FAITH MATTERS: A Journey to the Diocesan Library

My hope for our Diocesan library – a space that is safe, welcoming and a place to create community connections, a place of formation and education, that shows the light of Christ’s love through the work of his people.

I have very clear memories of my childhood. Family, faith, fun and education factor highly in those memories. I am the oldest of 4 children from an Irish father and a Sydney born mother. We travelled and lived across NSW until 1979, when we settled in Lake Macquarie. Our “home base” was my grandmother’s house in Mortlake, Sydney. Going to Sunday Mass, saying bedtime and morning prayers, wearing a Miraculous Medal and/or a scapular, lighting the oil/kerosene lamp under the picture of the Sacred Heart or the statue of Our Lady and making sure that when you were playing football at Nanna’s house you didn’t damage the flowers that were being grown especially to decorate the altar were just a regular part of that childhood.

It wasn’t until I was in upper primary school that I realised that not all my classmates in our suburban catholic school shared these experiences. They did not know the words to the Our Father, did not know how to use a Sunday Missal and thought that Rosary Beads were jewellery not prayer beads. At this point in my life, I had to make a decision, openly practice my faith, or hide my faith. My mother had taught me that being a non-conformist wasn’t necessarily easy, but your conscience rested easier at the end of each day. I continued to openly practice my faith.

I did not blindly follow in my faith journey. I questioned why things were done in a particular way in the Catholic Church. I read The Catholic Weekly & Annals – let’s be honest – I read everything I could get my hands on – even The Land newspaper and the Encyclopedia set on the family bookshelf!! I read pamphlets, I read the parish bulletins and the reflections on the weekly readings. I participated in the Mass at Randwick Racecourse celebrated by Pope John Paull II in 1986, alongside 250,000 other people. In this Mass I heard the message that our love for God must not grow cold. I developed my faith through my reading, my experience and through reflection (often sitting in a tree).

My reading habit was well acknowledged by all in my family circle, as were my feminist beliefs and strong social justice leanings. I remember one uncle questioning how I could be a feminist and a good Catholic girl; I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t see that equality was part of the teachings of Jesus. My argument back was that the political structure of the Catholic church did not truly reflect the teachings of Jesus. We agreed to disagree, however even in later years he wanted to know why I was still working, as I was a married woman and should be at home cooking and cleaning and looking after my husband!!!!

I followed the path of HSC and starting university in Sydney. I lived in a share house with other Catholic students from Cooma, Wollongong, and Narrabri, from Croatian, Polish and Australian backgrounds. One housemate was a young nun, studying for a Masters in Theology. I experienced their ways of expressing their faith, some were similar, some not so much. My understanding of my faith changed in this time. I felt my faith grow into a greater personal relationship with God, but I was also very uncomfortable in the world in which I was living – was it my “Guardian Angel” nudging me, the Holy Spirit trying to re-awaken my sense of social justice or my conscience prickling? Obviously, I didn’t listen to the messages that were being sent through as a health crisis around this time created some changes in my life. I left Sydney & returned to Newcastle. In my favourite books the heroine would be able to recuperate in Bath, taking the waters, or in a health retreat in the mountains resting, reading and recovering over a period of many months. Not so for 1990’s Australia. A quick trip to Queensland for some sun and a few dinners and chats with a family friend, a doctor, who had worked hard driving taxis to pay for his education, had kept his faith and was a man whose spirituality was decidedly practical was the recuperation I required. And of course, reading many books!

After rethinking my career and education plans and considering and discarding social working, psychology, counselling/therapy, teaching and the Convent I kept myself fed and clothed waitressing and working in sports centres. I volunteered at Newcastle Pregnancy Help Service one day a week and I waited for the next nudge from the Holy Spirit. It came in the form of a very small job ad – Casual Library Assistants wanted…..

I began working in libraries in 1992, starting with Lake Macquarie City Library and moving to Singleton Shire Library and then Newcastle City Library. I had found my calling. I worked full-time and studied either part-time or full-time, whilst continuing to explore what my faith meant to me. I went to Mass at various parishes, depending on mass times, whether I was back visiting my childhood home, staying with family or friends in Sydney or if I had work or study commitments on a Saturday or Sunday. I felt included in some parishes and excluded in others. My faith journey was lonely in this time and often dispiriting as I saw the many gaps between what was preached from the pulpit and what was lived in the world.

