A Time to Say Good-Bye …and be Honoured20 December, 2023
Anne Sheehan retires
After thirty years it’s time to bid farewell to working for The Catholic Parish of Bundaberg in an employed capacity. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel that includes a life after work. Thirty years ago I saw another light, gave up teaching, and changed my life’s course by applying for a job as Sacramental Coordinator in the parish under Fr Frank Gilbert. Nothing could prepare me for the life that working for the Church in a parish setting has brought me.
There were no courses I could attend or study. I used my teaching experience, previous coordinators’ resources, and my faith to set me on my way, with much support from my husband and parents.
My parents nurtured my faith as promised and for that I am extremely grateful. Their faith became my faith, and I grew in that faith to the point that the Sunday Mass, the prayers, the rituals all made sense and have meaning. Without study or fancy degrees, I made my niche in parish life, first as Sacramental Coordinator and then as Liturgy Coordinator under Fr Terry Loth. My faith was my backstop. “With God on our side, who could be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
Each of those thirty years has seen change. A change in parish boundaries, in personalities, in leadership and leadership styles, in the liturgy, in vision, in technology, in the way we celebrate significant events as a parish, in the way we socialize and form community, in the cultural diversity of our parish, in the language that we use. The constant, however, is the gift of faith permeating our activities and the people who have made things possible.
This has been my parish since my family moved to Bundaberg in 1967. Within no time we were a part of parish life at Holy Rosary and, relocating from the country, we had many opportunities in front of us. I learnt the piano from the good Sisters of Mercy, which naturally led to learning to play the pipe organ. It’s now 53 years that the pipe organ at Holy Rosary church and I have had a close affiliation.
Since that time, I have been fortunate to work with some wonderful parish priests – Frs Frank Gilbert, Terry Loth, John Daly, Peter Tonti and now Don White – and assistant priests. They all had the best interests of the parishioners in mind, even though at times we may not have agreed with their decisions or ideas.
I remember also the great service to the parish provided by the Missionary Sisters of Service, the Sisters of Mercy, and Br Peter Sheldon cfc who assisted the priests in pastoral care, visitation, chaplaincy, ministry formation, catechetics and sacramental programs.
Clergy come and go but the people who make up the parish remain. I remember the many parishioners who have done great things for this parish, the “pioneers” from my childhood and adult life. They served in one hundred and one different ways, from moving pews while churches were being recarpeted or painted, cleaning, gardening, fixing taps, maintaining potted plants and much more. For the good people of our parish, I am forever grateful for their generosity of time, talents and treasure.
I have also had the privilege and opportunity to meet many people across the diocese beginning with my time on the Diocesan Liturgical Commission, as a student of the Pastoral Liturgy Course 2005-2008, as I travelled across the diocese in the prelude to the introduction of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal, for sacramental teams’ formation and to various diocesan events held in Rockhampton. Our diocese has some really good and faithful people in it, all who love their Church.
Fidelity to the Church’s Tradition and creativity in its Mission is the challenge for every lay, consecrated or ordained person in our Church, as I read in the recent Synod Report. I am hoping change continues for the good of this parish long after I have retired. Change is good. As Pope Francis wrote: “Do not fear change. It is the nature of a missionary Church.”
I don’t presume to have had a deep desire to change the parish, I simply wanted to see a Church in which I was proud to belong; or to transmit my personal values and ideas, or to leave the parish somehow better than it was thirty years ago when I started out, paraphrasing the words of Pope Francis again. Making a parish a better place is not the responsibility of one person. It takes a team, good leadership, and willing followers to do all that the Pope suggests.
I hope that I still have plenty of good oil left in my lamp to be ready for the coming of Christ and to guide others to Christ by my words and actions.
Thank you for your friendship, love and trust over the years. May you and yours be blessed with the love of the infant child, Jesus, this Christmas, and 2024 be one of peace.
The Bene Merente Medal
Every person likes to be acknowledged for the work they have done, a service they have provided, a kindness shown, a gift given. There is a warmth that comes from being appreciated.
To be presented with gifts and accolades is humbling. To be presented with an award for long service is even more so. When I was presented with the Papal Bene Merente (well-served) medal at this year’s Ministry Thank You night I was not only humbled but speechless, to the point that real tears were shed. Those who know me would understand the rarity of that happening.
The Bene Merente award is a little-known award first given by Pope Pius VI as a military award. Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846) then awarded it to soldiers of the Papal army and is still to this day awarded to members of the Pontifical Swiss Guard. The Bene Merenti Medal is now also a medal awarded by the Pope to members of the clergy, consecrated life and the laity for service to the Catholic Church.
It has been a privilege to work in the service of the Church for the last 30 years. It hasn’t been an easy journey, particularly while my boys were growing up, but I am thankful that, as a person of faith who has grown up in parish life, I have come this far. My faith-filled parents would be proud of me and I accepted this award in their honour.
Thank you to my work colleagues who initiated the process for the reception of this award and to Bishop Michael for supporting and approving the nomination. It is truly appreciated.