Thursday, 5 January 2017

2016 in StAY

I was watching Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism Series, and among all the interesting things I have learned, one line stood out to me the most:

"You judge a spiritual act by its fruits."

It makes me look back and question the past year of StAY. What have been the fruits of StAY or where have I seen these fruits in 2016?

Friends of Refugees Melbourne has undergone a tremendous change in the past year. It has addressed one of the key concerns that have been raised up more than two years ago by one of our former leaders, Andrew. It was about making the focus of FORM more on building relationships with the refugees than providing material aid.
The year 2016 showed itself to be the right time and environment to do this. As FORM coordinated with other organisations with regards to Moving Days, it became obvious that there are already a lot of organisations out there who are also conducting their pwn Moving Days in perhaps a bigger and wider scale.
With this change, we saw the birth of the School Holiday Program, which has focused on building relationships and bringing refugee families together. Home Visits, Detention Centre visits, and the Christmas Hamper Drive still continues.
The fruits of the ministry is not just limited to its activities, but to the people as well. The new leader of FORM, Mario, brought with him a breath of fresh air in one of the oldest and longest ministries of StAY. FORM still continues to bring new faces into StAY, contributing to our growth in numbers. It was also amazing that the ministry did not just cater to the needs of other people, but more importantly, to their own journey and experience through the much-needed retreat that the FORM leaders had last year.

In the Music Ministry
The Music Ministry is sadly one of the existing ministries of StAY that have been "put on the side" by the leaders, if I might say so (and I am guilty of it as well).
I remember the time when there would be a leader or two who would be there helping or singing in the choir. Now, we don't actually have a clear idea who is the leader of the Music Ministry. And it wasn't anyone's fault. Individuals have moved on to other suburbs and even interstate for various reasons.
For me, this is a reflection of one of the issues that have been brought up time and again in StAY: transition of leadership.
First of, we don't really have a method or process in doing so. After all, transition of leadership was never an issues when StAY was "reborn" because there were just very few of us! And with the growth of StAY, we have seen people coming and going, leaders included. There it started to sink in that we cannot do this forever; we have to find a way to pass the "baton". This handover has been brought up meeting after meeting, but there was not a lot that has been done with it.
I, for my part as StAY Leader, am at fault, as I have failed to address the elephant in the room and ask other leaders if they are still willing and capable of leading the ministry or not. It seems like a simple question to ask, but very uncomfortable. With the majority of the leaders shifting focus to the vocation or marriage or not even able to come to Cell Group anymore, the necessity for transition of leadership is becoming a reality and an urgency.
The lack of leadership in the Music Ministry leads to failure of giving credit where it is due. Despite of the lack of leadership, the Music Ministry vividly thrives, thanks to the initiative, willingness, and effort of the few people, who have been consistently raising their hands up and stepping in as the need arises. The Music Ministry has also seen an emergence of fresh faces in the past year, fresh faces who have notably been consistent and committed to the activities of the Music Ministry. It is my hope that 2017 will see new faces stepping up, not just in the Music Ministry, but in StAY as a whole.

In Cell Group
Cell Group was, and remains to be, my "baby". Leading the ministry is one of the highlights of my journey in StAY and is a role I would gladly take up again. Letting go of Cell Group leadership have been a tough journey for me, teaching me to let go, let others take control, and the humility of being a participant instead of decision-maker.
Amazingly, being a participant has allowed me to see as a spectator how the Holy Spirit has moved in the ministry. It's amazing what I hear and witness about other people's journeys, the Holy Spirit is on the move in their lives and situations, even if most of them don't realise it just yet. It's in these individual experiences that I see the fruits of what Cell Group does, how it is an avenue of change and growth.
New faces have come the past year, some have moved on, and some have stayed, regularly coming every Tuesday. Surprisingly, not a lot shares in the open, but they come every week, rain or shine.
The past year has also seen a couple of individuals step up to accept Cell Group responsibilities and some new faces taking the initiative to lead small groups. It is my hope for the new year that Cell Group not only be conducive to fellowship but also to leadership.

The past year has been a shaky ground in terms of leadership in StAY. Our once 7 ministries are down to 3 ministries, due primarily to the fact that there was no transition in leadership, and thus, no one took over and continued the respective ministries. But despite that, the fruits have been seen in the remaining ministries, with its activities and its people. With the fresh faces showing commitment in the existing ministries of StAY, it will be interesting and exciting what StAY will be capable of in 2017.

Patricia Fernando

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Lenten Reflections Day 28

First reading: isaiah 49:8-15
Psalm 145:8-9, 13-14, 17-18
Gospel: John 5:17-30

We are reminded of God's mercy and abounding love

He never forgets us in our darkest moments

We find life in Jesus.

