At Mass last week, I was moved deeply by the following reading on faith, from 2 Timothy 1:6-8. 13-14

I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.

My last week has been busy, yet interesting, as I go about the ‘work’ of faith. I have visited a few parish leaders and teams to speak with them about the Plenary Council, and Diocesan Synod, as well as other areas of the pastoral life in our diocese. On Friday, I attended The Hunter Climate Summit, which I will share with you later in this message. On Saturday, I went into the ‘wilderness’ for an Ecumenical and Interfaith picnic on a farm in the Singleton district. There were about 25 adults (Christian and Muslim) and lots of children (Muslim). It was a wet and happy day for all who attended as we shared food and the stories of our lives. It was good to be there, surrounded by rolling hills and to drive through the farms with cattle, horses, sheep and goats. I have no doubt that creation is good for the soul, and a bit of mud and cow manure also helps! Then on Sunday, after Mass at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, I attended Evensong at Christ Church Cathedral for Breast Cancer Awareness. It is good to be at the top of our City in prayer for the wider community with its hopes and struggles. A breast cancer survivor spoke powerfully of her two year journey since the diagnosis of breast cancer. Her story was followed by a Litany of Healing and Thanksgiving, with the following sung interlude between prayers:

My peace be upon you for ever,
my love be within your heart,
my Spirit will keep you safe all your days.

And now back to Friday where at least 100 people from a large number of sectors gathered at the Wollotuka Institute, at the University of Newcastle, for The Hunter Climate Summit. The day was designed to achieve maximum involvement in thought, word and action. The organisers are to be congratulated for the diverse presentations, workshops, panel conversations and table talks. The key aim was to invite those in attendance to begin conversations and to make connections. On the flyer the purpose was expressed as:

That you leave the day with 4 things, informed by themes of relationship, care, connection and commitment.

This was outlined in the following:

  1. An understanding of the specific climate risks to the Hunter;
  2. A greater sense of your place and connection with other communities concerned about and most vulnerable to these effects in the Hunter;
  3. Contacts and plans to work with at least three new people from outside your sector, plus reinvigorated connections and plans from within you sector;
  4. Participation in a draft list of “resolutions/recommendations” from the summit arising from the ideas wall. And the beginning of a structure for your continued work together out of 3 above.

Representatives from the following sectors attended the Forum – workers, faith, health, youth, aged care, education, disability, LGBTIQ+, women, refugees, direct action, climate groups and First Peoples.

Also gathered were people seeking solutions – social and economic change, renewable energy and revegetation and forests.

There were so many skilled and talented people, who were there with one thing in common, to seek out a way to care for our common home through relationships and shared connections. Every small part has an impact on each other part. I will write in a couple of weeks about the need to share a vision and hope. We could easily be using the language of this forum for our own Diocesan Synod. One of the statements used was that “little things move the dial.” From a scientist’s perspective, all parts of our ecosystems are connected, and if one part is interrupted, then it must impact on another part of system. It is this interconnection that we need to be aware of, pay attention to and act.

One of the presenters used the term the “Power of the Co”, and the slide was passed over very quickly, but as I thought about our need for transformation of systems the following words came to my mind:

  • Consultation
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Coordination
  • Co-creation
  • Communication
  • Consultation
  • Consensus
  • Co-responsibility
  • Contradictions
  • Collective
  • Continuum
  • Community
  • Complex
  • Conversations
  • Contentment
  • Connectivity
  • Contemplation

I am sure there are many other powerful ‘Co-’ words you can think of, and which we could use to work with others to plan for the transition and transformation of society. The focus of the Forum, like the movement of broad-based community organising, is about building relational power. There appears to be a growing movement towards the re-building of civil society, a movement away from bureaucracy and the economy as the key drivers for society and to the people. 

I feel blest to be in the spaces I find myself and to participate in the dreaming of the possibility of creating a new way of being. I know this is what our faith is calling us to.

On this day, the 15 October, the Feast Day of St Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582), my patron saint, I finish this message with her great prayer for us:

Christ has no body

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands,
yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes,

You are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.