TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Communities of faith, hope and love

Once again, my Sunday night has come around quickly with nightfall coming earlier than usual because of the change of daylight-saving time.

I have returned from the afternoon at St Joseph’s Toronto, where we prayed the Ecumenical Way of the Cross, encountering our ‘Church without Walls’ series which is part of our ongoing synodal journey. I hope you have been watching the videos in this series, in which people tell their story of encounter, relationships, connectedness, and making Jesus real in many unlikely places.

At each of our fourteen Stations this afternoon, real stories from the heart were told. Students from our high schools read the scriptures, and, as each storyteller finished their narrative, you could hear an audible gasp through the gathered community.

I thought I would share with you the stories we heard at each Station:

  1. Jesus’ Last Supper - CatholicCare Food Programs at Civic Park
  2. Jesus in the Garden - The Environment
  3. Jesus before the Sanhedrin - Ukrainian family connections to the war in Ukraine
  4. Jesus before Pilate - Refugees are welcomed
  5. Jesus is scourged - Hello Hunter and Soul Café
  6. Jesus takes up his Cross - Dadirri - Aboriginal deep listening
  7. Jesus is helped by Simon - St Vincent de Paul (Helping–up)
  8. Jesus speaks to the Women - The cries of mothers
  9. Jesus is nailed to the Cross - Church Community losses
  10. Jesus and the Good Thief - Prison ministry
  11. Jesus speaks to Mary and John - Mothering
  12. Jesus dies on the Cross - Caring for the sick and dying
  13. Jesus’ Body is brought down from the Cross - The sacredness of life
  14. Jesus is placed in the Tomb - Funeral ministry

I can still feel the power of the stories and the darkness, resilience and hope with each one. But mostly the realisation that many good people are making Jesus real as they encounter others who need a hand-up. Making these connections, listening to people, and holding them in their darkness, gives them hope in themselves and in humanity. The common thread was Jesus and communities of faith, hope and love.

I share with you the prayer that was prayed at the beginning of journeying the Way:

Loving God, author of all gifts; We praise and thank you for all the gifts you have entrusted to us. Pour out your Spirit upon us so that, true to our baptismal promises, we may form faith communities that recognise and promote the gifts in all people so that we may all share in the mission of Jesus. Inspire us to be a Church that is welcoming and accepting, and which sees everyone as an expression of Christ. May our faith communities nurture and commission all members to live our particular gifts as a reflection and imitation of Jesus' life. Give us the courage to be the light of welcome in the darkness of exclusion, a voice of gentleness in the wilderness of the unheard and an outstretched hand of love to those longing for community. Amen. © Australian Catholic Bishops Conference 2013

As I look back on the week that has been, I have been engaged in a variety of wonderful and challenging experiences. Just to name a few:

  • A Social Justice workshop
  • Mass of the Land of the Holy Spirit at Largs
  • Hunter Community Alliance Strategy Team and Steering Committee meetings
  • Synod Working Party – Governance Focus Group
  • The Plenary Council and People Webinar
  • The funeral of Lita De Luca
  • Parish conversations at both Sugarloaf Parish and Wallsend-Shortland Parish

It is good to be in these spaces with others imagining how we, the Catholic Church in our Diocese can, and does, make a difference. This afternoon’s Way of the Cross and Lita’s funeral remind me that we have a vocation, a purpose to be lived in community and when that purpose is lived fully, God welcomes us home with joy. At Lita’s funeral, Fr Gerard Mackie spoke of the image of people dancing with delight in heaven, as they greeted and met each other. What a wonderful image as we journey through these last two weeks of Lent in preparation for the Triduum. 

Certainly, the time spent with the parishioners and Parish Priest and Assistant Priests at both Sugarloaf and Wallsend-Shortland Parishes reflected the highs and lows of the reality of our present parish communities. And yet we are a people of hope, journeying synodally with each other, imagining a new way.

During this month of April this year there are a number of significant religious celebrations, including:

  • the holy month of Ramadan which began on Friday 1 April and entails the discipline of fasting, spiritual reflection, and the giving of alms.
  • the 8-day Jewish festival of Passover or Pesach which celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This year, Passover begins in the evening of Friday 15 April and ends in the evening of Saturday 23 April.
  • Holy (Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Day celebrations - this year from April 14-17 for many Christians, and, for our Orthodox brethren, from 19-24 April.

Blessings to all these faith communities, as we/they follow the ritual and practices of being the people of God.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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