BRENDAN Wong is a numbers man, and if he was asked to nominate the most significant numbers in his life right now they could possibly be one, two, four, 10, 40 and 100,000.
“One” stands for the one true God; “two” would be the one he forms with his wife Judith; “four” is the number of children they have; “10” is the number of years it’s taken him to find his dream job; and “100,000” is the approximate number of babies aborted in Australia each year.
“Ten” could also stand for 10 Hail Mary’s of a decade of the Rosary, Brendan’s favourite prayer.
Faith in God is central to Brendan’s life, it is faith in God that brought he and Judith together, their lives revolve around their four children, landing his job as chief financial officer with Mercy Community Services is the result of a 10-year search, and he founded 40 Days for Life in Australia to pray for the end of abortion.
Brendan, 45, said faith and finance had always been important to him, having been raised a Catholic and then seeing his expertise with figures as one of the gifts God had given him.
“I’ve enjoyed finance and accounting since I was back at school at (St Joseph’s) Gregory Terrace,” he said.
“It’s part of my DNA. It’s what God’s blessed me with and I’m very good at it but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I never thought I would do nothing but be in an accounting firm or work as an accountant for any old company.
“I always thought that those gifts were to be for God’s glory and for whatever He wants me to use those gifts for.
“I think it’s incumbent upon those who profess that they believe in God that they ask in return for the gifts that God has given to them, ‘What would you like me to do with these gifts, Lord?’ “These gifts are not just to be used to be frittered away and utilised for our own life; they’re to be used for a range of good works and we must find out what they are.”
Brendan’s delighted that, since December, he’s had the opportunity to use those gifts in the not-for-profit sector and for the good of others with Mercy Community in Brisbane.
There was a time though when his attention was drawn away from the numbers – when he was considering becoming a priest.
He’d been overseas for a few years – a couple of years in Dublin and a couple in London – and came back “probably a bit more focused on my faith”.
“I was never not serious (about my faith) but, I guess when I came back from being overseas, and when you see a lot and experience what the world has to offer I guess you either embrace that or you actually think, ‘Well, that’s actually not what I want my life to be …’,” he said.
So back in Brisbane he joined a Bible study group and that helped him develop a new understanding of “why do I care about being a Catholic”.
Attending World Youth Day 2005 in Cologne, Germany, furthered his search.
“I treated it as a true pilgrimage …
and when I came back from being over there I had been thinking, both before and after World Youth Day, about whether I should become a priest,” Brendan said.
But at World Youth Day he’d also met Judith, a young woman from a small town in Pennsylvania, United States, who was to become his wife.
They were married in 2006 and have children, Annabel, 12; Elyse, 10; Caleb, 9; and Tobias, 5.
After meeting Judith at World Youth Day, another important step was meeting her mother who introduced Brendan to 40 Days for Life, an international prayer campaign that aims to end abortion.
Until that meeting, abortion wasn’t even on Brendan’s radar.
“I wouldn’t have had a clue, before 2008, about the pro-life movement or anything, wouldn’t have even crossed my path,” he said.
“Judy’s mother, my mother-in-law, was talking in 2008 about the Obama election (in the United States), way before he was elected President, and she just happened to mention that, under him, there would be a lot more liberalised abortion laws and babies would die.
“And I went, ‘What do you mean? What are you talking about?’ “And she said, ‘You should look into this …’” When he did take a look, he was shocked.
“I’m typical of many people who go, ‘What? Really? – There are babies who die because of abortion?’,” he said.
As he began to take the issue more seriously and wanted to do something about it, his motherin- law told him about 40 Days for Life.
“And then I lost my job, so it was late 2008, (and) here I am and I’m two years married and we’ve got a child and a mortgage and I lost my job – never had that experience before,” Brendan said.
“And I felt it was a calling to do 40 Days for Life in Brisbane so I emailed 40 Days for Life, which was a bit of a fledgling organisation (based in the United States) back in late 2008 and said, ‘Could I do this in Australia?’ “And they said, ‘Don’t see why not’.
“So the 40 Days for Life, in Lent of 2009, was the first one outside of the Americas, I believe.
“We’re one of the longest-running 40 Days for Life vigils …
“We’ve had an annual Lenten 40 Days for Life between 2009 and up to now, and we’ll keep going until abortion ends.” 40 Days for Life brings Brendan’s story to the number “10”.
It’s been 10 years since he met former Brisbane archdiocesan financial administrator Jeremy Howes through 40 Days for Life – a meeting that had profound influence on his career direction.
At the time he met Mr Howes, Brendan said his career “was a little bit shakey – the company I was working for wasn’t doing very well”.
“And Jeremy said, ‘You know what – you should really work for the Church.
You should work for some kind of Church organisation …’,” Brendan recalled.
They had a serious conversation about the idea and it hit home for Brendan.
“From that point, 10 years ago, I thought, ‘I think he’s right …’,” he said.
“I mean, at that point, I hadn’t given any serious thought as to WHO I should work for; I always sort of separated my faith and personal life from being in finance and being an accountant.
“But it made me think a lot when he said that.
“So for the last 10 years, I’ve been looking for a role in a Catholic organisation in a not-forprofit, trying very hard and wandering through a sort of a dry, desert period of wanting to transition but having to wait a long number of years to transition to the right sort of role.” Looking back, Brendan sees God working in his life all the way through.
“Just picking up on that thread from where I met Jeremy Howes, and it was a long, dry period that I was in …
I applied for jobs constantly – I applied for jobs in the archdiocese, at Anglicare, UnitingCare, many jobs,” he said.
“If I added them all up, it was probably over the years maybe 10 different roles, but nothing came about.
“That was a little bit disheartening …
“There was a time I was thinking I’m getting too old, I’ll never transition to a not-for-profit Catholic organisation – it’ll never happen.
“And that would’ve been quite a sad end to my professional career if I’d retired in 20 years’ time and looked back and went ‘All I ever did was work for commercial roles’.
“I can see (now), if you follow along this whole conversation, where I am right now in my career – which is a very challenging role, but very fulfilling – is because I had that conversation with Jeremy Howes, which is because I started 40 Days for Life, which is because I heard about it from my mother-in-law, and that’s because I married a woman who I met at World Youth Day in 2005, which happened only after 2004 and the Bible study, which happened after …
“You just unwind it.
“I always look back on my life and see God working in it and see how it all works, and I think to myself, more often than not, I’m where I need to be …and I have to be patient, but also I live with these things in store for me.
“It’s a pivotal time in my life, in my career, working for Mercy Community …
“It’s a big part of my life and the fabric of my family – what I do for a living.
“I don’t come home every day now talking about my commercial role, making profit, and cash flow statements and whatnot.
“I now come home talking about what’s impacting Mercy Community and what we’re doing in the community and how we’re helping people.
“It’s a different story.”