This first day of February marks the beginning of my work year in the Diocese. We are still living in uncertain times, and I am conscious that many are feeling the anxiety, stress and strain of the past two years.

However, I hope our summer break from the routine that mostly governs our lives, has provided you with some down time and a time to reflect on what matters most to you.

I spent time recovering from surgery, which afforded me some time to read, reflect and ponder God’s mission in our Diocese. During January, Allen and I travelled north to the Gold Coast to catch up with our children and grandchildren before spending a few days exploring some of the many delights of Sydney.

In thinking about this first message for 2022, I thought I would list what might impact on us as a diocesan community over the coming year:

  • The continuing COVID pandemic
  • The appointment of a new Bishop
  • Our ongoing Diocesan Synod processes
  • The Plenary Council which meets again in July
  • The Bishop’s Synod on Synodality in Rome in 2023
  • Our Lenten Program calling us to contemplate and dialogue
  • The continuing Church without Walls series
  • The education and care provided by our schools and early education
  • The outreach provided by CatholicCare Social Services
  • The life of our parishes

In thinking and praying about our mission and call to synodality the readings throughout January have invited us to reflect on our call to be missionary disciples.

We heard the following words from the prophet Jeremiah (1:4-5, 17-19):

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
before you came to birth I consecrated you;
I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

Over these weeks, we have been listening to the St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (Chapters 12 and 13) in which he calls us to contemplate the many gifts of the Spirit:

  • Preaching with wisdom
  • Preaching instruction
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Power of miracles
  • Prophecy
  • Recognising spirits
  • Tongues
  • Ability to interpret tongues

Jeremiah was called because he had the gift of prophecy. I wonder what specific gifts you have been called to exercise in this time and place. St Paul reminds us that we are together in Christ’s body, with each of us a different part of it. And of course, from his great words about love – there are three things that last, faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love.

On Australia Day, while at Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, I thought of our Diocesan community, as I listened to the reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans (12:9-13)

Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers and sisters should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care.

I think this reading reflects what our Diocesan Synod continues to call us to, as part of our five foundations:

  • Identity and Community
  • Worship and Prayer
  • Formation and Education
  • Mission and Outreach
  • Leadership and Structure

And now to remind you about Synodality, and the journey we are on as a diocesan community, along with the Australian and Universal Church.

The Statutes and Regulatory Norms of the Plenary Council state: “With his conception of ‘a listening church, a synodal church’, captured in the notion of ‘synodality’, Pope Francis brings together the three conciliar emphases [of Vatican II] on the Holy Spirit, the participation of the faithful in the life and mission of the church, and the need for dialogue between all the faithful.” Accordingly: “The preparation, celebration and implementation of the Plenary Council shall be informed by the teaching of Pope Francis on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops: ‘A synodal Church is a Church which listens, which realises that listening “is more than simply hearing”. It is a mutual listening in which everyone has something to learn. The faithful people, the college of bishops, the Bishop of Rome: all listening to each other, and all listening to the Holy Spirit, the “Spirit of truth” (Jn 14:17), in order to know what he “says to the Churches” (Rev 2:7)’”.

I have no doubt that 2022 will be a synodal year for us as a diocesan community, one that calls us to move from maintenance to mission, so that our impact on the world will make real God’s message as taught and lived in the person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

May our call and work in evangelising, catechising and becoming missionary disciples inspire us to be witnesses of the divine dance of life.

When we dance, especially with a partner, on some level we surrender. There must be a yielding of the will and an openness to let the music carry us. To dance with authenticity and presence in the moment, we must let go of self-consciousness and surrender ourselves, allowing the song to touch our whole person: body, mind, and heart. (Fr James Mallon, Divine Renovation – Beyond the Parish, page 320)


Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries
1 February 2022

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Teresa Brierley

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