TERESA McGrath’s work for the Church is guided by two of her favourite Scripture quotes – one from St Paul and another from St Peter.
The one from St Paul is from his second letter to the Corinthians – “His grace is sufficient for me, for His power is made perfect in weakness (12:9).”
And St Peter’s is from his first letter – “Always be ready for an answer to those who ask you the reason for the hope that you have (3:15).”
Teresa, 34, who works with Evangelisation Brisbane as the associate director for parish leadership, chose the words from St Paul when she volunteered with NET (National Evangelisation Teams) Ministries as an 18 year old.
“It was my theme Scripture of my first year of NET, and then the Matt Maher song, ‘Your grace is enough’, had also just recently come out,” she said.
“That was our (team’s) theme song that year as well, and has become a resonating theme ever since.
“In my first year working for the Brisbane archdiocese, 1 Peter 3:15 was the Scripture that I stuck up on my computer as a reminder every day for why I was doing what I was doing.”
She’s been doing ministry ever since those days with NET, which extended for another eight years on NET’s paid staff, but not long before that she had her time of soul-searching in faith.
Teresa’s from a strong Catholic background, with her family having long-time links with Corinda-Graceville parish in Brisbane and with the Emmanuel Community.
Typically, her own time of questioning came in her teenage years.
“It never stopped me from going to church but I definitely went through a stage of trying to decide whether I wanted the faith to be my own,” she said.
“Having grown up in such a strong faith-filled community, I had to go through a stage of deciding whether I was going to own it as my own faith.”
Her turning point came when she was about to go into Year 11 and she joined about 20 other young people on a road trip to a week-long school in evangelisation in New South Wales.
“That was a really pivotal moment of God revealing Himself to us through that trip and through that experience together,” she said.
“It was a moment where I really owned my faith for myself and made an active choice to follow God and to be in relationship with Him.”
Having made that choice, her eight years with NET then influenced what could’ve seemed like an unusual study choice for someone keen on evangelisation.
“I love the Church and I love supporting the Church. Working (with NET) made me realise that we have a huge gap in being able to take great business and strategic principles and apply them in a ministry context, integrating the best of business and the best of ministry,” she said.
“There’s always going to be a tension there that needs to be managed rather than resolved.
“We, as a Church, could learn so much from the business world around best practice in leadership, in a way that doesn’t compromise our mission, but instead enhances it.
“In the end when I started studying my undergraduate (degree), a Bachelor of Business Management, my hope was that I could use it in some way to help the Church, so that ministries within the Church can become all that they can be.”
Teresa said she’d been in ministry in the Church since she was 18 and “the only reason I’m in ministry is because of my own personal relationship with Jesus”.
“It’s a very core part of who I am and it’s part of what drives me every day,” she said.
“Because of that relationship and, through engaging with young people in ministry for so many years, I’ve always seen so much possibility for more we can be doing as Church.
“I have definitely considered going elsewhere and working elsewhere, and I’m still always open to that being a possibility in my life but this is where God seems to have led me now.
“At every step of the journey to where I am now I’ve felt real peace as I’ve taken each new step in my career.”
And the answer to what empowers Teresa is simple.
“It’s daily prayer – number one,” she said.
“It’s talking to Jesus and having Him at the centre of my life.
“I find that, when I am talking to Him and when I am praying regularly, my priorities are really clear and it makes it easy, because that’s the centre of why I do what I do.
“I’ve had an incredible encounter with God and I feel that my role, whatever it has been within the Church over the last 15 years or so, has always ultimately been for the purpose of trying to help others to have a similar experience of God.”
She sees it as “ true privilege” to be in a role that can influence or play a part in influencing other people’s faith life.
“Ultimately evangelisation is not about me doing anything apart from helping to facilitate people meeting Christ, people meeting Jesus, and the way that we do that is through invitation,” she said.
“And, so whilst I play a role in that space, my role is really to help ensure that as many people as possible are invited into a relationship with Jesus, whether that’s through something that I directly do or through the many indirect things that I might do to enable that invitation to happen.”
Her focus is out in the parishes, and that means frequent visits all around the archdiocese.
“I’ve been to Logan this week, and we’re running a parish leadership summit at Hendra this weekend,” she said.
“I’ve been working with Albany Creek parish a few weeks ago and also Sandgate Brighton, so it is (a matter of) getting out a lot.
“One part of my role is working with parishes around their future through strategic planning and forward planning and trying to integrate the mission of the Church and evangelisation within the reality of what the parish is experiencing.
“It can be so hard to balance the various aspects of parish life, from finances, COVID-safe plans and the maintenance of buildings to evangelisation, formation and sacramental preparation.
“There’s the practical realities of a parish but then there’s also the mission, and what’s new and what’s possible.
“It’s not about having the answers, but about asking the right questions to uncover what God might be asking of each particular parish.
“It’s about tapping into the ‘missionary impulse’ of the parish that Pope Francis talks about in The Joy of the Gospel that is ‘capable of transforming everything’.”
It’s “life-giving” work for Teresa.
“I love doing it because I feel like it’s a perfect place to integrate my studies, including my current studies in Leadership and Theology, with my ministry experience alongside my love for Jesus and the Church,” she said.
Apart from prayer, other elements nourishing or sustaining her in faith and ministry have been “a number of spiritual directors and mentors in my life”.
“Prayer for me obviously includes the sacraments – and so being able to go to Mass and Reconciliation is very grounding for me – but also community (is important),” Teresa said.
“You can’t do this without other people on the journey, and community comes in many forms for me.
“It’s with my colleagues that I work with.
“It’s through the Emmanuel Community and through the various groups that I’m a part of there.
“And then it’s through the informal stretch of networks that I have, like that group from school (who went to NSW).”
And then there’s the people at home.
“Alongside me every step of the way is my husband (Sean) and my daughter (Lily),” she said.
“I am incredibly blessed.
“They are a great support; they balance me out.
“I’m such a doer and an achiever, and my husband is so good at helping me stay present and enjoy the moment.
“Lily is the same. You can’t be about achieving with a 23 month old.
“I love spending time with her and seeing the world through her eyes.
“The awe and excitement she has as she explores the world are contagious.”
And now she’s preparing for another of life’s big moments – the birth of her second child.
She’s heading off on maternity leave soon, for an October birth.
Blessings keep coming.