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Thursday, 11 April 2024 12:47

Get to know Jobelle Collier, SMPC Member

St Brendan’s Shepparton parishioner, Jobelle Collier, brings her perspective as a young mother and migrant to the Sandhurst Mission and Pastoral Council (SMPC). Jobelle is a healthcare worker and experienced podcaster with a passion for community engagement and service.

As a member of the SMPC, Jobelle wants to create thriving welcoming and inclusive parishes which provide opportunities for people to live out their faith in practical ways.

“The parishes and organisations which I have been part of encourage everyone to contribute. I think the more that we contribute to something – the more we put into it, the better the experience is for us. We need to find ways to give people the opportunity to apply their faith in real life, not just think of faith as theory, but as something to practise. We can look at the Works of Mercy and all the things that the Catholic Church has worked out for us already; we don’t have to work it out for ourselves; we just need to give people the opportunity to really explore what these things actually look like in our community. I think a parish that comes alive is a parish that works together; not just sitting in church for an hour on Sundays, but a church that applies what it learns on Sunday as a mission to community. God gave all of us different talents; we can nurture those talents and gifts and use them to contribute, not just to our churches but to society in general.”

Jobelle’s desire to find practical ways for people to live out their faith motivated her to put her hand up for the SMPC, but it was only with the encouragement of fellow parishioners and her Parish Priest that she found the confidence to submit an expression of interest to Bishop Shane. In a sense, she’s a living example of the power of ‘tapping someone on the shoulder’. When her Parish Priest, Fr Joe Taylor, announced to the congregation that Bishop Shane was seeking expressions of interest for the SMPC, two people turned around and gave her a nod and her younger brother gave her a poke:

“I thought there would be other people who are more qualified, more suited, but outside after Mass Fr Joe suggested that I send in an Expression of Interest. So, even though I had my doubts about being ‘worthy’, I thought if other people think I could bring something to the SMPC, then maybe it was a way for me to possibly serve the Diocese.”

Jobelle says, when she first became a member of the SMPC she was keen to take action and get some quick results. “I was like, ‘Ok – what are we doing?’ Instead of so, ‘what are we planning?’ The more time I spent in those meetings, the more I came to understand that the SMPC is an advisory to the Bishop, not a working bee,” she says.

“I’m the type of person who wants to build the plane as we fly it, but I’ve come to understand that things do take time, processes take time and strong foundations are very important for long-term progress. As much as I want to see something come out of this tomorrow, I understand that if we don’t go through the due processes, we might not have put the right things in place to achieve the outcomes we want and to sustain those outcomes.”

Jobelle hopes that the work of the SMPC will lead to an inclusive, outward-facing mission-oriented Church. Her lived experience as a teen migrant; as a mother of three young children; and as a wife who has supported her husband through the RCIA Program, has entrenched her understanding of the importance of the Church being inclusive and welcoming. “I’m always keeping an eye out for ways in which people can, not only belong to a parish, but participate in parish life whether they have grown up in that parish or moved into the parish,” she says.

Jobelle says her positive experiences at St Brendan’s helped her to transition to life in Australia after migrating from the Philippines to Shepparton in Term II of Year 11. “It was a very challenging age to migrate; I had to catch up on lots of schoolwork as well as everything else. One of the memories which is really vivid for me is how alive the Liturgy is at St Brendan’s and I appreciate the sense of community it gave me. I would have found the experience much more difficult if I didn’t have a place to belong and a sense of community like I had with St Brendan’s.”

“My family went to Mass together and we were also part of the Filipino community gatherings which were generally aligned with the Church. So, there was a good balance between Filipino community and local parish life,” recalls Jobelle.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say this: No matter where we go in the world, when we attend Mass we feel right at home, whether we understand the language Mass is celebrated in or not. From my experience it’s true.”

As a mother, Jobelle is keen to find ways to make Mass more accessible to parents. “The transition from having no kids to having kids can be challenging and I was grateful to have a group of young Catholic Mums to spend time with. The Catholic Mothers’ Group was short-lived, but it was well-timed for me.”

Jobelle acknowledges that Catholic families face unique challenges in an increasingly secular Australia and says parish communities can play an important role to validate, encourage and support parents to raise their children in faith.

“My faith has sustained me throughout my life and shaped me into the person I am today. Faith is the most important gift we can give to someone, so we must find ways for people to grow in their faith and from my experience that means find ways for parishioners to live out their mission in practical ways – our faith needs to be lived.”

“How can we give our kids the gift of believing? We need to teach them everything they need to know in an age-appropriate way, not raise them in a bubble. For my husband and me, the biggest hope is that we raise children who welcome and embrace everyone, not just people who are like them.”

“If there was only one thing that I could pass on to my children, it would be faith. If I can pass on faith to them, I think I would have completed my motherhood assignment; I would be happy with that. It’s something which I’ve received as a gift from my parents and grandparents, so I hope to pass that on to my children. It’s guided me in who I am as a human, so more than anything I would love for that to be shared with my children as well.”

Jobelle reflects on her childhood in the Philippines to illustrate the importance of faith and a sense of belonging.

“I don’t want to generalise, but we tend to define poverty as financial poverty. In Australia, poverty doesn’t present the way it does in the Philippines. It looks different, it looks more like isolation and loneliness, it looks more like spiritual poverty, and I do think that is something we overlook. You know, we think that because we don’t live in the third world that poverty doesn’t exist.
What I’ve witnessed in the Philippines is that people who are living in poverty still have hope, still have faith. They still hope that God will deliver them from poverty;, if not, that God will give them the hope and strength to live life. Where here, people who live in poverty are more prone to despair. The greatest gift you can give to someone is the gift of faith and the gift of hope. Whether you are poor or rich you need to look forward to the next day.”

Jobelle thinks the Church can learn from other Christian groups. “I have sat in darkness for periods of time, wondering why the Catholic Church isn’t getting things right,” she says, noting that this motivated her to join the SMPC and become part of the solution. Jobelle has spent time with various other Christian Church groups and other Catholic Groups, such as the Latin Mass Catholics and the Charismatic Catholics. She would love to work out how to bring the strengths of these groups to everyday parish life. The outreach and active mission of the Baptists, the vigour of Pentecostal communities, for example. “We need to find answers to the emotional and spiritual poverty we see in our communities,” laments Jobelle.

Jobelle’s thoughts about faith, strong communities and belonging have been cemented with the experience of her husband becoming a Catholic through the RCIA program ten years ago. This year, he sponsored his brother through the RCIA programme. “So, it’s a double celebration for our family this Easter,” says Jobelle.

“I was born into the Catholic faith, and it’s part of my culture. My husband and brother-in-law were baptised as babies but completed the rest of the sacraments as adults. I take my hat off to them, so many people have no need to seek faith …” says Jobelle.

Jobelle laughs about her husband’s initial inquiries into Catholicism. “There are two versions to the story: He thinks I said I wouldn’t marry him unless he became baptised in the Catholic Church. My version of the story is that I prayed and prayed until it finally happened!”

“I’m sure I must have been very annoying, but I think over time, when he joined me at Church activities a spark within him ignited and he ran with it. He carries our household in terms of faith these days, he is very much a flame in our home.”

God cares about the little things.

On the wall of a Rogationist school in the Philippines is a photograph of the class of 2007. A young girl’s smile beams out from the wall. Upon visiting the school in January this year, Bishop Shane is surprised to recognise this familiar face and texts the now young woman in the photograph a photograph of her photograph. And so, Jobelle Collier, SMPC member, Shepparton parishioner, podcaster, wife, mother, learned that God really does care about the little things.