Saint of the day
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From the despair of a life of trauma and almost pre-determined poverty, the MacKillop Fund could lift this young lady and her family into opportunity.
In 2013, a local priest came to the MacKillop Fund Committee to ask for help for an impoverished family in his parish. He saw their need, and knew that a Catholic education will make a world of difference for the children in this household.
The mother had been a victim of a violent sexual assault at a young age and her oldest daughter Beth* was born as a result. After years in a refugee camp, mum and daughter were given a home in Brisbane, where the Catholic community embraced them. She later married and had a son with severe Down syndrome and then another daughter. Their financial struggles were too much and her husband left the family.
By the time Beth’s bursary application reached us, she had two siblings and her mum was once more surviving as a single parent.
Through the generosity of our local community who support the MacKillop Fund, Beth was the first recipient of a MacKillop Bursary and was cast an enormous gift of hope. Entering Year 8 in 2014 she was given the care she needed in her local Catholic secondary school. She flourished. She and the other five bursary students from that inaugural cohort proudly graduated Year 12 last December.
What’s more, not only is Beth thriving – she is an inspiration. In February 2019 Beth began a degree in Biomedical Science at the University of Queensland. From the despair of a life of trauma and almost pre-determined destiny, a MacKillop Bursary made it possible for us to lift this young lady and her family into opportunity. Your support will go on to be transformational for this biomedical student and for the world she seeks to reshape for the better.
The best news? Beth’s sister is about to start secondary school with the help of a MacKillop Bursary. She wants to be just like her older sister when she grows up. Beth has become her role model, and on-going donations to the Fund means that her young sister has the same opportunity.
*While we change the names of students and family members to protect the privacy of MacKillop Fund
bursary recipients, please know that their stories are real.
That’s the biggest question about American politics right now according to Professor Simon Jackman, the CEO of the United States Studies Centre in Sydney, who provided his insights into the American political landscape contrasted with Australia. “Imagine Australian politics without compulsory voting – politicians would be seen at school P&F meetings a lot more for instance. It would change things so much.
Samantha Cohen joined the ACP in July to share her story of how a girl from Brisbane ended up in Buckingham Palace.
Greg Sheridan AO is a noted journalist for The Australian newspaper and one of the nation’s most influential national security commentators. At this luncheon, Greg asked existential questions that are important to both Christians and non-Christians alike, including: Is God dead? Why is Christianity vital for our personal and social well-being? Why does the world need faith now more than ever? A thought-provoking afternoon filled with discussion and laughter followed, as you will see in the clips below.
Deacon Tom Duncan is looking ahead to his ordination next month with great excitement and, most of all, he’s looking forward to celebrating his first Mass. He said in some ways there was no other answer. “(Mass) is not the only thing a priest does of course, but it is at the heart of the priesthood,” he said. “And when the call to the priesthood first came to me, it was really grounded in that – I looked forward to celebrating the sacred liturgy.”
Deacon Duncan’s call went back to his time at Marist College, Ashgrove. “I was at a time in my life where I started to pray and have an interest in the Bible, just more of a consciousness of the presence of Jesus,” he said. “I didn’t really make sense of it at the time, that that was going on with me.”
But as the real world loomed at the end of his Year 12 studies, he told himself he had to make a decision about what he wanted to do with this life. “It’s a huge thing to be put to you at that stage,” he said, “and I thought I had it all more or less fairly worked out. “I never had any huge, big dreams. “I thought I’d come back to Miles and become a builder like my dad, probably take over his business and get married and live a normal life like my mates.”
But a deep emptiness revealed itself within him. “That was frightening because all of a sudden I had this sense that everything I wanted to do and everything I thought was my life totally wasn’t my life,” Deacon Duncan said. He wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. “But I had this sense deep down that I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life – I could go there but once I achieve that, then what? There was something missing.”
So he turned to God. He asked God what God wanted him to do. “All of a sudden, things changed and it’s difficult to say how I heard it or how I felt it, but the word priesthood or the idea of the priesthood was in my mind,” he said.
Will you support other young men, like Tom, discern the priesthood? Your support will help our parishes and ministries now, and into the future.
It was never a path Deacon Duncan had considered. “And I thought, ‘No way, that’s not me’,” he said. “I was always in trouble at school and I guess I was seen as one of the naughty boys, and it just seemed so opposite to what I was like. “And I pushed that idea away. “But the more I pushed it away, the more it came back and it was a niggling thought. “And the more I sort of avoided it, the more I felt like I was lying to myself somehow, which is quite an unsettling feeling.”
