FAITH MATTERS: She may have left the building, but her heart and soul are still here with us

We have recently farewelled a colleague and friend.

Mandy Greaves has worked for the Diocese of Maitland Newcastle in several roles, most recently in the Pastoral Ministries team as librarian. She has spent her entire life working in schools and yet when the opportunity came up to explore life in her workplace outside of school, she seized the day and placed her heart and soul into the Diocesan library.

Mandy says, “Since I have been at the diocese, the project to reinstate what was the St Lawrence Centre and the Newcastle Christian Library previously located at Broadmeadow has been challenging. My role was to assist with finding a space where we could create a new library. While that was being investigated, I had to relocate all the resources from the previous space and resources that were scattered all over the diocese. We moved them all out to Lochinvar. I have spent the last three years cataloguing books, getting rid of old, damaged books and sorting duplicated resources.

“I went through all the resources and found the gaps of what we needed. The Dilly and other collections were all collated, furniture that was stored for over four years needed to be cleaned and re located.

“Part of the project was to work out the best space for the library, it was decided to use the Tribunal Building (corner of Tudor and Parry St), however, it took a long time to finalise the plans and costings. Towards the end of last year decisions were made and the renovations have finally started. The library will be opened early in 2023.”

Mandy recalls her passion about using the library as a mechanism for connecting people of common faith. “I love how we can provide information that will help others on their life journey,” she says. “A Christian library is there to assist people in their faith journey, to help them connect with resources that will inform life’s purpose. Whether people are connecting with their God, have a yearning for some spiritual connection or connecting with resources that will help them on their spiritual journey.

“I’ve met some incredible people, some of whom my path may never have crossed had it not been for this role. A lot of people want you to know their story and where they are at and when they do that you get a sense of what they need or where they are at in terms of research. I really enjoy that. There is an acceptance of where they are at, without judgement at all, open to their beliefs about God. Some people you think you may never have a connection with, you end up developing an amazing connection over time because you get a private insight into their thoughts beliefs and yearnings based on what they borrow.”

Mandy recalls an interesting time in her work that highlights the closeness and connection we all have, with six degrees of separation.

“We came across a book; when I had a young teacher librarian on work experience and she was helping me sort the books," Mandy says. “She opened this book and inside was a letter from a famous Australian poet Peter Skrzynecki, written to a Sister of St Joseph, Sr Colleen Carney, who has since passed away. As a teacher librarian in high schools for many years I was required to teach some of his works. I learnt to love his poetry, so to come across a personal letter addressed to a sister from Lochinvar was such a blessing! The letter mentioned a profound impact that Sr Carney had on Peter on his faith journey. I could see that Sr Colleen had a profound influence on Peter during a pivotal time in his own faith development. I contacted Peter through Sydney university to tell him of the letter, written back in 1975. He called me and we struck up a friendship as he shared stories and told me of the impact that Sr Colleen had on him. Our friendship was during the depths of COVID, so he had time to share Sr Colleen’s influence as they were both studying at Armidale university during the time, he wrote the letter.

“It showed me the interconnection that we all have. We are not that far separated from people. Peter took me on this real journey. It cemented with me the joys and sorrows of the lives of so many and has been an amazing insight as to how people can touch the lives of others.”

Mandy fondly recalls how working in the library has allowed her to see that everyone can reveal something of themselves through the literature they read.

“Bill Wright’s entire collection showed great insights into his life. His love of history was evident and to have a look into the interests of a bishop at first hand was a blessing. There were thousands of books that he had in his collection. He had a fascination for history, he had a diverse fiction collection, including modern Australian writers and he displayed a great love of Graeme Green. Quite several books in his collection are from deceased members of the clergy, which again gives you an insight into their interests and what is happening in the church at that particular time.”

So as Mandy and her husband Paul set of on a new adventure in the Northern Territory, we back in the Pastoral Ministries team pray that they may be filled with wonderful memories of life and work in the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese. And if the walls of the new library could speak, I’m sure they would be whispering “Mandy’s in here with us too.”

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