This is my last Tuesdays with Teresa before finishing in my role as Director Pastoral Ministries on Thursday 18 April.

A few hundred people gathered on Friday afternoon for a celebration of my ministry with the diocese. It was a wonderful occasion for storytelling and remembering. We laughed, cried, sang, spoke, listened, shared friendship, food, and drink. Someone said to me it was real Eucharist. One of my sisters commented that it was the best farewell function she had ever attended. Thank you to all who gathered and to those who have sent me flowers, gifts, cards, and messages. I have been over-filled with gratitude and love.

For my last message, I thought I would share with you my farewell reflection of some of my own journey and our journey together. This has been a collective journey of synodality. As the words of the theme chosen for my farewell stated, “I call you friends”.

Farewell Speech – Teresa Brierley

Thank you for joining with me this afternoon as part of my process in moving to a new phase of my life. My intention this afternoon is to explore with you my pilgrimage, by telling a story.

At the Chrism Mass a couple of weeks ago we sang a hymn about being anointed by God with the oil of Chrism – “Your Spirit O God is upon me, You have anointed me”.

I have divided my story into five parts.

Part One

I am aware of my anointings with the oil of Chrism at my Baptism on 7 June 1953 and at my Confirmation on 5 May 1963. Both these significant occasions occurred at St Kevin’s Parish, Cardiff, when my parents, Thelma and Bernard Moylan presented and dedicated me to God for God’s safekeeping, direction, and mission.

As the sixth child of twelve children, with the name of Teresa Majella Moylan, I was clearly marked and identified by family, name and anointing as a Catholic Christian. I am grateful to my parents for providing me with this solid faith foundation for life. My years of Catholic education at St Joseph’s Primary School, Cardiff, Holy Cross High School, Glendale, St Aloysius Girl’s High School, Hamilton, St Anne’s, Adamstown and Our Lady of Dolours Girl’s High School, Chatswood, were remarkable years of education and formation. For my parents, education was key for all my six brothers and five sisters. I was blest to be surrounded by a family of faith and to be taught by dedicated religious women, who devoted their lives to God and humanity.

I recall, while being a Year 10 (4th Form) student at St Aloysius, Hamilton, here at this very place, looking over to the convent building and sensing that at some stage, I would live in that building. Of course, the only way in which that would have happened was by becoming a nun. Well needless to say, I did not become a nun and yet here I am all those years later, having worked in the ‘convent’ for almost 19 years, in the building in which they lived as a community and went out on mission.

I have no doubt that we are living through the change of an era. This refers to a significant and fundamental shift or transition from one historical period to another, marked by significant social, religious, cultural, economic, and political changes. An era change involves a complete transformation in the way people live, work, and think, and can be driven by a range of factors such as technological advancements, political revolutions, cultural movements, or environmental changes.

So how has God’s whisper to me as a young woman unfolded, leading me to this phase of my vocational call with you today. It was my wish to mark this occasion surrounded by those who have accompanied me over the past 19 years of this journey. However, I acknowledge some of you who are here have been with me for much longer. I have been blessed with so many companions on the journey.

While my family of origin were from the soil around Maitland and Newcastle, my parents moved to Sydney when I was in Year 11. The decision for me to continue my schooling to Years 11 and 12 was not a common occurrence in the late 1960’s, let alone my decision to go to university and to study biomedical science. While I felt called to be a nurse or a teacher, that was not something my father supported and so working in hospital pathology filled my wish to serve people. Royal North Shore Hospital, Hornsby Hospital, Bathurst Hospital and then Nepean and Mt Duritt Hospitals enriched me as a hospital scientist. The world of DNA was unfolding during that time, as was the use of computers and technology. I recall working in Biochemistry with the computer located in its own air-conditioned room. Manual techniques were quite risky and many the time I came home with stained hands while working in Morbid Anatomy and Microbiology.

Part Two

When Allen and I became engaged, my lecturers and hospital staff specialists indicated that this would be the end of my career and that would be such a waste. Such was the time when most married women, once they had children, did not continue pursuing their careers.

In this post Vatican church of the 1970’s, God’s call was ever present for me, and yet lay people were challenged by what that might look like for them if they were not to become a priest or enter religious life. It was with this backdrop that Allen and I chose the vocation of marriage with the understanding that we were called to serve God, the Church, and the community. We had met at St Anthony’s Parish, Marsfield, while being members of the Natovi Youth Club.

We have explored our married lives living in Bathurst, Bowral, Penrith, Tweed Heads and Newcastle. In each of those locations, God has continued to call us, as people of faith, hope and love. Some of our moves were because of Allen’s profession as a Civil Engineer while others were because of me.

Part of our call and response was the blessing of five children – Nicole, Monica, Gerard, Angela, and Edmund. For those of you here this afternoon, you will know that the gift of children grows you up as a person as does the gift of grandchildren, of which we have twelve.

