WHEN a beloved daughter marries there’s no doubt to be tears.
A month after Brisbane’s Kym Keady farwelled daughter Bethany into the joys of marriage on December 1, 2018, the Ignite Youth director put the tears into words.
She drew on the speech her and husband Patrick gave at the wedding to write an emotive letter first, coupling as an assessment for a theology unit.
Today, the letter is part of a collection of essays titled Still Listening to the Spirit: Woman and Man 20 Years On, commissioned by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference to mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Woman and Man: One in Christ Jesus.
“I wrote the letter because I had to do a creative synthesis assignment in my unit of theology on the four female doctors of the Church,” Mrs Keady said of being inspired by Saints Hildegard of Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena and Therese of Lisieux.
“They wrote many letters to many people they loved so I took the notes from our wedding speech and developed it.
“When there was the need for some mums to provide a semi-theological writing on motherhood, I was already writing my creative synthesis so I offered it to the editors to contribute to the book.”
The mother-of-three, accustomed to speaking publicly and developing personal and philosophical ideas, said it was “the most emotional and personal assignment” she had taken on, beginning the letter by telling Bethany how much she was loved.
“I think you’re one of the most amazing humans in the world,” Mrs Keady wrote to her eldest daughter.
“You came into this world, wise and content and stole all our hearts from the beginning.”
Mrs Keady’s emotions in print centred on what she “always wanted to tell” her children about “life and values” and was a springboard into marriage for Bethany.
“Today is a first because it’s the day where you begin the rest of your life as the leader of your family and not just a child of our family,” the letter reads.
“So with that journey ahead and with motherhood on your heels, I want to share with you some of the things I have learnt in marriage and motherhood about being a woman, about leadership, love, selflessness and especially about God.”
Initially, Mrs Keady wrote to Bethany something that was already ingrained into her Catholic upbringing – that she “will need Jesus” but also connected him to the women who inspired the writing.
“For all four female doctors of the Church, Jesus was at the centre of their lives as well,” Mrs Keady wrote.
“Everything they did and wrote flowed out of this love and fervent pursuit of Jesus as number one.”
Mrs Keady encouraged her daughter to allow Jesus to help develop her “greater self-awareness”, relaying her own reliance on God.
“There are times when God reminds me how unique, unrepeatable and worthy I am, and other times He reminds me that I am ‘but an ant in the colony’,” she wrote, adding, “Both are important.”
With prayer as “the lifeblood” of the saintly witnesses, Mrs Keady told Bethany another well learnt life lesson of needing to be in constant communication with Christ but the advice was heightened through the motherly lens.
“When you become a mother, your prayer life changes,” Mrs Keady wrote.
“I was riddled with guilt for a long time, thinking I wasn’t holy enough because I couldn’t get to my ‘hourly prayer time’.
“But God is bigger than that.
“Even when I fell asleep during prayer, God still spoke to me … (and) it is something worth fighting for.”
Mrs Keady also advised her daughter to do something that has become evident in her own life and that is to, “Lead like a woman”.
“In a world gone crazy about gender issues, let me encourage you to lead, in all your fullness, as a woman,” she wrote.
“When you lead your family, lead with all of who you are.
“There are profound spiritual lessons found in marriage and motherhood.
“The love of your husband and children manifest a visible sign of God’s love in the world.”
The devoted mum and youth advocate then wrote of the “Selflessness and the Audience of One”.
“When I first became a mother, I had no idea what I would have to sacrifice,” Mrs Keady wrote.
“My work, my desires, even my body had changed.
“Especially when your dad went back to work and I was left at home, I started to notice that many of the things I used to do, I couldn’t.
“My role had changed and I was faced with a decision: either embrace this new stage of life or resent it.
“I needed to make a clear decision to embrace motherhood; to throw myself into it or feel overcome by it.
“I realised that I needed to stop thinking about the things I was missing out on and start thinking I would never want to miss out on my children – these little people God had entrusted to me.
“I would never want to miss out on those moments.
“In fact, there was nowhere else I would rather be, then right there with you.”
Other messages were focused on the “need for resolve and guts … (and) trusting the inner voice” when life evolves as well as finding “a people, a sisterhood, a community”, all the while knowing the impact on children is the most profound of a woman’s life.
Of her contribution to the collection of essays from a range of “perspectives on issues concerning women in the Church and society” as “food for thought and prayer in the discernment phase of preparation for the Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in 2020”, Mrs Keady hopes to encourage mothers to “tell your kids what you think and what you believe about life”.
“Use your gifts and talents at home and let your children be blessed by them, as well as in the workplace,” she said with another message for daughters.
“There’s an army of women who have gone before you and are here to support you as you navigate through this messy life,” she said.
“Don’t forget to ask for help, know you are not alone and you are stronger than you realise.”
Mrs Keady has high hopes for the writers’ collective messages to reach the wider Church too.
“There’s a place for women leaders in the Church,” she said.
“I feel a sadness for the many women in the past generations who had natural leadership abilities that were stifled or blocked because of their gender.
“These female doctors show us there is a place for women leadership in the Church.
“The Church will not be complete without women contributing their strengths, wisdom, resilience and spirituality.
“There’s also a place for mums to lead in the Church – mums are the most versatile, adaptable and high-capacity leaders I know.”
Copies of Still Listening to the Spirit are available from the Australian Catholic Bishops website at https://www.catholic.org.au/shop/acbc-shop