The stories below celebrate the local heroes in our parishes – the agents of mercy and compassion in our midst – and encourage further local engagement and inspiration. Each diocese is invited to share a story and to be part of this special project celebrating the 50th World Communications Day during this Year of Mercy.

We have learnt from the hearings of the Royal Commission how empowering it is for those who have suffered to tell their stories and for those stories to be heard and believed. The stories shared will relate to some of the pressing concerns of the community of the Church in Australia.

The Australian Catholic Media Council has developed this storytelling project. We hope that you will feel encouraged on your journey of faith as you read the stories.


Broken Bay Parishes say ‘Let Them Stay’

Broken Bay Parishes say ‘Let Them Stay’

Jessica Brown | Diocese of Broken Bay

Broken Bay parishioners may have noticed these words boldly standing out on their own Church notice boards of late. They are certainly eye catching … But what exactly do these words mean? And why is it such an important and vital message to share?

The Australian government’s latest statistics as of 31 January 2016 revealed that:

Seasons Of Mercy: Confronting Cancer

Jennifer Byrne

Jennifer Byrne | Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

A loving daughter shares a story of life and hope, unwittingly echoing Pope Francis’ call for mercy.

On October 7, 2015, my Mum, Lauranne Byrne, became one of seven women in Australia who die of breast cancer every day. I want to put an absolutely beautiful face to the statistic to inspire women who, like me, are overwhelmed and frightened, to be more like her: positive and courageous, intelligent and strong, right to the end. She knew her body so well, she knew herself so well. She was always vigilant and aware of what was happening to her and determined to be in control, to do everything in her power to overcome her health issues. She battled them with vitamins and minerals and healthy eating, with (albeit moderate) exercise, with enthusiasm and optimism and with her unwavering faith in a loving God. She always ate the 'right' things and stayed away from the 'wrong' things. Even guilty indulgences were kept at moderation. She was the poster child for health and wellbeing − except she had breast cancer.

Seasons Of Mercy: Keeping Our Spirits Bright

Keeping our spirits bright

Author: Anonymous | Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

This story, remarkable for its honesty and insight, remains anonymous at the request of the writer.

I was born into a family with a strong Catholic faith and my childhood was filled with love, laughter and happiness. I was a gentle, kind and caring young girl with a spirit that burned bright from the joy that I had for life and the love that I had for those around me. In my early twenties I met a handsome, adventurous and fun young man who enjoyed the company of his friends and family and loved to explore the world, as I did. He had a good sense of humour and was confident and knowledgeable, traits that I admired.  So when he eventually asked me to marry him, I was filled with excitement, anticipating all that our future together would hold.

“Hands of Mercy” – Song for the Year of Mercy


Annie Carrett | Diocese of Broken Bay

The Senior Choir at St Bernard’s Catholic Primary School, Berowra Heights, has presented a new song called “Hands of Mercy” which has been sung at school Masses, and will feature as part of a special Year of Mercy Mass. Written by Patricia Smith, Music Co-ordinator at Ku-ring-gai Chase Parish, the song combines lyrics and meaningful actions to help young people participate in the Jubilee Year and understand what mercy means in everyday life and how to bring mercy to others. We can use our ‘hands of mercy’ to give life and love: to bring welcome, forgiveness, comfort, care, and healing; to give, share, and encourage.

Remembering Vietnam: A life lived in gratitude and service

Minh Le

Marco Ceccarelli | Archdiocese of Perth

As he dwells on an extraordinary life of achievements, graces and favour, but also of hardship, tribulation and suffering, it is difficult for Minh Le to speak about his past without shedding a tear or two. The Bayswater parishioner, who is now serving his fourth term as President of the Vietnamese Catholic Community in WA, escaped the Vietnam War in 1982, being forced to abandon the vocation to the priesthood he had been cultivating. In an interview with Marco Ceccarelli, the now married father of three recounted his journey from a life of fear to one of gratitude.

“I was born in 1951 and raised in a village named Tri Buu within the Quảng Trị Province of Central Vietnam – an area renowned for the persecution of Christians by governing forces in the late 18th century and again from 1830 to 1885,” said Mr Le, contextualising his family history and somewhat hinting at his own.

