Sr Libbey Byrne: We will continue to listen to the voice of the SpiritPrint
- When did you know you had a vocation?
During the 1980s we didn’t really speak of “having a vocation.” There is really no ‘one size fits all’ in relation to telling our personal story of exercising the baptismal call to life and mission within the church as a unique person created by God. There was a growing awareness which began in the subconscious many years before a decision was made to act on it.
- How did your family react?
Mixed reactions from delight to concern, but ultimately my life choices were my decision and respected.
- What was the process like then for joining the Sisters of Charity?
From August 1979 to March 1982, there was a welcome and “come and see” approach for six months and then for two years a continuing growth and balance in daily living of prayer, reading, study of the Constitutions, Scripture, Ecclesiology, playing squash, visits home, an appearance on the Mike Walsh Show and two ministry placements interstate and a week’s holiday at Shellharbour and one on the Gold Coast!
- How many joined with you, how many left?
Two others joined and I am the one who is still an active member of the congregation.
- You were a teacher – what were you keen on pursuing?
I was already a secondary school teacher with six years’ experience. I continued in this ministry for a further six years and, with further study at various times, have been engaged in adult faith formation and parish ministry since 1988.
- What is the major difference you see in Religious Life compared to when you first entered.
Inwardly, I believe we are more aware now of the prophetic nature of consecrated life. Our identity is not tied up in what we do, the big institutions we have administered in the past or what others might think is our “place” in the Church.
We focus on both individual and communal discernment as we listen to the call of the Spirit in our daily lives and in our world.
We have always been committed to working in partnership with others rather than reinventing the wheel.
Outwardly there is not a lot of difference for me as I never wore the old habit. One difference is the numbers in the congregation slowly decreasing.
- What was your most challenging time
Life is always a challenge if we are true to self, to others and to the voice of the Spirit at work in life, in our world, the Church and closer to home in my relationships with others. Sometimes this is more evident than others.
- Was there a time that was more than usually rewarding?
Knowing that at times things are well done and that confirmation comes when things bear fruit or someone says, “Thank you”. When I reflect on days and weeks, there is often satisfaction, but as the prophet Isaiah wrote “Do not dwell on the past…”. We carry the essence of the past in our hearts as we continually lean forward to create the future.
- When people discover you are a Religious sister what is their reaction?
These days, usually no great surprise, just an acceptance as we continue our conversation or walk forward together on our shared mission. It’s really about presence… walking along the river, past the pub, in the bank queue and even the doctor’s surgery, strangers will often open up and share deeply their concerns and questions.
- What do you see as the future for apostolic life in Australia?
I believe that we will continue to listen to the voice of the Spirit as we reflect on and interpret the “signs of the times” in our world, the Church and our relationships with all peoples.
As the universe continues to expand and evolve, so must our understanding of who we are as members of the Body of Christ which makes us one with all people and the whole of creation.
Formal consecrated religious life may be smaller and will definitely evolve, but we shall grow in our desire and ability to live and work in collaboration with all people of good will, regardless of faith traditions, as we discern ways forward together in response to the call of the Spirit.