TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: The meaning of love

It is hard to know where to begin this week’s message because of the number of events, meetings and gatherings where I have found myself over the past week.

Once again I will list for you a number of the opportunities provided in the diocese throughout the past week:


-           Pastoral Ministries Staff Retreat


-           Calvary Mater – Mission, Vision, Values meeting

-           Data and Analytics Steering Group meeting

-           Ecumenical and Interfaith Council meeting

-           The Called to Serve Mass for those who work in Catholic Schools


-            Diocesan Leadership Group (DLG) meeting


-           Bishop’s Staff Mass

-           Diocesan Association of Pastoral Ministers meeting

-           Ecumenical Social Justice Network dinner


-           Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry meeting

-           Caritas meeting


-           Parish Gathering at Scone

-           Parish Gathering at Muswellbrook

I did also have time at my desk and in other smaller meetings with those with whom I work. And if you are wondering, I do go home, eat dinner and sleep!!! I am sharing this diversity with you in order to give you a sense of the emerging complexity and challenges of exploring with others what God is calling us to at this time in our diocese.

Each event, meeting or gathering provides me, and the many who are there, the time and conversation to ponder the great mystery we call life, and to share, in prayer and presence, our faith, hope and love.

On Monday, the Pastoral Ministries staff had the opportunity to share their story and also a prayer or reflection that was significant to them. I believe we are very blest in our diocese to have such wonderful people, pastorally ministering across a diverse range of ministries – Worship and Prayer; Formation and Education; Mission and Outreach; and Leadership and Structure. We are active in these areas so as to give the diocese a sense of our Catholic Community and Identity.

Here are some key themes or values that emerged from our day and sharing:

  • Courage
  • Forgiveness
  • Contemplation
  • Gratitude
  • Living in the light
  • Relationships
  • Journeying
  • Taking time
  • Inspired
  • Companioning
  • The five F’s – Faith, Family, Food, Fun, Fitness
  • Holiness
  • Mercy
  • Hospitality
  • Healing
  • Commitment
  • Faith
  • Witness
  • Enlighten

I think these words are a great reflection on the week. I am convinced that in sharing stories, something of the Spirit is uncovered and we collectively begin to see God in the ordinariness of our lives and ministries and to those we minister to. The word that was then used to sum up all of these words was LOVE.

I was really touched by and impressed with those who received awards at the Called to Serve Mass. Each year those who have worked in education for 25 years or more are acknowledged and receive an award. A number of people came forward for these awards, and then there were also awards given out for the following categories:

  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Excellence in Teaching
  • First Five years of Teaching
  • School Support

each citation was read, the awardee stood humbly between Bishop Bill and Gerard Mowbray, the Director of Schools. Almost all of them were also acknowledged for their active contribution to the life of their parishes. I was left with no doubt that these people are totally committed to Jesus Christ.

I think this was repeated on Saturday when about 50 people gathered at Scone in the morning, and 40 people gathered at Muswellbrook in the afternoon, to explore what it means for each parish to have a new Parish Priest and what outcome they are hoping to achieve over the next 6 to 12 years. At each of these gatherings, teachers were present and contributing with enthusiasm and care. Both Fr Velerian and Fr Victor are keen to provide a model of collaborative leadership in both of these parishes. Those who gathered are looking forward to growing the faith life of their parishes.  Fr Velerian is actively engaged in the ‘walking ministry’ where, on his daily walks, he chats to whomever he passes. It appears that he is discovering a lot of ‘unknown’ Catholics. It was great to feel the energy of the parishioners at both meetings.

Of concern was the overwhelming sense of busy-ness with those involved in reaching out to people – in parishes, healthcare facilities, social justice, education, corporate services, social services, priestly ministry, leadership, etc. At one of the meetings someone used the term ‘The New Normal’. I believe this to be true. Business as usual (BAU) has become fast paced, complex, challenging and requires the use of many skill sets (multiskilling or multi-tasking). Many people are stretched, and some are beginning to struggle under the weight of these new and heightened expectations. Teachers are even indicating that children are being impacted by an unprecedented busy schedule.

At both the Scone and Muswellbrook parish meetings, families and parishioners being time-poor surfaced as a concern, particularly when it came to giving time to participating in the Mass or the life of the parish community. During the week, I sensed a fatigue amongst those I encountered.

I wonder if we are able to intentionally step away from the frenetic pace of the seven day a week, pre-dawn to post-dark cycle. To be fully human is to be a mystic, to be contemplative, to pray and be one with humanity, all creation and our creator. When I see people exercising – walking, riding bikes, running, swimming etc, I hope that it brings them a deal of pleasure, but sometimes I wonder if this is just another task to fit into their daily routine. One of my daughters, who is a nurse, begins her day at 4.30am in order to exercise. Needless to say, she is always tired and stressed.

Through the week the Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs IV (Jesus, who went about doing good) was prayed at several Masses I attended. These words struck me:

Bring your Church, O Lord,
to perfect faith and charity,
together with Francis our Pope and William our Bishop,
with all Bishops, Priests and Deacons,
and the entire people you have made our own.

Open our eyes
to the needs of our brothers and sisters;
inspire in us words and actions
to comfort those who labour and are burdened.
Make us serve them truly,
after the example of Christ and at his command.
And may your Church stand as a living witness
to truth and freedom,
to peace and justice,
that all people may be raised up to a new hope.

I am grateful to the many people who have journeyed with me during the past week. They are people of great grace and hope. They are my companions on the journey, and I am blest because it is with them that I break bread and share wine.

And to finish, the message with the chorus of the last hymn at the Bishop’s Staff Mass, reminding us that:

And they’ll know we are Christians
by our love, by our love.
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

(They’ll Know We are Christians – Peter Scholtes, 1966)

Until next week, just a reminder that Deacon Graham Fulllick is to be ordained on Saturday at the Cathedral at 10am, and on Tuesday 25 February, Bishop Bill will be launching Project Compassion in the Diocese at the Cathedral at 10.30am, followed by pancakes in the Southern Cross Hall. I hope you are able to join us for both occasions.


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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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