Faith and Life
Catholic Diocese of Wollongong
March 2012
In this Issue
Responding to a Call
Liturgy Notes
God in the Everyday
Addressing Bullying in a Catholic context
Ten Questions With...Stephen Varney
Ministry Profile
Helpful Hints
Links and Resources
Upcoming Events
July / August 2012 Diocesan Calendar
NAIDOC Week Celebration
Hospitality Workshop
Answering Atheism
Upcoming Music Workshops
Young Adult Retreats
Marriage Encounter Retreat Weekend
Australian Youth Ministry Convention
Responding to a Call

By Fr Richard Healey (Diocesan Vocations Director)

Many people seem to find the idea of a call or vocation very mysterious. So much energy is spent either thinking about a call, or perhaps more often, in distracting ourselves so that we don’t have to think about a call!

So – what is a call? How do I know if I have one? Read more

The second question is easy to answer, because every person has been called by the Lord.  That is why we were created in the first place.  We are not, as Pope Benedict said “some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.  Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” 

The first call that each of us has received is to be loved by and to be in relationship with Jesus.  It is only to the degree that we understand this and begin to truly live this primary relationship that we will ever be able to attend to any other call.

But the truly wonderful thing is that once we do open ourselves to Jesus and discover at least something of our identity and purpose in him, then naturally we wish to know how to live this out in our life.  I found this to be so true in my own life.  When I was in school I had very little idea what I wanted to do in life – besides making bucket loads of money.  But once I discovered that Jesus was not just a person that I could read about in a book, but someone that I could actually know, then the direction of my life began to change.

So how do you work out what it is that God wants you to do with your life (and this can be at any age)?  A few things will definitely help:

  • Spend time with Jesus – the point of our lives is to grow more deeply into an intimate and loving relationship with him and those around us.
  • Spend time in silence. Although music is a fantastic gift, we all need to spend some time disconnected from the noise, and allow God to speak to us in the silence.
  • Learn to follow Jesus. The first thing that Jesus did was to invite people to follow him. This meant they just hung out with Jesus – watched him, listened to him, ate and walked with him. We need to do the same, by reading and praying the scriptures. When we begin to live like Jesus, then we are much closer to knowing what our particular call is within the church.
  • Be open and generous. When we have even a vague sense of what God is calling us to, we need to be open to it and respond to the call with a generous ‘yes.’
  • Talk to God. Ask him what he wants for our life. Remember that he only wants what is the very best for us. If we continue to grow in love for the Lord each day, then anything that emerges will be filled with the greatest joy and true peace.
  • Take time to explore the many resources offered through our Diocesan Vocations Website

Liturgy Notes

By Paul Mason (Diocesan Liturgy Coordinator)

Welcome to the July edition of “Liturgy Notes”. The announcement last month of the PSALMIST Music Ministry Development Program for the Diocese has been well received to date. We have already received seven scholarship applications and a number of expressions of interest. Four people have come forward offering to provide Voice Trainer services and a list of Voice Trainers is being prepared for circulation to parishes. Read more

Did you know that Saint Dominic is now celebrated on August 7th as an optional memorial? Included in this e-newsletter is an article on changes to the Australian liturgical calendar introduced this year with the new Missal. A liturgical calendar is also available as an “.ics” file for download to Outlook, iCal and other compatible Calendar applications. Details of the upcoming liturgy training and music workshops are included, as well as a review of seasonal psalm 34 (Taste and see), and our regular section on recommended music selections for upcoming Sunday Masses.

View this month’s articles by clicking the links below:

God in the Everyday

By Trish McCarthy (Faith Education Officer, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine)

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the complex nature of our lives: things to do, people to see, places to be, deadlines to meet. But these things grow dim in the light and presence of One we love. And it is this that I keep coming back to in my role as Faith Education Officer for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD).Read more

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to see in action God’s Grace; not only in my own life, but in the lives of the Catechists I work with and in the lives of the students whom they touch through their ministry; each encounter reflecting a moment of Grace, an opportunity to ‘receive’ and be ‘touched’ by God.