Because I always knew I would be a teacher, I began my Diploma of Education while living in Bathurst and then Bowral. I recall the day, when our first child was not yet six months old, Fr Franzmann, an MSC priest from Chevalier College at Bowral, knocked on my door offering me a position as Senior Biology teacher at the College, as I had done a practicum there. I was shocked and I recall saying to him that I had a child and how could this possibly happen, to which he responded that I could choose how much I worked and that he was aware of someone who could care for Nicole. This invitation and my response began my working life as a teacher, while also having children. In Bowral, I also became a Catechist, teaching at Bowral Primary School and a Nursing Mother’s Counsellor, supporting women who were wishing to breastfeed, at a time when it was uncommon to breastfeed.

Our move to Penrith and our growing family provided me with the opportunity to return to working out-of-hours in pathology and teaching part-time. Teaching religion was something I felt called to, which saw me begin my studies in religious education. Allen, the children, and I were actively engaged in St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith, and I was invited to join their first Parish Pastoral Council in the early 1990’s. During this time, I realised that lay people would need to acquire theological education because I could see that by the turn of the century, there would be a need for lay people to step into the void created by the changes that were taking place.

In 1988, I took up full-time teaching at Caroline Chisholm Catholic Girl’s High School in Penrith, and since then have been engaged in full-time leadership and ministry. I became a Religious Education Co-ordinator at the time when the religious were stepping away from these roles in our Catholic Schools. Some of my past students from those years are living and working in our diocese.

Part Three

Our move to Tweed Heads in 1994 was a response to the opening of St Joseph’s College at Banora Point and our decision to move out of Sydney. By then our children were at school. It was great to be part of a new school, to grow its culture around the motto “Peace through Justice”. Over the years, while in school leadership, I have taught religious education, mathematics, science, senior biology, and Studies of Religion.

While teaching I completed my Master of Theology by driving to Brisbane weekly. Seeking a change, the parish priest of St Joseph’s Parish, Tweed Heads offered me the role as Parish Pastoral Associate. My five years in this role were formative for me and the community. Together. we explored how to respond to God’s call to serve the community as lay men and women.

Part Four

I recall one Sunday night, in the winter of 2005, while we were having dinner, when my dad, who lived in the granny flat on our property, came over with the Catholic Weekly and announced with determination that “this job has your name on it!” It was the role as Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. After much discernment and the work of the Holy Spirit, I began in this role on 1 August 2005 working with Bishop Michael Malone.

As I gaze out into this room, I remember the challenges and the joys of my years with you. So, what are some the highlights and challenges for us over these years:

Our synodal journey dates back to the late 1980’s with Sr Patricia Egan, Bishop Leo Clarke, Monsignor Alan Hart, Michael Belcher, along with hundreds of parishioners, hearing the call of the Spirit to respond as missionary disciples and take shared responsibility for our Church. Bishop Michael Malone and Bishop Bill Wright continued the flame of journeying together with the Spirit. Our ten theological principles formed the basis of this imagination and renewal with the establishment of Diocesan and Parish Pastoral Councils and Teams. I am sure many of you remember our diocesan gathering in this hall in 2019 and then our hybrid gatherings in 2021, during COVID, for our second session of synod. Bishop Bill’s untimely death in November that year interrupted the processes of this diocesan synod.

The Plenary Council and the current Synod on Synodality mirror our own diocesan synodal processes.

Parishes have tried to respond to our changing times, for some welcoming priests from overseas and for others implementing Canon 517.2 with lay people taking on the role as leaders or within lay leadership teams.

Our Diocesan Councils have provided us with many initiatives and opportunities in responding to matters of concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Faith Formation, Young People, Ecumenical and Interfaith, Liturgy, Social Justice, and Women. It has been a privilege to have dreamed and journeyed with so many faith-filled people.

The initiative of the Sisters of St Joseph, the Tenison Woods Education Centre (TWEC), was handed onto Pastoral Ministries and within the area of Formation and Education we now have a diocesan library located here, at Newcastle West. Our ongoing commitment to faith formation is critical and continues.

I recall the applause given, in 2010, at our Moving Forward Together diocesan assembly in Maitland, when we announced the placing of Aurora, our diocesan paper, into the Newcastle Herald and the regional newspapers. This was during some of our most distressing and challenging times. Moving from snail mail to our weekly Diocesan Update was also a major innovation. Since 2009, I have written over 500 Tuesdays with Teresa, keeping you updated with church news.

Sending young people to World Youth Days and the Australian Catholic Youth Festivals has provided them with amazing faith development opportunities. We will never forget our own Days in the Diocese, in 2008, when 3000 pilgrims stayed with us before heading off to WYD in Sydney. Several young people have participated in our Pastoral Placement Program and continue their commitment to the missionary life in parishes.

With great joy, I remember Fr Richard Shortall, our Missionary of Mercy, who travelled the length and breadth of our diocese in the motorhome, staying in communities who did not have a resident priest.

