TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Making a difference

Our weekend reading from the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2, 10-11) serves as a reminder of who we are anointed to be, and what it means to be wrapped with the cloak of integrity.

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison;
to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

I find one of the better storytellers in the Newcastle Herald is Scott Bevan, and in Saturday’s Newcastle Herald (12/12/20) he wrote a wonderful tribute to Brian Gilligan (1948 – 2020), A green life, gold legacy. He begins the story with:

He was, by nature, a gentle man.

He was, for nature, for all of us, a leader and an educator, a diplomat and a protector.

Brian Gilligan, the man who devoted his life and career to conserving the environment and helping shape the community’s appreciation of where they live, has died.

He was aged 72.

“He’s left this world a much better place, because he showed us how to love, to be kind, to forgive, to do what’s right for the greater good,” said Mr Gilligan’s daughter, Kate Murray.

“Everything was about everyone else. He always put everyone else in front of himself. He was selfless.”

The article then finishes with the following words:

As Brian Gilligan said, as he walked through the bush in February, life was about trying to make a difference.

“If you’ve got any capacity, if any of us have got any capacity, whether you’ve got a cancer diagnosis or you haven’t, if you’ve got any capacity to move things in a positive direction instead of the divisive, tribal way we’ve been dealing with things, you’ve got to give it a go.”

Clearly, Brian Gilligan was a man of integrity. These words resonated strongly with me because of our own Diocesan Synod. I believe the 400 people who came along to our first session of synod in November 2019 were there because, like Brian Gilligan, they cared and were keen to have a voice in making a difference, to imagine what our church and our world might look like going forward.

We are now asking for the different Catholic groups from across our diocese to discern who will be invited to come to sessions 2 and 3 of our synod. While the various groups will be represented, we are seeking people who are willing to think like Brian Gilligan, to think broadly beyond their own tribal group. They will also need to be people who are prepared to listen to a wide variety of voices and to discern collectively what the spirit is saying as we seek to ‘Build the Kingdom of God Together”. 

The bigger question I believe is, “What does it mean to be a Christ-centred Church?”

On Sunday afternoon, I attended the memorial service for Tom Jones, a leader in the Bahai community, who was actively engaged in University Chaplaincy, the Ecumenical and Interfaith life of our local community, as well as the United Nations Society. Leaders from faith communities, the University and Federal politics paid tribute to his wish for a more unified and harmonious world. It was good to be there to remember him and he will be greatly missed for his wish to make a difference based on the Golden Rule.

I can think of no better way to finish this message than to use the words of the second reading from the Mass of the weekend from the first letter of St Paul to the Thessalonians (5:16-24)

Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything – hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. God has called you and he will not fail you.

A reminder to you to visit the Diocesan Synod website www.domnsyod.com.au to be kept up to date on our preparation for the second and third sessions of synod.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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