God sent his only son that all who believe inherit eternal life

This is the greatest gift of God to us

This lenten season continues to be a constant reminder of God's love for all of us and his desire for us to seek his mercy and trust in his love for us

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Lenten Reflections Day 27

First reading: Ezekiel 47:1-9; 12
Psalm 46:2-3; 5-6; 8-9
Gospel: John 5:1-16

The Psalms reminds us not to fear why? It is because God is our refuge and strength. God himself is with us no matter what happens.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells a blind man on the sabbath to pick up his pallet and walk.

This is one of the many miracles that Jesus did. I am reminded that we are the most important thing to God. It is not about following rules or regulations that God loves us. God loves because that is who he is; We were created to be loved by our creator.

God calls us, he wants us to recognize him. Just as he revealed himself to the man he healed. Look on your life and see areas that God has healed and recognize Jesus as the healer.

With God's mercy comes a warning. He has cleansed us from our sin, by his grace let us ask that we do not return to those sins less we fall victim to the worse effects that sin can bring, which is to separate us from the one who came to take away the sins of the world.  

Prayer: Lord for the times we have failed, have mercy on us
Lord for the times we have let sin take precedence in our lives; have mercy on us
Give us the grace to be able to walk away from sin and not be drawn to its web that leaves us tangled, used and confused

I am back!!

Over the past two weeks,  I have been away. I have battled many struggles along the way.

It has been a really low point in my life for something that should not be. It was really tough to 

understand why I could feel so incomplete despite all the blessings in my life. Having a roof over my 

head, having an amazing God who cares for me. Pursuing a career that I am called to be a part of, a 

wonderful family. Yet there it was, this bone deep sadness. I lost my ability to talk to God for a 

while, but I am happy to say that despite all the troubled waters. God has been there. 

I just wanted to write this blog, to say that I am fine. God has been faithful and I am once more drawn

to his light. He reminds me in the scripture that he is always there for me and also I would like to

encourage anyone who is going through anything; Depression, anxiety, abuse, insecurity whatever it 

is. God has not forgotten so don't give up. 

Look at your situation as an opportunity to grow and learn about yourself. God is always near. 

When I began to feel God was distant, it was easy to remain in my downward spiral but as I found myself returning to the scriptures and this encouraged me to be strong and persevere. It encouraged me to seek God again in repentance and renewing my commitment to him. He is slow to anger and rich in mercy. This is the truth about God that I chose to believe and I hope that you too can find that in your situation. 

The book of Timothy 4:11-15 really spoke to me and for anyone in ministry who may sometimes feel discouraged. 

It goes like this; 

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young but set an example in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Do not neglect the gift which was given you through a prophetic message; Watch your life and doctrine closely and persevere in them because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers".

I just want to say that I am back!! and will constantly look on the one who is the light, to guide my path in order not to veer off course.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Reflections Day 13

Day 13

First reading: 1Peter 5:1-4
Psalm 23:1-6
Gospel Matthew 16:13-19

Knowing who Jesus is as believers is not enough. Receiving him through faith is not enough. To be disciples we must respond to the call to follow him. Once we are his followers and have grown in the faith. It is our responsibility to help others reach that maturity. 

We are warned not to be domineering but to look after those God has put in our care. To do our tasks without complaining or trying to seek gain.

To those who are followers of Christ, whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven. In the Psalms, God promises us goodness and mercy all the days of our lives.

Reflections on Matthew 5:43-44

"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 

Recently, I felt betrayed by someone that I trusted. We had formed closed ties and I held certain expectations about this person. The thing about me is that I trust people and their words. You may ask why? Well it is because I have always felt that how I treat others is how they should treat me. Also, when I give someone my word I often keep it. So for me, though it shouldn't, it still comes as a surprise when someone I trust breaks that trust.

So despite relying on this certain person, in a split second things changed. What was once in equilibrium seemed out of balance. I felt betrayed and hurt. There was also a feeling of disappointment and soon I recognised that my emotions started to hold bitterness towards that person. My reaction was to isolate that person from my life. Why? Well i'm human and incidents like this makes you wonder if you have any real friends or if there is anyone you would ever trust. It starts to hold true that sometimes strangers are better than friends, atheists are better than christians? I made the decision to remove myself from that individual and take certain action that would perhaps show that I really was angry by their actions.

In reading this scripture, I gained clarity on what loving your enemies was. This person was not an enemy but sometimes friendships can turn sour and strong ties broken. It made me reflect on the situation and by God speaking through his word, I no longer harboured feelings of anger and resentment. Instead, I offered up a prayer for that friend letting him know that I forgive that person. I asked God to help them find themselves, to help them find healing and peace that only he can give. Surprisingly this gave me a sense of peace and assurance of God's forgiveness for my own wrongs and mistakes. As difficult a step that was, my burden suddenly seemed lighter. One less load to carry, I could return to focus on the things in my life that mattered. I know now that despite how difficult it was, I realised before God, I had just redeemed myself.

Lenten Reflections Day 11 & 12

Day 11
First reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19, 23-25
Psalm 119:1-2,4-5
Gospel Matthew 5:43-48

This readings are a constant reminder of the promises of God for us. He encourages us to keep his laws and commandments and promises that he will set us high above all in praise, fame and honour.