Eventually, he gave in and consented to the Lord, saying, “Lord, if that’s what you want me to do, make it happen because I have no idea.” Deacon Duncan had never heard of a seminary or a seminarian at that point. “When I accepted it and thought ‘Okay, well maybe that’s what I’m going to do’, I imagined myself as a priest in the future, and I felt the opposite of that emptiness,” he said. “There was this fullness and this fire in my belly that was also startling because I didn’t know that was possible.”
Once he committed, he ended up at Canali House, a house of discernment in Brisbane, and seven years later, he said that initial calling had deepened considerably. It was a very different life from his small hometown of Miles, about two-and-a-half hours west of Toowoomba – but still within Toowoomba diocese, where he currently has his diaconate placement.
But between his time in Brisbane at Marist College and in the seminary and his time in his country town of Miles, Toowoomba felt like a good middle ground. “It feels like home even though it’s very different from where I come from,” Deacon Duncan said. “I feel at home here with the people here, and I have a sense that these are the people I’m called to minister to. “It feels like coming home.”
Deacon Duncan had learned a lot about the importance of the people of God in his diaconate too. “In some ways it’s obvious, to be a priest, it’s a life oriented towards God’s people and service but I didn’t realise how much I needed them in my own spiritual life until now, really,” he said. “Like my own prayer life is nourished by the relationships, the ministry relationships, I have in my parish, which was unexpected.”
Over the course of his formation, he said he had many role models but none more influential than Bishop Anthony Randazzo, who was rector at Holy Spirit Seminary for about half Deacon Duncan’s tenure there. “He was very personally invested in each one of us, deeply,” he said. “And we – I say we because others felt the same – we knew that he cared for us, genuinely.
“Something about that allowed us to connect in a special way, but allowed me to learn from him more deeply because I was more open or I could value more what he had to offer.”
Deacon Duncan said Bishop Randazzo was a bloke who knew what he was talking about and that he had learned a great deal from that. Looking forward into his own priestly ministry, Deacon Duncan said his prayer life was at the core of who he was. “The centre of my life is my relationship with Jesus,” he said. “Being with Christ all day every day, I’d say that is my life and that’s something I hope will characterise and shine through in my day-to-day ministry.
“Because it’s that time I spend in prayer each day that nourishes me but not only nourishes me but gives me energy – it’s the core of who I am. I feel like I’m not myself when I don’t have the opportunity to pray, and I certainly don’t feel like I’d be a real priest if I didn’t have that.”
Published in The Catholic Leader, 16 May 2019
Will you consider supporting the next generation of priests studying at Holy Spirit Seminary? A gift – no matter the size – will help to provide for the education and formation of 23 seminarians currently studying at the seminary.
Monsignor John Grace and the staff at Holy Spirit Seminary welcomed six new seminarians to Banyo this year. Starting the year with a Commencement Mass, Msgr Grace reflected on the occasion with the following sentiments:
Looking out at the congregation gathered for our Seminary Commencement Mass on Sunday, one face stood out to me. Shining with pride and a mother’s love, Angela Greathead was clearly moved to see her son Michael sitting among his fellow seminarians for the first time.
A local from Banyo, Michael is one of six seminarians who have begun their journey at Holy Spirit Seminary this year. After the Mass Angela said, “Michael was up early and ready to go…it reminded me of his first day of school!”
I am sure all of the new seminarians feel the same way – enthusiastic to be starting their formation journey and blessed to have family, friends and supporters who believe in them.
This year, 23 seminarians are discerning a life of service to the priesthood and studying at Banyo. They will be guided along their journey by our committed staff of clergy, religious and lay people. We warmly welcome Father Kevin Smith, who is joining us in the role of vice-rector and director of the pastoral program.
Every one of us deeply appreciates your prayers, encouragement and thoughtful financial support to strengthen our Church. This work would not be possible without your devotion to the growth of the Church in Queensland.
Please join me in praying for the seminarians. I look forward to watching that “first day of school” excitement develop into a deeper love of service for the Church and a personal joy in their vocational call.
Sitting in her classroom, Vanessa’s* eyes light up and a huge grin spreads over her face. Mr Brian Eastaughffe is principal of Clairvaux MacKillop College on Brisbane’s southside and loves seeing this expression. He explains: “It’s the moment she finally understands what her teacher has been explaining. You can almost feel her confidence swell.
“As an educator, you cheer on every child, but when they have experienced a disadvantaged background, these moments mean just a little bit more.”
Vanessa’s positive experience is just one example of the vital work of the Mary MacKillop Catholic School Access Fund. The MacKillop Fund is a unique bursary program that supports families experiencing extreme circumstances. Some are refugees and others are coping with a major loss, illness or family breakdown.
