TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Listen to the Heart

I am writing this message on the First Sunday of Lent, where the readings challenge us to discern between the voice of good and the voice of evil.

I loved listening to the Second Reading from St Paul to the Romans (5:12-19), which provides us with an image of the magnitude of divine grace, through Jesus Christ, in overcoming the fall of humanity. It is God’s grace that makes us righteous.

Once again, I have been blessed to experience God’s grace in many places during the past week through:

  • The launch of Project Compassion
  • Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent
  • Reflection on the one-year anniversary of the commencement of the war in Ukraine
  • The outpouring of grief for, and of, the people of Turkiye and Syria
  • A forum/campaign on Listen to the Heart by Common Grace
  • A workshop with our diocesan Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry Council and the Reconciliation Action Plan Reference Group
  • Personal encounters within Pastoral Ministries
  • Enjoying a weekend at home, in all that it offers.

So of all of these, I thought I might invite you to stop and to think about “Saying Yes to the Voice”, as the ‘Yes’ campaign will be officially launched this week. Later this year, a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Constitution and to enshrine and Indigenous Voice to Parliament in the Constitution will be held.

Professor Tom Calma AO used his speech when announced as Senior Australian of the Year 2023, to outline the case for a Voice to Parliament. It is well worth a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jghcAR_wR40

You may also like to view this link from Common Grace from their Listen to the Heart campaign. Listen to the Heart

While viewing the Common Grace Forum on Thursday night, followed by the workshop on Friday about our diocesan Reconciliation Action Plan, I found myself thinking about the Catholic Church’s invitation to be on a synodal journey and the Makarrata mentioned in the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart proposed three important steps to enable First Nations peoples in Australia to take an active part in making the changes that could bring about justice and dignity –

  • A Voice to Parliament
  • Truth Telling and
  • Treaty

Interestingly, the meaning of the word Makarrata is the coming together after a struggle. It captures the aspirations for a fair and truthful relationship with the people of Australia and a better future based on justice and self-determination.

At our workshop on Friday, we spoke about synodality, our journey in the church to walk with each other respectfully, listening deeply for a better future. Many of those at this workshop were not familiar with this term, let alone its meaning.

The Uluru Statement from the Heart is an invitation for us to walk with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a movement for a better future.

I think this is what Pope Francis is asking of us on our synodal journey. Respectful relationships based on deep listening, truth telling, connection, and gracious conversations.

Within the Hunter Community Alliance, we do this by sharing stories that impact on us personally, our private pain, which then turns into public action.

Common Grace has identified three phases in their campaign – listening, training and mobilising. It aims to do this by connecting churches relationally across the country in a call to action. It is inviting all of us to be influencers, while keeping a focus on all of us being safe.

I love the images of sitting around the campfire in aboriginal art. They depict the sharing of stories in a gentle, respectful, non-threatening space in order to build genuine relationships which value the dignity of the other.

You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you. And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. (Pope John Paul II, Alice Springs, 29 November 1986)

Pope John Paul II called on us, more than 30 years ago, to work with renewed commitment for justice and inclusion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

I finish with the words of a Prayer for the Voice from Safina Stewart from Common Grace:

God of wondrous possibility
Take my story and my life
Give me courage to stand for justice.

God of dreaming and mystery
Forgive my blind complaining
Give me vision to walk remembering your history.

God of truth and love
Take my bruised hands and feet
Give me strength and grace to stand for truth.

God of safety and singing
Take my mouth and my voice
Give me words to inspire and encourage.

God of knowledge and creativity
Take my whole being
Help me stretch, broaden and deepen.

God of goodness and hope
Take my connections and influence
And help me stand for Voice and Justice.


We are blessed to be able to call Australia home, this great South Land of the Holy Spirit. May we honour the spirituality of the first people of this nation by journeying with them for truth-telling, reconciliation, and a voice for justice. The invitation is one of having gracious conversations, as we are all members of God’s family.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

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