Teresa Hodal: Lose yourself, find yourself

Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.
Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.

I decided to do the year-long Emmanuel School of Mission in New York in October last year.

The School is run by the Emmanuel Community, one of the new ecclesial movements in the Church which was established in France in the 1970s and emerged out of the charismatic renewal.

It seemed like a great opportunity for many reasons.

I wanted to strengthen my faith, learn how to be a missionary and spread the love of God with everyone I met.

It also sounded like a great year to be formed more in the Catholic faith and to serve the poor – in this case (and especially) in the Bronx.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but when all the doors opened and I couldn’t find any more reasons for not doing it, I quit my job, moved out of my house and tried to prepare myself for what lay ahead.

Within six weeks I flew halfway across the world and found myself in what seemed like a different universe.

Settling in, I learned to love things such as community Praise (which I had never experienced before) and even the ceaseless background noise of the Bronx.

We were nine missionaries from eight different countries, with two priests. We lived in community – one of the best experiences of ESM.

ESM participants in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament in New York.
ESM participants in Adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament in New York.

Yes, it was at times challenging and, despite the initial language barriers (especially between myself and the French speakers) we spent nine months laughing, cooking, cleaning, leading missions, studying, eating and praying together. Life-long friendships were made and now I have friends all over the world.

A big part of the year was obviously mission life. We were based in the South Bronx in New York – one of the toughest neighbourhoods in the city that never sleeps.

Yet it was probably the best place for us to be because many people there were poor and hungry – physically hungry but especially spiritually hungry.

We visited the Missionaries of Charity in their mother house, a five minute walk from where we lived, and volunteered in their soup kitchen a couple of days per week.

There, the Missionaries feed 40-80 homeless people everyday. We also did street evangelisation in the Bronx every week where we had so many beautiful conversations with people from every possible background.

I definitely felt more evangelised by the end than the people we went to evangelise. I especially remember one lady I spoke to who told us she was dying of cancer and that she had lost hope. She then took a Word of God from us which was about hope and trusting in God.

She started to cry and told us that we were God’s messengers sent to her and that we had given her hope. This is just one of many stories of the people who Christ touched through us in the Bronx.

We also went on various missions overseas and within the US, from running retreats in highschools, to leading ‘Mercy’ nights and parish missions.

Through daily Mass and adoration, plus retreats throughout the year, I learnt to love prayer and have a deeper love of God. You can’t go to daily Mass and have an hour of adoration everyday and not be changed.

Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.
Teresa Hodal (second right) and fellow ESM participants offer hot food to the homeless in New York.

I also learnt many new things through our intellectual formation and the classes that we received every week on various topics from Moral Theology, Scriptures, Spirituality and Art History, to name a few.

When I arrived at the beginning of the year, I didn’t know what to expect.

Looking back now on an amazing nine months I can say that ESM was an amazing opportunity to serve others and to be a witness to the Faith. It completely changed my life.

It also taught me the need and duty for every Catholic to be a missionary.

Somewhere along the way, I received more than I ever knew I could. When you get out of your comfort zone and are open to what God is asking you, many beautiful things happen.

I learnt during these nine months how wonderful it is to be Catholic. ESM taught me the importance of friendships in a way I never fully experienced before. It helped me to pray and to always incorporate God into every aspect of my day.

The motto of the school is ‘Give all, get more!’ This, I found, was so true.

Looking back I can say ESM will change your life. My life will never be the same and for that I will be eternally grateful. A year given fully to serve God through everyone you meet is abundantly rewarded. I have met Jesus this year and come to know Him like I never knew Him before.

If anyone is ever thinking of doing a mission year I would highly recommend it.

 

With permission. This article first appeared on www.catholicweekly.com.au

Path to leadership is via ‘littleness’

Character is everything: Steve Lawrence holds his latest book at the Mustard Seed Bookshop. Photo: Peter Rosengren
Character is everything: Steve Lawrence holds his latest book at the Mustard Seed Bookshop. Photo: Peter Rosengren

From footy to Faith

At six foot something, Steve Lawrence is a giant of a man. His height, combined with his sporting abilities were what saw him end up playing AFL football for Hawthorn from 1987 to 1998, including as a member of the brown and gold’s premiership-winning team of 1991.

Part of that AFL experience saw him playing against – and alongside – legends of the game. He’s the sort of bloke thousands of Aussie AFL fans would love to meet, be in the presence of and – these days – have a selfie taken with. Married to wife Annie, the couple have raised six children.

However one thing that sets the former ruckman aside is that he served as Director of the Emmanuel School of Mission in Rome from 2000 to 2003 before being drawn upon by the Archdiocese of Sydney to become Director of Evangelisation and Catechesis for World Youth Day 2008.

For this former sports star faith is his number one priority. These days he runs his own successful speaking and coaching business, Altum Leadership Group.

Cover of Make your Mark by Steven Lawrence

The clue is in the name. Altum is Latin, and means ‘high’ or ‘deep’ or both.

The concept of authenticity or true depth in leadership is what drove him to write a book on what he sees as the five key secrets of real leaders, launched in NSW at the Mustard Seed Bookshop in the heart of Sydney’s CBD last week.

True leadership, he told The Catholic Weekly, comes from winning interior battles and in small, even tiny, daily ways.

An example that clearly resonates deeply with him is Nelson Mandela, the first post-apartheid President of South Africa, whose example is explored in his book Make your Mark – 5 hidden keys to great leadership.

“Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison,” he said. “Yet he emerged to be able to unite a nation on the verge of civil war.

“[years before release] he chose to forgive, he chose not to bring about recrimination and retaliation when there was clearly the mood for it among many black Africans.”

“The only reason he was able to do that was that he chose to forgive, and that was an interior victory … that meant that when he was released from prison and became the President of South Africa he could unite the nation, both white and black, because of his interior freedom.

“We all have these interior battles we have to fight. We stumble and fall along the way and we have to win them.”

Steven Lawrence speaks at his book launch about what he sees as the five key secrets of real leaders at the Mustard Seed Bookshop in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. Photo: Charbel Azzi
Steven Lawrence speaks at his book launch about what he sees as the five key secrets of real leaders at the Mustard Seed Bookshop in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. Photo: Charbel Azzi

Failures and success of leadership fall on character

Yet if anyone walks into almost any bookshop in Australia they’ll find hundreds of titles, all claiming to reveal the secrets of true and effective leadership. Asked what makes his book different, there was a long pause.

“One of the key differences is I focus on leadership as character,” he told The Catholic Weekly.

“Other books focus on strategy and technical issues. I believe failures of leadership tend to be failures of character. So the question is: how do we draw people’s attention to this and how do we help people of character be given more responsibility?

“I conclude with an example, that most leadership is ‘tiny’, it happens at the very lowest level or smallest level.

“Everyday leadership, I think, is what people are called to live in the most simple and unexpected moments. It’s about readiness to do what’s right, readiness to step through doors that open, readiness to recognise that our life is not actually for us but for others, readiness to find collaborators who we can help become great.

“It’s in the small things that help us to become better people – that’s what leadership is about.”

 

With permission. This article first appeared on www.catholicweekly.com.au