I am aware that the first Sunday in February (Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time) has been designated by the Australian bishops as Word of God Sunday, typically held on the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time in other parts of the world.

The text chosen by Pope Francis for Word of God Sunday is “Blessed are those who hear the word of God” (Luke 11:28).

While walking through the Cathedral columbarium, when leaving the diocesan offices on Friday afternoon, I had a sense that Bishop Bill was in his usual place on the veranda watching me while enjoying his favourite pastime. I turned around to check, smiling and realising, of course, he was not there. In sensing his presence and knowing what we would be reflecting on over the weekend, I recalled his motto – In Principio Verbum. He loved and lived scripture and the following words explain this part of his is Coat of Arms:

The motto In Principio Verbum is taken from the first words of John's Gospel, In the beginning [was] the Word. From that context, the motto stresses that our faith is built on Christ himself, the Word of the Father. In its shortened form, In the beginning, the Word, the motto is also intended to signify the importance of the Bible: that we do not make up the Christian faith according to our own lights, but are to be challenged to respond to all that God has given to us in scripture and tradition.

Finally, the motto is intended to remind the bishop that his first duty is to preach the Good News, as the Latin will also happily bear the translation, ‘In the first place, the Word’.

We continue to remember Bishop Bill and pray for his eternal rest, while asking him to guide those who are discerning our next bishop, and while remembering the primacy of God’s word revealed to us in the Scriptures.

During the week I took the time to explain, to a new staff member, the various books, on one of our bookshelves, that help guide Catholics – the Sunday and Weekday Missals, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Daily Mass Book, the Ordo, the Code of Cannon Law, a Daily Prayer Book, the Lectionary, the Divine Office, and the Directory of the Australian Catholic Church. I realised in my holding these books and explaining their use, how blest we are to have these many wonderful guides, but more especially, our lectionary. Each day of the year, we are directed to our scriptures to lead us while giving us hope. Across the globe the same prayers and scriptures are being prayer from the beginning of day in the Pacific Ocean to end of the day 24 hours later. How awesome, the universality of our church and the order it provides to us.

Our scriptures are very important to us, and since Vatican II many Catholics have actively taken up various opportunities to study them. Last year, quite a few parishes and young people took part in the Alpha program, where people are invited to have conversations about faith, life and God. Bible studies are run in some of our parishes, while others participate in Lectio Divina and contemplative dialogue. I hope more Catholics will engage with the many opportunities provided, so as to encounter a deeper and richer understanding of the gift of faith given to us.

During the week, I attended virtually the Regional Worship and Prayer Gathering in which hundreds of people gathered to pray for our region, either across eleven hubs (Muswellbrook, Singleton, Cessnock, Branxton, Maitland, Raymond Terrace, Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, Newcastle), on line or via Rhema FM, coordinated by Rick Prosser from Kingdomworks. The live sites were hosted by ministers from a diversity of Christian Church backgrounds. It was a powerful time of oneness and hope for our region, because we are better together.

The power of the evening came from a diversity of scripture passages chosen and prayed over the region for unity, love, strength, courage, confidence, restoration, spiritual awakening, leadership and transformation. John Marks from Rhema FM was honoured for his 30 years of serving the community in Christian radio. We have a radio program, TheJourney, broadcast every Sunday evening on Rhema FM at 6.30pm, thanks to John Marks and the Diocese of Wollongong.

The Word of God was centre and foremost for this prayer gathering across Christian denominations:

  • For the oneness of the Body of Christ to emerge (John 17:12)
  • For the witness of Christ to increase (Nehemiah 4:14)
  • For a spiritual awakening across our region (Isaiah 58:12B)

I invite you to click on the image below to join into this powerful hymn of The Blessing Australia taken from Numbers 6:24-26 in which over 300 churches joined together from all corners of our nation to declare a blessing over Australia. I am sure you will identify some familiar faces and their voices: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OOt7baaVSbE)

The Lord bless you and keep you,
The Lord make his face shine upon you,
and be gracious to you,
The Lord turn his face toward you,
and give you peace.

I invite you to daily pray the scriptures either in word or song, individually or with others, with the purpose of shining the light of Jesus over yourself, your family, your workplace, your parish, your community, our leaders, and the nation.

Blessings be upon you for the week ahead,


Teresa Brierley
Director Pastoral Ministries
8 February 2022

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Teresa Brierley

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