Mission and Outreach through Church without Walls continues to invite us to reach out to those beyond our worshipping communities.

In 2005, Bishop Michael Malone established the Diocesan Child Protection and Professional Conduct Unit to address the issues around sexual abuse in our diocese. I was totally unaware, when taking on the role, of this shameful part of our story as a church. We have walked that path together through the Special Commission of Inquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. While we now have robust systems in place to keep children and vulnerable people safe, that part of our history continues to haunt many of us. We continue to seek forgiveness for these past failings.

Over the past 19 years we have welcomed two bishops, with the ordination of Bishop Bill Wright on a very wet and cold winter’s night in June of 2011 and the installation of Bishop Michael Kennedy just over one year ago. Our farewell to Bishop Michael Malone was another memorable occasion as was our farewell to Fr Brian Mascord before his ordination as the Bishop of Wollongong. Bishop Leo Clarke and Bishop Bill Wright, along with many priests were honoured at their funerals. Our Sacred Heart Cathedral along with this Southern Cross Hall and the Victor Peters Suite are filled with a mix of memories. The Chrism Mass, each year, is always our highlight.

It has been my privilege to serve in a leadership role in the diocese. On coming to the diocese, I was part of the first diocesan executive which became the Diocesan Leadership Group when Bishop Bill initiated the Many Parts. One Body. One Mission. project. These groups saw lay people significantly involved in the leadership structures of the diocese. Leaders, from other Catholic agencies within the diocese came together with the Bishop, the Diocesan Pastoral Council and the Council of Priests and diocesan leaders to discuss our response to matters of concern in Leadership Forums. Leadership across the many aspects of diocesan life was critical during the COVID pandemic.

Beyond the ministries of our diocese, I have joined in relationships with those from other Christian traditions as well as other faith traditions. Our shared maxim has been ‘faith matters’. Our membership of the Hunter Community Alliance has seen us expand our horizons to work with those who care about the common good.

We have been graced with many wonderful people who have responded to their own baptismal call to be the people of God in this time and place. As I stand before you today, I am conscious of our joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties as we have lived out the challenges placed before us at Vatican II. We have accompanied each other, and I count my blessings to have served with you.

Thank you to those who have dreamed and served with me while supporting me. Those present and past - bishops, parishioners, diocesan leadership groups, clergy, members of Diocesan Pastoral Councils and the Council for Mission, the Synod Working Party, various Council members, those from Catholic agencies who serve our diocesan community in health, aged care and social services, our ecumenical and interfaith brothers and sisters, the Hunter Community Alliance, the teams from Caritas, Catholic Mission, Shared Services, CatholicCare, Catholic Schools, the Office of Safeguarding, St Nicholas Early Education, the Catholic Community Fund and the Bishop’s Office and others whom I may have inadvertently not named. The Pastoral Ministries Team needs special mention because it is they who have given their all to work with me in serving our parishes and wider community.

Part Five

And now to look to the future:

I have no doubt that together we have been part of forming a legacy which in the words of Maurice Blondel ‘with the help of the past, the future is liberated from the unconscious limitations and illusions of the present’.

And in the words of Fr Richard Lennan regarding our ongoing need for conversion for a healthy future while being attentive to the voice of the Spirit:

The church of the future, then must be ‘catholic’, must be willing to embrace its own diversity as a gift, albeit a challenging one. Unity in the midst of this diversity is utterly a gift of grace, inseparable from the Spirit who works through human freedom to foster holiness, and to weave together the church’s past, present, and future. It is grace that sustains the faithfulness and creativity of the Christian community as it moves to the fullness of the kingdom (Lennan Richard, ‘Shaping the Church’s Future: The Grace of Creative Faithfulness’, The Australian Catholic Record 101/1 (2024): 60-73, p 70). 

The blessing of our present moment as a Catholic Church is that synodality presents us with the opportunity to take stock of all that makes us this community of faith, especially the abiding gift of grace… As such, synodality is fundamentally a call to conversion in order to aim at and produce a missionary communion at the service of the world (Record 101/1 (2024): 60-73, p 70. Lennan, p 71). 

I am sure we will continue to be transformed by re-imagining and exploring this synodal path with God’s grace.

And so, to finish with what may lie ahead for me as I enter this next season of my life. Well, like the church, it is God’s grace that will continue to lead me into the unknown as I listen to the whispers of the Spirit, as I did so long ago.

I do so with gratitude to Allen, my dedicated and loyal companion and to our children who have also understood that God’s call is unpredictable, persistent, and demanding. Our love as a family, inclusive of my brothers and sisters and extended family have sustained me on this amazing journey through a change in an era.

I have been graced by what transcends and permeates every moment of my life.


[1] Lennan Richard, ‘Shaping the Church’s Future: The Grace of Creative Faithfulness’, The Australian Catholic Record 101/1 (2024): 60-73, p 70

[2] Lennan, p 71

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Teresa Brierley

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