Fundamental to this, in my own experience, is to not miss the little things; being open to God in the pure simplicity of life.  An example of this is the privilege of meeting catechists and students and listening to their story.  To see students engaged by the lessons lovingly prepared in faith.  To see both catechists and students enfolded in God’s Grace as they move throughout their lesson.  To feel the strength and conviction of catechists in their everyday journey with God from which flows love and hope shared openly with those they encounter.  To hear laughter and energy amongst the students as they learn and grow. To experience the presence of God in both the hive of activity and the stillness of reverence and awe in classrooms.  It is about simplicity, the little things: A smile, creativity, a word of gratitude, laughter, connecting, stillness, conversation, the ‘Ah ha!’ moments, quiet, a spark of inspiration, embrace. A moment of Grace.

These little inspirations tucked away in the pocket of life’s momentum are like stumbling across a nugget of gold, a pearl of great price.  They appear quite unexpected but have the potential to change the course of our day.  It’s not always about looking for them but being ready when they present themselves and embracing them as a gift from God to brighten our day, strengthen our character and reward our faithfulness.  Perhaps too it can be summarised in the words of Bernadette Farrell’s hymn: ‘Everyday God’

Living our Faith: Addressing Bullying in a Catholic Context

By Gail Tarrant – Education Officer: Pastoral Care (Catholic Education Office, Religious Education and Learning Services)

Everyone, at some level, can identify with the experience of bullying, especially during the formative years at school. Some people brush it off as part of the knocks of life, others can be deeply traumatized and feel the pain for years to come.Read more

Being bullied because of being different from others is hurtful and can lead to isolation, fear and a loss of one’s dignity and power to live life successfully. 

The prevention of and response to incidents of bullying behaviour in any community and especially our school communities, is an important task.  Bullying, cyber-bullying, harassment, aggression and violence disregard core values of our faith including dignity, respect, justice, equity, compassion, trust and courage. Such actions can adversely affect the spiritual development and wellbeing of victims, especially children, and are therefore unacceptable. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of all Catholic social teaching and inherent to core values expressed in the Gospels. The principle that the person is made in the image and likeness of God is central to the mission of all Christian communities and is especially significant in Catholic schools.

Whilst the internet and mobile phone technology have brought great advantages, these technologies have also unfortunately brought negative consequences. Bishop Peter Ingham’s Pastoral Letter on Internet Safety (2008) states: “Together with the mobile phone, the Internet has transformed the way that conversations are held, friendships are maintained, entertainment is sought and information is gained. ……In identifying some of the dangers of the Internet, and bringing some of the wisdom of our faith tradition to bear upon them, it is our hope that we can all be alert to those aspects of the Internet which can be a danger to our safety, to our human dignity, and to our relationships with each other and with God.”

One response, created for the school environment and utilizing this new media, is the Anti-bullying Learning and Teaching Resource (ALTER).  Inspired and performed by students, ALTER is an innovative video production that uses their voices and experiences together with the music of Coldplay’s Fix You.

It was developed collaboratively by the Diocese of Wollongong Catholic Education Office, the Catholic Church Offices and students from St Joseph’s Catholic High School Albion Park, Corpus Christi Catholic High School, Oak Flats and St Paul’s Primary School Albion Park.

ALTER focuses on the impact of bullying and provides innovative and practical strategies for youth to address this issue.  It is an engaging visual stimulus which calls students to think positively, respond compassionately and act with courage in future incidents of bullying.  One student described ALTER as having “uplifting, inspirational images that empower you to take control of your life.”

Although early in its implementation, ALTER has already received high acclaim in schools with the NSW Catholic Education Commission recommending that ALTER (and the accompanying Student Anti-Bullying Policy) be considered for adoption by all dioceses in NSW. The resource has also been used during the Keynote address of Professor Toni Noble at the National Centre Against Bullying Conference in Melbourne, Australia.

As bearers of Christ’s love we are all called upon to uphold the dignity of each and every person.  Through our efforts and God’s grace, each of our communities, whether school or parish, can become environments of care and support, promoting positive relationships and reflecting Gospel values of dignity, respect, justice, equity, compassion, trust and courage.