My constant mulling over how I could live a “good life”, a Christian life was answered with the motto of SFX College “Christus Lux Mea”  - Christ My Light – the blazer I had worn, and at the time that it was revealed to me, was being worn by the youngest of my siblings, one who would turn up at my house after school or sport, with a crumpled blazer and a need to be fed! I realised one way that I could practice my faith was by shining my light – not keeping it under a bushel – to paraphrase the Gospel of Matthew 5: 13-16. I went about my library work and my personal life trying to shine my light, it wasn’t always easy, but I saw that on the days I was shining bright – I brought light to others, they would connect with me, smile with me and work with me to do good in the world, either through promoting children’s literacy, teaching technology skills to aid employment opportunities or creating library spaces that were safe havens for the more marginalised in society.

I spent the years from 2007 to 2022 working outside the library field and raising my two children. These years were spent running our family-owned and operated small business, The Fresh Ingredient. This was a food store located in Georgetown and my husband and I brought to life our vision of a community space that allowed people to shop for local and fresh food in a safe, welcoming and relaxing manner. We encouraged people to stop, rest, talk and form community ties. Our children sat at a communal table to eat afternoon tea and complete homework, older people came and sat with a cup of coffee and the newspaper, had a chat with one another and formed friendships. Young mothers brought restless babies in for me to cuddle and soothe as they had moments of respite. Community support workers brought their companions in to sit at the table, complete a jigsaw puzzle, learning to knit, colour-in and have some lunch. We ensured that nothing went to waste, we had care for the earth – unsold food went to various food rescue charities, food scraps and off-cuts went to various worm farms and neighbourhood chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits. The use of recyclable boxes was actively encouraged rather than plastic bags. I felt my faith grow at this time; it became a faith of outreach. I was very open about my Catholicism, if I had been to Mass that day and what the Gospel reading and homily had revealed to me, that our children attended a Catholic school, and we were active in our faith journey. We had working relationships with many Catholic and Chrisitan organisations; I was invited to speak at spiritual meetings and social justice groups. We were honoured to be invited to the commissioning of Rev Bryce Amner as Priest-in-charge of the Anglican parish of St. Matthew’s Georgetown.

During this time, we employed and trained many young people (& a few older people too), providing them with life skills, a safe first step into the world of employment and assistance with school and university assignments when required! Instead of continually declaiming the “youth of today” we were celebrating them and helping to form them for their life as adults.

When asked by people why we had chosen this path of a very hand to mouth small business, my husband Peter and I would explain that we needed to not just talk about making change in the world, we had to be the change!!  

So how did I end up in the Diocesan Librarian position? By 2020 I was ready to move back into library work, my children had reached high school age and did not need me or their dad on hand every afternoon. Our business had become financially unsustainable and rather than becoming a franchise and losing the soul of the business, we closed, a very hard decision. I took up two part-time jobs, both of which were jobs, rather than vocations or careers. I brought my light to these jobs, I made a difference in people’s lives and provided support and inspiration to my colleagues, but I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. I also knew that I wanted to find the “right” library environment to return to my vocation. Then it appeared – Position Vacant – Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Librarian – I nearly didn’t apply, I thought I wasn’t “good enough”. My husband was adamant it was the right job for me. Who else did I know in library-land who had the right mix of religious understanding, management skills and a breadth of library experience. The application went in, at the absolute last minute, sent with a prayer. I was invited for an interview where I was very careful about not just speaking about shining my light, but also showing how I shine. Here I am.

My hope for our Diocesan library – a space that is safe, welcoming and a place to create community connections, a place of formation and education, that shows the light of Christ’s love through the work of his people. I hope to meet you in this space at some point in the future.

The Library is open Monday and Friday’s 10am to 6pm and Saturday 10am-2pm.

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Contact details: or call on 0409 033 449.

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