Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Christianity Confronts its Greatest Challenge

February 14, 2009

Christianity Confronts its Greatest Challenge

by Michael Morwood (an article for reflection and discussion)


2008 Annual Hawke Lecture

December 27, 2008

2008 Annual Hawke Lecture
The Greatest Injustice: why we have failed to improve the health of Aboriginal people

Delivered by Professor Fiona Stanley AC

Adelaide Town Hall, Thursday 6 November 2008

Book Review I Wish I Were A Leper

June 6, 2008

Author                         Vince O’Rourke

Publisher                    Lumino Press           

ISBN                           978-0-977599363    Paper back 216 pages RRP $29.95

  This is a remarkable book, the story of a couple as they encountered and moved through the debilitating phases of Alzheimer’s disease. It is a story of courage and despair, hope and doubt, rage and circumspection, dignity and compassion.

 Above all it is a powerful love story.

 The reflective genre of this book is fascinating. The author, Vince O’Rourke, is a daily journal writer. The book poignantly tells the story of his wife Margaret and the early onset of Alzheimer’s soon after his retirement as the chief executive officer of Brisbane Catholic Education, one of the largest non-government employers in Queensland. It is enhanced at regular intervals by the inclusion of unedited extracts from his journals. Vince‘s reflection on these earlier raw and emotion-charged reflections is both gripping, very moving and deeply honest.

 Here we have a couple who are moving into a phase of life where they hope ‘to live happily ever after’ their lives of a demanding public career and a supportive home making role that enables the former to occur so well. Too soon they are thrust into the chaos and turmoil of a journey into the unknown, where the reality of a debilitating, life-changing and life-terminating disease all but snuffs out this earlier hope.

 It is a well written narrative from a male perspective, which is most unusual. Here is a high achieving male who has retired early from a groundbreaking role to pursue a consultancy. Almost immediately he is thrust unpreparedly into the role of full-time carer. The book covers the 7.5 years that Vince nursed Margaret at home and of his daily visits with her in the following 18 months when she was in care before her death at the age of 67.

It covers the terrain of a carer; the confusion, the tiredness, the anger and frustration, the glimmers of hope and recognition that occur oddly and randomly through this debilitating disease. It demonstrates how the carer often feels alone and abandoned by government policy and support. It reflects how supportive children, extended family and genuine friendship are true gifts. It points to the paucity of appropriately resourced respite and long term care facilities for people with Alzheimer’s and other life-sapping illnesses. It demonstrates the manner in which some community groups and agencies do a sterling job in assisting people such as Margaret and Vince.

The book is an invaluable insight into Alzheimer’s. It is a powerful book which at times expresses the raw feelings of the moment. It offers significant and accessible commentary for those who are carers and of what may lie ahead for them and those who share the journey with them and the Alzheimer sufferer. It will be a valuable contribution to those in health care, government policy makers and those lobbying for better support to carers and their families.

Moreover, the narrative presents a compassionate, respectful and genuine loving testament to Margaret. The truth is told unambiguously about her demise but in ways that introduce us to the person she once was and of how difficult it was for her as the disease increases its intensity. It also offers us an entry into her moments of recognition even though she appears unable to communicate verbally – the perceived joy at nursing new grandchildren, her apparent recognition of significant events such as birthdays and wedding anniversaries, and the frustration she demonstrated occasionally when she was being talked about in her presence. Candidly the other side is also presented; of her lack of recognition and of her confusion about who Vince was; lack of recognition of who the family were; and of her new friends that she found in various mirrors!

Finally, the book offers a reflection upon the spiritual journey of a couple and their family within the Catholic faith tradition. As with many of the Christian spiritual classics this too rails against God from time to time as the very core of faith is tested. It reveals how the Catholic faith tradition can connect a person to earlier times and seasons and to a range of spiritual insights that can provide comfort, challenge, and a foundational story based upon suffering, death and resurrection, especially as expressed in the celebration of the Mass. At its best Catholicism can also connect individuals to a community of belief which keeps the rumour of God alive and can provide practical assistance in times of need.

I recommend this book as a very practical, well written account for those seeking understanding about Alzheimer’s disease (or any other debilitating disease), for carers and for those who care about them. It reflects the selfless love and commitment of 41 years of marriage within the many moments of despair and anguish that the disease brings. Margaret’s is a well lived, much respected, dedicated, faithful and faith-lived life. The author shows how the lasting hope of dedicated love and commitment overcome that which would otherwise be a desperately sad epilogue.

The book is available from

Damien F Brennan


Religious Education and Curriculum Services

Brisbane Catholic Education


2 June 2008




The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

April 24, 2008


Book cover


Tell us what you read!!

November 5, 2006

This page within St Mary’s web promotes books that have been part of the lives of members of the community. Some of the works have been written by those who worshsip at St Mary’s, others have been launched at the Church and many are the works that inspire and enthuse those who call St Mary’s their spiritual home.

 So, what have you read that inspired or challenged you? We invite you to contribute to this page with your reviews and images.