Click on the video above or check it out on YouTube at:

Ten Questions With...
Stephen Varney
Diocesan Seminarian
  1. When and where were you born?

    I don’t like birthday attention so I keep the exact date to myself. It was the early eighties and the town was Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

  2. What do you normally eat for breakfast?

    I’m a big fan of cold, refreshing breakfast , so usually cereal, but I’ve been getting into poached eggs lately.

  3. What inspired you into journeying towards priesthood?

    While working in Canberra as an Engineer and being involved with the young men of God movement I began to feel the need to give more of myself and not just stay within the rules, and asking: “What gifts had I been given that needed to be shared?”

  4. Pick three words that describe your life so far?

    Blessed; Stressed; Adventure.

  5. What has been the biggest challenge on this journey so far?

    Learning to let go of things that are outside of my control.

  6. Who are your heroes?

    St Nathaniel (Jn 1:45-51), Pope Benedict XVI, Andrew “Sandy” Irvine (famous mountaineer), Jimmy Carter (former US president), and Bernard O’Reilly (Australian Author and bushman, famous for heroic plane crash site discovery) among others.

  7. What has brought you the greatest joy on this journey so far?

    Preaching and teaching on Sacred Scripture.

  8. In what ways do you experience God’s grace in your life?

    God’s calm presence in prayer.

  9. What inspires you in your ministry within the Church?

    Members of the church less fortunate than myself who display great holiness.

  10. In 25 words or less, what hope do you believe the Church offers the world today?

    Truth for society (cf. Jn 18:37-38) “Jesus said…’For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ ‘Truth?’ said Pilate. ‘What is that?’”, and Hope for humanity (cf. 2 Cor 4:16-18) “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Ministry Profile

YMT - An Anointed Collaboration
By Christopher Brennan (Team Manager, Youth Mission Team Wollongong and Stephen Toohey, National Director, Youth Mission Team)

“Before, I wasn’t sure about God and I wasn’t sure about myself and my thoughts. But through the talks and skits it really made me realise that God is there for me always and loves me always…” the inspirational words of a year 10 student after experiencing a Youth Mission Team reflection Day. But what is the Youth Mission Team?Read more

Youth Mission Team (YMT) Australia is a national youth organization that has been operating throughout Australia for 27 years.  With teams based in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Wollongong, YMT comprises young men and women who defer tertiary studies or career for 12 months in order to serve as a team of youth ministers in schools and parishes. The team’s mission is to provide young people with an authentic encounter of the Gospel by facilitating reflection days and retreats for senior secondary students.  In following up this work in schools, YMT offers a broad system of follow-up referred to as the iSTAND Generation.   

In 2004, at the invitation of Bishop Ingham, YMT Australia’s initial presence in the Diocese of Wollongong commenced with the establishment of a National Office and Training Centre.  After further consultation and discernment, Bishop Ingham invited YMT Australia to establish a Wollongong-based YMT.  As a result, YMT Wollongong was launched in July 2007 as part of a multi-faceted strategy to prepare for, and capitalize on, the grace that would flow from the upcoming World Youth Day in Sydney 2008.

Since that time, operating in the spirit of the New Evangelisation, YMT Wollongong has facilitated retreats and seminars in Catholic and Government High Schools right across the Diocese, ministering to several thousand young people every year.  In addition, they have offered a broad network of follow up to their work in the schools through weekend camps offered every school holidays known as iSTAND Generation Weekends.  The iSTAND Generation Youth Group is based in Corrimal Parish and has just celebrated its fourth birthday with youth travelling from as far away as Kiama and Stanwell Park each Friday night. The youth who attend these nights have created their own network of friends and attend Mass and run social events for other young Catholics in addition to the events organized by YMT. 

