I am writing this week’s message from the Gold Coast, where I am staying with one of my daughters who recently had a baby.

The key purpose of my stay is to assist this growing family settle into the pace and routine of life with a new family member, as well as to begin the bonding process which is so essential for me as we welcome each new member of our family. They now have three boys and as you can imagine each of their days and mine is very busy. I can’t begin to imagine how many steps I do every day and how many times I wipe the benchtops, runny noses and wash my hands. Fortunately, most of us are young when we have children, because the days are constant and bed is a blessing at the end of the day.

As I contemplated this message for the week, I have been mindful that this weekend we are remembering, what will be known as the Perpetual Day of Remembrance, for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of members of the Church, especially priests. We know the awful history of our Church in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and the stories of abuse, of cover-up, and of silence that have had such devastating impact on the life of survivors and their families.

The Diocese has committed to marking 15 September each year as a Day of Remembrance. In 2017, at the launch of Lina’s Project, Bishop Bill made a public commitment to an annual Day of Remembrance.

As I hold my youngest grandchild and have the other grandchildren around me, and as I think about my own children growing up, and then my own large family of brothers and sisters, I cannot imagine how some adults convince themselves that abuse of children is OK.

I came to work in this diocese in 2005, and I know how much has been done since then to keep children safe, and adults accountable, but this does not take away the shame, harm, hurt and failures of what has gone before and what remains with us. As my most regular readers would know, I believe in a nonviolent world in which everyone lives in harmony and peace. No form of abuse is acceptable, and I recognise that no one would argue with this, and yet in the Gospel of Mark (8:27-35) from this weekend, Jesus finds himself teaching his disciples that he would suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed. His disciples, especially Peter, did not want to accept this, and Jesus remonstrates them and it is from here that we hear Jesus’ words about suffering:

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.

While I acknowledge that to live is to suffer, we nevertheless, must commit to a different future, while standing in solidarity with the many who have suffered. Our story, the story of abuse, of silence, of cover-up, must be the point of departure for our future, and it must always be our point of reference for our actions, as we seek to atone for what has been perpetrated against innocent children.

In his recently released Letter to the People of God, Pope Francis reminds us:

Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (Evangelii Gaudium, 228)

The Holy Father goes on to call on the entire People of God to embrace penitential prayer and fasting in order to “awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.” 

The annual Day of Remembrance can form part of this penitential prayer and fasting, helping us, in the Pope’s words, to:

as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

I hope many of you around the diocese were made aware of this Perpetual Day of Remembrance.

The weekend readings remind us to emulate Jesus in the way we live our lives. This belief must take root in the heart. We certainly hear about this in the reading from the Letter of St James (2:14-18) in which he writes about the essential place of having both faith and good works.

Indeed, someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

May we be a people of both faith and good works, as we struggle to be who we are meant to be. Even Jesus found himself asking the question, “Who do people say that I am?”





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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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