Letter from Australia
Dear Sister Theresians,
Greetings from Down Under! It is my turn to write to you from Sunraysia Theresians in Australia!
Our Sunraysia Theresians met up for our monthly meeting last week at the home of Theresian Frances. We are very blessed that Frances leads our group, and we love sharing her home with her and her very quirky cat. He’s not that keen that we take up his mum’s time and is often very vocal about it. He sometimes even plonks himself in the middle of the table to ensure he is noticed.
Val led us in prayer as we focused on “Community,” one of the Theresians Five Dimensions. We reflected on the qualities that we admire, respect, and cherish in our own community.
As our planned speaker was unavailable, it was fitting with our theme of Community to hear from Frances about her migration to Australia as a child from her homeland – Scotland, and of her faith journey along the way. Frances came to Australia by boat at a time when the Australia government was encouraging Europeans to migrate to our beautiful country and help increase our workforce. The travel cost of ten pounds under the assisted passage program saw many take up the offer and migrant hostels were set up to house our “new Australians” until they moved into the community.
In Scotland, Frances had attended the Church of Scotland and enjoyed the social side of attending services. In Australia, she attended several different denominational churches before she met her soon to be husband, Karl, who was a Catholic. Frances’ family was concerned that she might become a Catholic – which was quite normal during those times when even Christian churches were not inclusive. (Thankfully those days are a thing of the past here in Australia).
There was no expectation that Frances convert to Catholicism but it was something she chose to do just before her marriage. She has had a very interesting journey from a young girl in chilly Scotland, to living in the city in Melbourne, to marrying Karl Sabo (whose family had come from Yugoslavia) and living and working on a dried fruit property in the Mallee, one of the hottest parts of Northwest Victoria. Frances’ husband passed away in 2015 and she continues to be a great support for her son Paul who has significant injuries as the result of a severe car accident which happened over 30 years ago.
It was lovely to listen to the life journeys of our sister Theresian and we are very grateful to be a small part of it!
Sending all our love from your Aussie Theresian sisters!
By Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
At an ordinary Sunday Mass a few months ago, I was sitting with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, trying to refuel and reconnect for the week ahead. It was a typical Mass. Nothing unusual, until the pastor began his homily. As his words grew, my God bubble burst. The pastor’s message was not one of Jesus’ love, but rather one of judgment and condemnation. I wanted to raise my hand and say, “Excuse me, but what about love?”
I know not all homilies will be good. Some are boring. Some are hard to understand. Some may not be a message for me. When that happens, I know to focus on the crucifix and try to remember the real reason I am there.
But this homily from this pastor, and a few of his subsequent messages, have left me deeply saddened and frustrated. I feel anger – soul-level anger. I even questioned if I converted to the wrong faith. Why did you call me here, God?
On Palm Sunday this past week, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend Mass at a different church during a quick weekend getaway. In the heart of downtown Chicago, a city of over 2.5 million people, at a parish that serves thousands of families, we were welcomed with a warmth I was craving. We could feel Jesus’ redeeming love in the air. The message from the pastor and from everyone we encountered was one of love. I left Mass feeling enriched, engaged, and connected, even though we were complete strangers among strangers.
The experience reminded me of a chapter I recently read by Catholic theologian William Cavanaugh called “Pilgrim People.”* In this piece, he says, “Salvation history is a comic love story...” He goes on to write, “Attraction to the Christian life occurs when one can see a concrete community of people living out salvation, living reconciled and hopeful lives in the midst of a violent world… The church is meant to be that community of people who make salvation visible for the rest of the world.”
Why am I telling you all of this during the Easter Triduum? I’m not completely sure. Maybe it is to be honest that sometimes I find church and community challenging. But, yet I am always totally and completely amazed when I encounter a community of people who are living this cosmic love story in visible ways with arms opened wide.
My hope is that this Easter you find opportunities to experience the cosmic love story of redemption, that you are welcomed into your community (family, church, and Theresians) with loving warmth, and that you become a witness of Christian hope and love in our violent world.
P.S. *If you are interested in reading Cavanaugh’s “Pilgrim People,” it is in the book Gathered for the Journey: Moral Theology in Catholic Perspective” (2007), David Matzo McCarthy & M. Therese Lysaught, eds.
By Tammy Townsend Denny, TI Executive Director
This week I would like to share with you the first of three videos featuring Theresians sharing about how they find hope for the future.
Please feel free to share this video with your Theresian community and with friends who might be interested in Theresians.
I also invite you to pray about how your Theresian community helps you find hope for the future.