Having witnessed first-hand the life-changing benefit of the MacKillop Fund, Mr Eastaughffe believes the fund reflects our core mission as a Catholic organisation and reminds us that supporting vulnerable children is an essential part of who we are. “New buildings and the latest equipment are wonderful, but seeing a vulnerable child realise their potential is one of the most powerful things in the world,” said Brian Eastaughffe.
In 2018, five students (who were the first to receive a MacKillop bursary in 2014) will graduate high school. This wouldn’t have been possible without your support!
The Fund is named in honour of Australia’s first saint who committed her life to give children in need a quality Catholic education – the Fund continues her legacy. With your help, more students will be given the opportunity to achieve their unique potential through the gift of Catholic education.
* We’ve changed Vanessa’s name to protect her privacy, but please know that her story is real. Photos of actual bursary recipients are not used as their identities are kept in confidence.
Over the decades, priests show their faithful dedication to their vocation and the teaching of Jesus and His saving mission. These men of God have travelled with us and our families for generations and are grateful to be present in your lives. Even as they enter their senior years, they continue to fulfil their calling give invaluable support to their brother priests, parishioners and our community through pray, word and deed. It is a generosity for which we are very grateful.
As they reach their later years, it is now our turn to care and provide for them.
Like Father Clifford Ellis. He retired from his parish in 2012 because of poor health – well before the ‘official’ retirement age of 75. Thanks to your support, he was able to get the care and support he needed to find a new home, medical and convalescent care.
On his recovery, he was also able to take on a new ‘assignment’ – as a mentor to a young man about to enter Holy Spirit Seminary. Now, six years later, Father Ellis and the newly ordained Deacon Joshua Whitehead are still firm friends.
The Priests Foundation provides vital services to sick or elderly priests who have given their lives to offer Christ’s love to the spiritually poor. Your ongoing generosity demonstrates your genuine care for the well-being of our priests and honours their freely given service to God and the Church, now and into the future.
Will you consider a gift to the Priests Foundation?
Gifts over $2 are tax-deductible.
They met when Cathie was 14, only a few years out from her native Scotland and have been together ever since. They’ve two children and three beautiful grandchildren, spread between New Zealand and Melbourne. Their marriage has stretched beyond 50 years, forged by challenges that would have shaken others apart.
For the last 20 years, Phil has lived with dementia. He was diagnosed at age 55 when he was riding high in Australia’s corporate world. “He was almost genius level,” Cathie said, recalling the razor-sharp mind that mixed with empathy and humour to create a highly-regarded manager. And then Phil started “losing his words”.
Cathie had noticed it but thought nothing of it. But one of Phil’s good friends noticed it. He was a doctor, and adamant Phil be tested. “I’m just so glad he told us – those early tests meant that we could get treatment straight away.”
But the last 18 months at home with Phil have created new challenges. Phil has recently lost the ability to recognise what he’s looking at. “He can hold a photo of his children and grandchildren but he doesn’t realise that they’re the family he has loved dearly,” she said.
How does she cope with the strain as this great love story enters this phase? “We have a great love for each other,” Cathie said. “That has helped us a lot. Right from the beginning, we had a partnership. Also, I’m pretty stubborn. That’s a part of it.”
Cathie was never too stubborn to ask for help but, like many encountering dementia for the first time, she didn’t know there was help available, so she just pushed on. Eventually, a medical professional came to Cathie to discuss the best ways to help Phil. “She asked me if I had heard of Centacare. I was quite naïve – I didn’t know anything about them,” Cathie said.
“But Centacare has helped me a lot. They do so much work with partners of people with dementia. I know that if I ever had any trouble or don’t know what to do next, I can turn to Centacare and they will help me.”
Phil attends Centacare three days each week. The visits help him to socialise and to continue his long fight against the effects of dementia. Cathie has become a regular at Centacare’s Memory Café – an innovation that is spreading across the Archdiocese.
The Memory Café brings together people with dementia and their carers. They swap stories, socialise, hear from industry professionals and enjoy each other’s company. The Memory Café at the Churches of Christ’s Moonah Park at Mitchelton last month drew one of its largest crowds. Cathie was among them.
“I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to come to the Memory Café when they started,” she said. “It’s a great idea. It’s great for people to speak to each other. Everyone I talk with has different symptoms. But, really, they are all the same symptoms.
“People may say: ‘my husband does this’. It’s different to what my husband does, but I can understand how it affects them.”
The idea for the Memory Café was sparked by the first Alzheimer Café in the Netherlands in 1997 that was set up to help with the emotional elements of living with dementia including fear, helplessness and stress.
Centacare’s Memory Cafés are held bi-monthly at Mitchelton, Gympie, Hervey Bay and Kingaroy. For more information, phone Centacare on 1300 236 822