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Brisbane women stir hearts in new project

THREE Brisbane women are thrilled to share their stories of life and faith in a new digital storytelling project by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for World Communications Day.

The digital stories in Stirring Hearts embraces online technologies and social media to “spread our good news stories to the ends of the earth”. The project is a response to Holy Father Pope Francis’ message of Church communications that should be “capable of bringing warmth and stirring hearts”.

Facilitator, musician, and personal trainer Donna McDade, Verbum Dei missionary and ACU lecturer Sister Maeve Louise Heaney, and Petrie parishioner and evangelist Jan Heath are among 12 Australians who share their stories in the new project, Stirring Hearts.

Miss McDade started her own business in January last year after she had spent over 10 years in the “comfortable zone” as campus minister at Sienna College. She took a leap of faith and started Experience Wellbeing, a business that offers staff and student development, personal training, and live music.

For Miss McDade, digital media is an important tool at a time when the Church needs to “bring good news stories to the spotlight”.

“It’s great for the Bishops to have something positive to share with the world,” she said.

The opportunity to share her story has also encouraged Miss McDade to “speed up” her dream of recording music. She has been performing regularly around Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast for the past three years, evangelising the public space with positive songs.

Verbum Dei consecrated missionary Sister Maeve Louise Heaney is a fellow musician who shared her story with the Stirring Hearts project. Having lived in Ireland, Spain, Rome, and now Brisbane, social networking and digital media have been important ways for Sr Heaney to keep connected.

“I got an email the other day from someone ago from Canada I ministered to 12 years who wanted to say thanks,” she said.

Sr Heaney said while music had been used well to share Verbum Dei’s charism of preaching the Word, of late she had been asking the question of social media use.

“Any means can be used for good, as theology teaches, and that’s the same with social media,” she said.

Sr Heaney’s new album Break the Crystal Frame will be released next month, and samples are available at her website,

Petrie parishioner and passionate evangelist Jan Heath said the Stirring Hearts project was “a wonderful opportunity to spread the Gospel” through her own witness.

Mrs Heath has been a lay evangelist since 1990, introducing the Catholics Returning Home program to Australia, and working actively at Petrie Catholic parish. She walked away from the Church for 14 years until three people shared their faith stories with her.

“They didn’t present dry concepts or rules and regulations, but a person, the person of Jesus Christ,” she said. “This led me back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where I was sorry that I put God in the back seat, and I wanted him in the driving seat.”

Mrs Heath said social media could enable evangelists like her to “reach thousands”.

“It you’re an evangeliser, it’s thrilling to know you can get out and reach so many,” she said. “It’s good to see the bishops are taking heed of what the world is doing. It’s wise words from Pope Francis, to use social networks.”

Mrs Heath has travelled around the world Africa, Asia and Europe on mission trips, but said she can now reach the poor without getting on a plane.

“While it’s great in person, not all people can go to the ends of the earth, but I’ve seen some of the poorest people with access to the internet and mobile phones, so you still can do it with social media,” she said.

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