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Wednesday, 20 September 2023 00:26

Get to know Christine Sebire

Christine Sebire wears many hats. An Echuca parishioner for many years, she is a wife, mother and dairy farmer. A former Pastoral Associate; teacher; and trainer of teachers, she is now also a Member of the Sandhurst Mission and Pastoral Council (SMPC) and is one of three lay people (and the only woman) appointed to attend the College of Consultors.

Christine is interested in finding ways to support parishes to be outward-facing places of nurture; to help people discover the relevance of faith in their lives; and for Catholics to “not be so quiet” about all the great things we do.

Relating to her own faith life, Christine believes community and social justice build faith just as much as they are built on faith. For Christine, viable parishes provide people with an experience based on affirmation and belonging which extends beyond the parish.

“Our parishes need to be, not just places where you go to Church but, places that nurture us and places that are relevant to our life,” says Christine. “This is my main motivation to be part of the SMPC – how, as a Diocese, do we support parishes to foster that sort of climate in their communities?”

“Yes, we need tradition, yes we need knowledge; it’s not about how many people are in our pews, it’s about how many people feel parish is important to them.”

Christine shares her personal story to illustrate the importance of creating parishes which are, as she says, “for everybody”. Christine and her seven siblings were raised in the thick of the St Mary’s Echuca community where her parents were immersed in parish life, and she was active in youth programs and ministries. “The parish was my world,” she explains. “At that time, my faith wasn’t as important to me as the support and nurturing of that community.”

After leaving Echuca as a young adult, Christine didn’t attend Mass. “It wasn’t a rejection of the Church or faith, I just didn’t have that community,” she said.

After years working in Far North Queensland Christine returned to Echuca as a single mother, determined to give her daughter a sense of belonging and love from a parish which she had always felt as a child. “My daughter’s school was very supportive, and the Parish Priest passed no judgement. We just fitted straight into the parish!” she said.

Within weeks of returning to Echuca, Christine was asked to join the Sacramental Team. “It scared the pants off me, because I hadn’t been to Mass in a while, yet I felt this was a real opportunity for me to return to the Church completely,” she said.

Christine started teaching at St Mary’s Primary School and became a Religious Education specialist. Accreditation courses, including some facilitated by the Diocese, instilled the confidence and knowledge for her to continue with her work, not only as a Religious Education teacher, but in her parish as well.

Christine served as Pastoral Associate at St Mary’s Echuca for eight years where she endeavoured to inspire others to create a warm, welcoming, and outward -facing community in which joy itself was an evangelising factor.

Tapping into the Catholics who no longer attend Mass, making faith relevant, and communicating what the Church is really about are major challengse for any diocese and a focus for the SMPC. “At the last SMPC meeting, we agreed that communicating about the ‘servant church’ of today and overcoming preconceived ideas about parish life is a major challenge. We tried to reimagine what the Church in Sandhurst could look like as a welcoming and outgoing Church and how we communicate that,” said Christine.

“According to the Australian census there were about 3000 people who identified as Catholic in our area. You don’t identify as Catholic unless it actually means something to you, so how do we reach out to those people to let them know that we care, to make a link? Not to make them come to Church, but to reach out so that they feel they belong. Then, if they feel we have something to offer as a community, they might decide to come to Mass and be part of that community."

Christine says she found it very encouraging that Dr Elissa Roper, the keynote speaker at the Diocesan Assembly held in February this year, spoke about “opening up” the Church and creating new avenues of entry. “She was totally speaking my language!” laughed Christine.

“Over the generations we have unwittingly created a situation where people believe they are unworthy, or need to be holy, or need to know theology. We need these people – and all of us to know – that to be worthy we just have to live our faith. How can we “Open our doors”, as Pope Francis says, open the doors, not only so people can come in, but so we can go out into the community? We need to be better at doing that and we need to be better at telling everyone about the good things we do.”

Christine says social justice is a key to helping people find the relevance of Church in their lives. “I had tremendous Religious Education teachers in my last years of school; they really brought faith to relevance and to real life situations.” She summarised, being active in community for a common cause seeking justice, leads us to find relevance in Catholic teaching and this, in turn, leads us to faith.

College of Consultors

Christine is aware of the significance of her appointment to attend the College of Consultors, especially as a lay woman. “It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, and I acknowledge Bishop Shane’s broad thinking to make such an invitation,” she said.

Bishop Shane appointed Christine and Brendan Lindsay (St Brendan’s Shepparton) as lay participants to attend the College of Consultors on the recommendation of the SMPC. Dr Chris Cotter (Director of Mission and Pastoral Life) also attends the meetings.

Reflecting on her first meeting of the College of Consultors on 1 August, Christine said she was warmly welcomed by the Consultors and felt that her contribution was valued.

The three appointed lay participants do not vote in formal canonical decisions; nevertheless, they fully participate in discussions and the decision-making process of the College of Consultors. Christine explained, “We have the right to speak as we see fit and I very much feel that what I say in a meeting is taken into consideration when the Consultors are voting.”

“The responsibility certainly isn’t lost on me!” says Christine. “I’m mindful that parishes differ so much and within parishes there are diverse congregations. How do we embrace all of those elements? It’s an enormous challenge and it is very humbling.”

Christine and Members of the SMPC can be contacted by
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
telephone: 03 5441 2544 (Via the Chancery ask for Tim Nolan or Leslie Cooper)

According to Canon Law, [Can. 502 §1 ] The College of Consultors assists the Bishop in the governance of the Diocese in accord with the provisions of Church Law.

In Sandhurst, the College of Consultors is formed by Fr Vijay Bandanadam ALCP/OSS, Fr Brian Boyle EV, Fr Andrew Fewings, Fr Jake Mudge, Fr Joe Taylor VG and Fr Junray Rayna.

While the Bishop presides over the College, he is not a member of it and, as such, he does not vote on matters brought before the College.The College of Consultors also provides for the administration of the Diocese if the See is vacant or impeded.