For most young men and women serving with YMT, their motivation is to make a difference in the lives of others.  And yet, one of the most consistent comments from team members over many years has been that while they saw amazing things take place in the lives of the students, they also experienced a remarkable degree of personal and spiritual growth in their own life.  The prayerful lifestyle that the team adopts obviously results in personal spiritual growth but the growth in character and in general life skills is also a wonderful fruit of serving with YMT.  While serving God for a year in this way requires real and tangible sacrifices, it seems that we can never out give God through what we receive in return as team members.

YMT Wollongong has been so blessed to have the wonderful support of Bishop Ingham.  We greatly appreciate and value the assistance and positive working relationship we’ve enjoyed with Diocesan office staff, the staff at the Catholic Education Office and the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) team.  We believe that this collaboration has been anointed and in this Year of Grace, we pray that our contribution to the Diocese’s embrace of the New Evangelisation will continue to result in many, many young people coming to know their immeasurable beauty and dignity in Christ. 

For more information regarding YMT Wollongong, please contact Christopher Brennan (Team Manager) on 0433 636 359 or or follow YMT on Facebook or Twitter.

Helpful Hints

Establishing a New Ministry Group
By Richard McMahon (Diocesan Director of Parish Services)

Sometimes, as a result of community gift discernment or a pastoral planning need, a new group is required. A member of the Parish Services Team will happily assist with the following steps:Read more

  1. Does the group address a real need in your community?
    The best groups spring up from the enthusiasm of community members in response to a real need, and are then incorporated into an existing pastoral plan. If there is only community enthusiasm, then this may wane if a plan does not support the group and integrate it into the wider life of the community. Equally, even the best planned group will fail if there is no enthusiasm from the community to participate. Community leadership support is essential to any new initiative.
  2. Can your community identify similar groups operating in other communities?
    Chances are, groups like the one you are planning already exist. Why not contact the Parish Services Team in the Bishop’s Office? Besides having an awareness of what is happening across the parishes, they also can check through national networks and offer a contact.
  3. Does the group overlap with any existing ministry areas?
    Be careful before announcing a new group. An existing group may feel they are being disenfranchised. A way forward is to talk with existing groups first, listen to their concerns and shape the new group in a way which can work creatively with them or at least honour their own contribution.
  4. How will the group connect with other ministry areas?
    Be sure that both its participants and the other ministry areas are aware of what each offers and how they contribute to one another. Most importantly, be sure that the community is aware of the role of the new ministry area.
  5. Are there people with the gifts and time to participate?
    Once clear on the above steps, call a meeting of enthusiastic people. Do those present have the time and gifts to fulfil the role? If not, this means it may not be the season for this new ministry to be born.
  6. Does the group have a clear agreed goal?
    The meeting can also focus the goal of the group. SMART goals are a well established way of determining a clear focus for the ministry. It may have a clear start and finish date. Does it need face to face meetings? What are the measures of the life or success of this ministry? Once agreed, this becomes the basis of a set of guidelines and role descriptions for the group. For instance, ensure people do not have to sign up for life. Take special care with any coordinator role.
  7. Is there a transparent process for group selection?
    A sign of a healthy group is its openness to members. Is there a general way people from the community can become involved?
  8. Is the group appropriately resourced?
    This relates to planning above. Enthusiastic groups end quickly if they are not resourced. Do they have a budget? A place to gather if needed? Access to administrative support if required? Do members require training or formation?
  9. Communications
    A new group can sometimes suffer from isolation. Ensure it becomes part of communication channels, that it has a voice within the pastoral council or other peak bodies.
  10. Spiritual basis
    In a Catholic community, how does this group serve Jesus Christ and the mission of the Church? How will it be formed in an ongoing way in its role? What part does prayer and life in the Eucharist play in the role of this group?
  11. Review
    Have a time to review this group early on to iron out any issues.
Links and Resources

Here is a list of links and resources relating to Faith and Life:Read more

Website and Bishop Peter Ingham


Youth & Young Families

Liturgy & Music

Faith & Spirituality

Inclusion & Outreach


Sacraments & RCIA

Pastoral Councils & Pastoral Planning

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Contact Us

Darren McDowell
Coordinator of Parish Services
(02) 4253 0985