by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When did you attend Liverpool Hope University College, what degree did you earn and what is one of your favourite memories when you were there?
Teresa: It is with great fondness that I remember my time at Liverpool University College (affectionately known as Liverpool Hope). It was filled with novelty and adventure. Whilst being a cradle Catholics, it was only a few years before, whilst studying A Levels that I encountered Christ and decided to follow him. There were many significant moments of inspiration in my late teens, including a sense of awe and wonder for creation as I studied Biology. I paired this experience with the passion I had for working with children and applied to study Human and Applied Biology with Psychology. Thankfully, the Lord had different ideas for me, a month into my studies I realised that Psychology was not a good fit so switched to Information Technology (IT). Although I hadn’t even studied IT at GCSE, it came naturally to me. Looking back, it dawns on me, this is where my love of technology and understanding systems was able to grow.
I attended Liverpool Hope more years ago than I care to remember, after taking two years out as a youth evangelist with Sion Catholic Community for Evangelism. It is an ecumenical college that I felt prompted to attend and believe it was God’s will for me to be there at that time. Not only because of my studies but also because of the beautiful friends I made. Some of whom are still part of my life today.
Gordon: When did you attend Heythrop College, what degree did you earn and what was your favourite course and why did you like it?
Teresa: Heythrop College came much later. I had at least fifteen years of youth ministry experience before plucking up the courage to do a Masters in Pastoral Theology. I love grassroots ministry and have been blessed with a wealth of unaccredited formation and discipleship but was missing the rigor of formal studies in theology. Studying Pastoral Theology helped me in so many ways. For example, the volume and style of study pushed me through many perceived barriers and limitations. In the second year of this course, I was holding down two jobs whilst studying. It was tough, but I am glad to have completed it.
Gordon: When and where did you serve as Director of Training and Resources and what were your primary responsibilities?
Teresa: After seven years of missionary work with Sion Community, it was time for a change. I wanted to enter the world of work and was open to anything related to my degree. I applied for lots of jobs, but nothing came until a priest suggested I apply for a role in the Brentwood Youth Service, which was the youth department in the diocese of Brentwood. When I began working with them, it was undergoing a significant period of change. As part of the leadership team, we rebranded and became the Brentwood Catholic youth service and developed our work with young people and those who worked with them around the diocese. My role in training and resources meant that I offered training opportunities for school chaplain and parish youth workers. We also established a young adult element of our ministry for over 18s who wanted more than their parish was offering so they could serve in their parishes when the opportunity arose.
Gordon: When did you serve as Discipleship Promoter at the National Office for Vocation and what were your primary responsibilities?
Teresa: After seven years in grassroots youth ministry in a parish then a secondary school, I found myself working at the National Office for Vocation as Discipleship Promoter. This was a great team to work with at the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales. We defined our mission to ‘help people hear God’s call’ and developed a National Vocations Framework that was offered to those involved in vocations ministry. The aim of this framework is to develop a culture of vocation that moves from recruiting a few people to a limited range of vocational callings, to giving all the baptisted a sense of God’s call, encourages vocational discernment and offers a variety of pathways for those who seek to respond to the adventure and mission God is calling them to embark upon. My role included engagement with young adults, supporting work happening on a grassroots level. For example, I was the National coordinator for World youth day. Pilgrims would not have known I was there unless there was a problem, because my role was to work with the pilgrimage leaders, local organising committee, and youth office at the Vatican to provide information and support that the pilgrim leaders needed to have a safe and blessed pilgrimage. It was hard work and a pleasure to serve the leaders who took young people to WYD in Krakow and Panama.
I also produced resources to help youth ministers engage young people on National Youth Sunday amongst other things.
Gordon: When did you serve as the Home Mission Officer at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. What were your primary responsibilities and what is one of your favourite memories when you were there?
Teresa: Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ is at my core, so when given the opportunity to work for the department of Evangelisation and Catechesis, at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, I made the leap from a team I loved to unchartered waters.
Again, it was a period of change for this department. When the Secretary for the department left, I acted up for two years, until a replacement was found. Happily, NOV joined the department, and we became the department for Evangelisation and discipleship. My role was to inspire, support and equip diocesan Evangelisation personnel and to develop relationships with new movements and communities. These were lovely people to work with, so the regional days and networking meetings online were often very blessed. During my time in this role, I was also given several special projects. One of which was the process of listening and response to the synod on youth, faith and vocational discernment.
Gordon: Tell us about Sion Community .
Teresa: It was the youth team of Sion Community, called Cross Purposes, who had a major part in awakening a living faith in me when in my 6th Form. During that mission week God no longer seemed distant but close, there was tangible presence of the Holy Spirit in the air and for the first time, I understood the difference following Jesus made in my life. It was then that my calling to evangelisation began. At 18 I joined the community and undertook an intense discipleship school before joining Cross Purposes on mission. On these missions to secondary schools around the country that we saw young people encounter Christ and chose to follow him. The delight in seeing someone come alive in faith is second to none. Sion Community was the outcome of inspiration Fr Pat Lynch, our founder experienced when reading Evangelisation in the modern world. It is a collaborative community of priests, religious and lay people coming together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Ever since my first seven years of ministry with Sion Community, it has been a shimmering thread that has run through my life. Over the last year I have had the opportunity to serve the community by joining the leadership team.
Gordon: When were you appointed Evangelisation Coordinator at the diocese of Westminster and please provide an overview of your work.
Teresa: It is great to be working in the Agency for Evangelisation at the diocese of Westminster at Evangelisation Coordinator. Over the years, I have discerned God’s call on my life has been to help people become friends with Jesus so they can live life to the full. My work now, will be an opportunity to serve the diocese to this end, by inspiring and equipping people to share their faith and providing resources that help parishes to embrace the missionary option identifies in Evangelii Gaudium.
Gordon: What are some of the challenges and rewards of Evangelisation?
Teresa: Ultimately, all evangelistic activity relies on the action of the Holy Spirit. We are not introducing people to the person of Jesus Christ, but helping the Holy Spirit to reveal the presence of Christ in their lives so they can make a free and informed decision about whether to follow Him. This is both the greatest reward and biggest challenge of Evangelisation.
The challenge, because we are not in control, the Lord is. It can be tempting to bypass the movement of the Holy Spirit and try to work in our own strength because it makes us vulnerable to lean into the grace of God. Some dismiss evangelisation altogether in an attempt to avoid this vulnerability. No matter how we try to avoid this holy collaboration, it is fruitless and exhausting
But when we choose to take a step of faith, knock on another’s heart and see them open it just a little. Watching the grace of God bring forgiveness, healing and freedom when a person encounters Christ is amazing and the reward is beyond comparison.
Gordon Thank you for an informative and fascinating interview.