In today's society, it is easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Honour, fame, praises are what many of us desire. Some people strive their whole life to achieve success in order that it may come with either fame, honour, wealth, praises etc. We easily start to believe the standards society sets for us. For example we are told as women in the beauty magazines ways in which to attract a guy, how to leave him wanting more, how to be attractive by showing little or no skin.

When we look at the worldly view point it's no wonder trying to reach these expectations leaves us with low self worth and sometimes a deadly obsession to be different from who God has created us to be. God's word however tells us differently. We are expected to be better version of ourselves. God wants only the best for us and obeying his ways is for our good. When we follow his commands in areas such as relationships, beauty and finances, we stand out. We become the light for the world, a way for others to see Jesus through us. Let your honour, fame, fortune, praise come not from worldly standards but from Godly standards.

Lenten Reflections Day 9 & 10

Day 9:

First reading: Esther 12: 14-16, 23-25
Psalm 138: 1-3, 7-8
Gospel Matthew 7: 7-12

In Esther, it is said that she was seized with "deathly anxiety". This immediately paints a picture in my head that anxiety is a condition so serious that it can even lead to death. A lot of us worry about something or many things. They can range from irrational fears such as fear of spiders, to genuine concerns such as fear of losing our jobs or lack thereof, we can also be anxious about our relationships and the future.

What we find is that these anxieties can lead to restlessness. We experience sleepless nights, loss of appetite, increased heart rates etc. It even leads to our trying various methods of self-medication such as food, drugs and alcohol to help us cope. The bible says of Esther that in her deathly anxiety she fled to the Lord.

In anxious situations, we too like Esther should turn to God in prayer, trusting that he will deliver us from the dangers we face and that we would be able to conquer our fears. This also continues on to the Gospel of Matthew where God emphasises that he will give to those who ask of him. This week, I hold onto this promise of God trusting that he will see that all the goals and plans I have for my life will come to fruition and seeing the manifestation of his goodness in my life, I can be a testimony to others.

Day 10

First reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28
Psalm 130: 1-8
Gospel Matthew 5: 20-26

Reflecting on this reading I looked on my actions today and examined my heart. I had done some things that I was not proud of. I confess that I broke my vow to fast. It has not been easy and I suppose, I gave in to temptation. I had in my head justifications and excuses for why what I did was ok. However my actions impacted the rest of my day. I experienced a sense of inner guilt and feelings like I took God's mercy and grace for granted.

The first reading is a reminder that despite how many times we fail, God desires that we return to him. "But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statues and does what is right and lawful, he shall surely live; he shall not die" Ezekiel 18:21

The psalmist cries out to God "If thou should mark iniquities Lord who could stand, but there is forgiveness with thee that thou may be feared"

In the gospel reading, it further emphasises God's demand for our righteousness especially from us believers. He warns us to guard our hearts and tongues. It is not only important to ask God's forgiveness but also the forgiveness of those we have wronged that we may receive God's mercy

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Lenten Reflections Day 7 & 8

Day 8
First reading: Jonah 3: 1-10
Psalm 51
Gospel: Luke 11:29-32

In the psalms it says "Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me"
Each day I realize that I need the presence of the holy spirit, should he depart from me all i'm left with is a loneliness and emptiness that cannot be filled with anything.

I am constantly reminded of the mercy of God. How he witholds punishment so that we may all come to repentance. 


Lord heal my broken spirit. Repair and Renew me that I may be filled with a new zeal and love for you and your word. Help me with my daily struggles with sin and fill me with the knowledge of your presence with me both now and forever.

Day 7
First reading: Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm 34
Gospel: Mt. 6:7-15

These are the words of the readings that speak to me.  It helps me to hold on to the promises of God with faith.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Trusting God through the wilderness

The past month has probably been one of the most difficult journeys of my life.

Yet I am challenged to look at the positives of life. To believe that it does not end here, that God has a better plan for my life.

While I believe that, journeying through the wilderness is filled with it's pain and disappointments.

Relationships end, people disappoint you. Perhaps a part of you wonders if something is wrong with you. It leaves you in a fragile state of mind.

I find it harder to open up to people around me. What makes me think that they too won't let me down.

Even my own strength is failing me. I am losing the ability to believe in myself. There needs to be something greater than me looking out for me. I don't want to end up a failure. I know that I would continue to persevere through the storms of life. I will journey through the wilderness because I will carry my daily cross. The only way to do battle with the enemy within me and outside of me is to understand that it is a privilege to be in this time of trial. I choose to thank God for the opportunity to put me through testing. I know that my victory is at hand. If Christ could carry his cross then why can't I and so I will.

No matter how many times I fall, I would get up. So that in all things, in my weakness, the strength of christ is revealed.

This wilderness period of walking through the desert would soon come to an end. This as I continue to thirst for his presence to fill me.