Chris Lee’s conviction to curb street violence


Elizabeth McFarlane | Diocese of Parramatta

A violent altercation in the early hours of Easter Sunday in 2012 left Chris Lee blind in his left eye. The then 18-year-old was on a night out in Kings Cross, farewelling his roommate who was leaving to join the army (a path Chris had hoped to follow). The notorious nightclub precinct became the scene of a disturbing alcohol-fuelled assault against Chris by a complete stranger.

A fight broke out between the pair on William Street and the stranger pulled out a knife and stabbed Chris in the eye. The man proceeded to stomp on Chris’s head, leaving him to lie reeling in pain on the pavement. Chris was taken by ambulance to the same hospital where his father had died of cancer just two months earlier. As he lay in hospital, his army case officer called and explained the sobering reality that Chris’s lifelong dream of serving in the Australian Army was now impossible due to his partial blindness.

Communicating mercy and healing wounds

Anne Sherston

Communications Unit | Archdiocese of Hobart

Grief to Grace Ministries, a Catholic initiative aimed at providing support to people who have suffered abuse, was officially launched in Australia on Saturday, 16 April.
Archbishop Julian Porteous, who attended the launch in Hobart, believes the new initiative is a concrete response to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“The Church is the agency in the world for the merciful love of God to be offered to those who are suffering. The Church lives because of the merciful act of God on Calvary and the redemption released for humanity,” he said. “I am very pleased with the initiative of establishing Grief to Grace.”

Oasis of Mercy

Members of the Diocese of Ballarat

Fr Justin Driscoll | Diocese of Ballarat

Responding to the invitation from Pope Francis for Churches in this Year of Mercy to be “an oasis of mercy” the Cathedral Parish in Ballarat invited neighbours, local community members, organisations and businesses to a community ideas workshop for the Cathedral garden and surrounds.

Community engagement forums were held on St Patrick’s Day with Betsy-Sue Clarke from Dirtscape Dreaming, gardens of spirit to nuture heart and soul facilitating and leading the discussion. The workshops were offered in two sessions, one in the morning in the St Patrick’s Cathedral Hall and one in the evening at the Mechanics Institute.

Those who gathered at the forums were invited to reflect on the following questions when considering the Cathedral grounds and how a space and gardens for healing and reconciliation might be developed:

Faith and a helping hand: the keys to a fulfilling life for Ethel

Ethel-Terra Jacks

Debra Vermeer | Diocese of Broken Bay

Life as a migrant in Sydney has been a challenging learning curve for Ethel-Terra Jacks, who moved here with her partner Cyril-Titus to try and live their dream, but in spite of hardship and tragedy she has faced while forging her new life, she says it is her growing faith that has sustained her.

“I found God at a very young age, which is not a common experience, but I am grateful it happened because I had a much longer period to mature in my awareness of God,” she says. “This experience was useful several years later when I needed an anchor.”

Ethel grew up in in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, in a well-educated and well-off family, but had a strong sense of social justice as a child. “I grew up in a very academic and strict household. As a teenager, I thought I could solve all the world’s problems,” she says.

A Godsend: Mental health chaplain Adnel Dompor at the Glenside Hospital

Adnel Dompor

Rebecca DiGirolamo | Archdiocese of Adelaide

Former Adelaide parish priest Adnel Dompor has offered pastoral support to clients of Australia’s only forensic mental health unit for the past four years. Showing and giving mercy, he says, is a critical component of his vocation as a mental health Catholic chaplain serving James Nash House. “I don’t ask why they are there,” he says. “It’s not my business; I am there mainly to listen.”

Adnel visits the wards of James Nash House and Glenside Hospital twice a week as a part-time chaplain for the Adelaide Archdiocese. He does this while holding down a full-time job to support his wife and two children, aged 3 and 9.

Glenside Hospital is the State’s largest acute mental health hospital and can hold up to 170 patients. It includes a psychiatric unit, alcohol and drug unit and rehabiltation unit.

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