Thank you to Helene O’Neill and Louise Gannon for taking the time to write the Tuesday’s with Teresa column over the past two weeks. I had arranged some occasional writers at the beginning of the year, so as to feature their thoughts about different aspects of diocesan life.

Helene chose to write about Chaplaincy in the diocese because of the proximity to our diocesan Chaplain’s Day with Bishop Bill, while Louise chose to write about Religious Life because of National Vocations Awareness Week. At the time of their accepting the invitation to write their respective messages, I could not have known the unfolding of that two weeks in my life.

For the regular readers of this column, you would have read my occasional words about my husband’s dad, whom we cared for a few times last year and who also celebrated his 100th Birthday in June, 2018. Unfortunately, he became unwell just two weeks ago and passed away peacefully on Friday 2 August. As many of you would have experienced, the death of anyone, no matter the age, brings with it lots of emotions, lots of planning and lots of communicating with immediate family members, extended family members and the wider community. We have had a busy two weeks as we honoured him at his funeral last Friday.

I spoke the following words as part of my reflection at the funeral:

The great thing about our faithful journey with God, is that every day is a new beginning, an adventure without a map. We have a destination, but the journeying may take us into unchartered directions.

So I felt privileged to read the second reading on Sunday from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews (11:1-2, 8-19) about faith. Paul refers to the faith of our ancestors in faith, particularly Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. I share with you some of his words:

Faith is the realisation of what is hoped for
and evidence of things not seen……

for he (Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations,
whose architect and maker is God…..

All these died in faith.
They did not receive what had been promised
but saw it and greeted it from afar
and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth,
for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.
If they had been thinking of the land from which they had come,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better homeland, a heavenly one.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for he has prepared a city for them.

In light of Allen’s dad’s death, this spoke powerfully to me. As Christians we believe he has returned home after living a long and good life. There were about 200 people at his funeral because he was able to remain active and connected till the end of his life. The ritual of sending him homeward, was a good one made up of story-telling, prayer, the commendation, committal and the sharing of food and drink. I had the privilege of leading the ritual and of leading the people behind the hearse to his final resting place. The final walk in silence and prayer was a true blessing for all. It is comforting to know he is at rest in the heavenly homeland to which St Paul refers.

I am sure most of you remembered the feast day of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop last Thursday, 8 August. On this day, Bishop Bill convoked our Diocesan Synod. You will find the convocation and Bishop Bill’s homily on the diocesan website under 'News and Events'. I recommend your listening to and/or reading this. I share some of his words with you, as he reflects on the reading from St Paul to the Colossians 3:12-17, a reading which Allen and I had read at our wedding and one that I find provides me with a mandate for living a Christian life. Bishop Bill speaks of the message of Christ finding a home in us.

As we move towards our Synod, we hear the other exhortation of Christ speaking through St Paul, as to how we come together.

May the message of Christ in all its richness find a home in you.

That’s where we think about who we are to be. By the message of Christ, the message of His life as much as His teaching.

Then we come together to teach each other, advise each other in all wisdom, with gratitude in your hearts. Never say or do anything except in the name of Lord Jesus. Giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

So as the Ceremonial of Bishops remarked, what we do is not simply about administration, it is about being the sacrament that the church is called to be. The sacrament that the individual baptised Christian is. The sacrament, the sign of God’s power at work that any parish, any community is called to be; that we as a Diocese are called to be.

As we move towards our Synod we let the peace of Christ reign in our hearts, and we try to let the message of Christ in all its richness find its place in us. Then we might share with each other what all of that is about, and how we can better be that message of Christ incarnated in a people, in this place and time.

I would ask you all to keep constantly in your prayers the Synod, invoking the presence of the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us all. And asking Mary MacKillop (the unofficial patron), first saint of our country, for her prayers for us, as we journey together to try and serve the Lord, and shine the light in our place, as she did in her place and time.

The Diocesan Synod Working Party and the Plenary Council Core Team met just over a week ago to progress both the Plenary Council and Diocesan Synod processes. I hope to do some further work on those this week, and to get information out to you as we prepare and discern what the Spirit is inviting us to do and to be.

May Allen’s dad be at rest, at peace and at home, in God’s loving presence and with those who have loved him in this life and whom he has loved. This is our eternal hope.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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