Sr Libbey Byrne: A passion for faith formationPrint
She is no stranger to leadership of the Congregation, having been a member of Council previously from 2008 t0 2014. She knows, however, that each time in leadership is different with its own challenges, surprises, and joys.
Sr Libbey’s previous ministry was in Myall Coast Catholic parish in Maitland-Newcastle Diocese. During that time, she was a member of the Formation for Mission team and also had the role of Director of Initial Formation while Sr Amanda Nguyen was preparing final profession.
Both the parish ministry and formation ministry fit into her long-term ministry of faith formation, including Sisters of Charity Companions, Sydney.
As she told Tracey Edstein, the-then editor of the Diocesan publication, Aurora: “I’ve got this passion for helping people make sense of faith and life and link the two together…. Often, the people in the pews are the ones who miss out…. to reach everybody, you need to be in the parish and the wider community.”
While Sr Libbey was talking about her role as parish leader at Myall Coast Catholic Parish (encompassing St Brigid’s, Bulahdelah; Our Lady of the Rosary, Karuah and St Stephen’s, Tea Gardens), it reflected the core of her expression as a Sister of Charity.
“While her home was at Tea Gardens, Libbey had pastoral responsibility for the communities that gather around each of the three churches, often participating in clergy gatherings along with other lay leaders. It’s nothing for Libbey to clock up 1000 kilometres in a week.” Aurora reported.
During her time in the parish, there were challenges. “It was a priest-less parish, and my title was parish leader,” said Sr Libbey. She wrote the Lenten resources for the parish and facilitated conversations and movie nights. She was also chair of the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese adult faith formation council. “That was a bit by default,” she said. The other chair stepped down…. But it is my thing – formation in parishes. Formation is my passion.”
Sr Libbey is a member of a community of Sisters which includes Sisters living in Concord West, Centennial Park, and Paddington.
One of the younger members of the Congregation, she became a Sister of Charity after she had finished her teaching qualification. “Previously, others had gone into the novitiate around 17 or 18. I was 26, so my own experience was very different from that of other, older Sisters, and even of Sisters who are around my age.
“For instance, when I joined, the Sisters were not in the traditional habit. When I was professed, I was given a veil and meant to wear it on formal occasions. I am not sure I wore it much. At the next Chapter, the habit was completely out, replaced by the crucifix and the ring as signs of our religious consecration.”
Sr Libbey was professed 39 years ago – but it wasn’t necessarily a lifepath she was determined to have from an early age. Taught by the Josephites at St Gabriel’s Bexley, then the Sisters of Charity at St Mary’s Star of the Sea, Hurstville, and Bethlehem College, in Ashfield, she did have an early, idle thought that “it might be nice to be one.”
That thought was quickly followed by ” ‘no, no, no, not me, Lord.’ I was having too good a time.” But eventually she did understand her call, and entered. No one was more surprised than Sr Libbey when she got to her Silver Jubilee of profession.
You might put her longevity in ministry down to her passion – for the past 25 years she has worked on faith formation both within and outside the Congregation.
“Sr Linda Ferrington and I were on the ICVFT (Intra-Congregation Vocational Formation Team) with our founding Congregation in 2009, and 2011-12, we were involved in that ministry in Nigeria, the US, and Scotland.”
And Sr Libbey has been enabled to pursue that passion. She was away at Boston College, completing her masters in pastoral ministry and spirituality for nearly two years from 2000. On her return, she has been living on her own and ministering in places in and around Sydney. For the past five years, she ministered in Tea Gardens.
“I used to be a raging extrovert; but I have become more of an introvert. I love the quiet and the solitude. As people age, they become more idiosyncratic and a little niggly so it’s good for me to have my own space, even if it can be a bit lonely at times.”
It’s worth it, though. One of her parishioners told Aurora: “Sr Libbey is not only committed in ministering pastoral care in a kind and caring manner but also demonstrates a passion to provide opportunities which help encourage continued faith development. No doubt working within three parish communities can be at times a heavy workload but Sr Libbey does this with dedication.”
She says, “You’re an enabler, not the be all and end all. You need to be empowering of other people.”
“As we face the next six years of leadership, I hope that we continue to be a prophetic witness in our evolving Church and world,” she said.