Some are blessed to “whistle while they work”.
That’s the God-given reality of Brisbane’s Patrick Keady who, for more than two decades, has shared with anyone within coo-ee and beyond, an insatiable appetite for the beauty and potential of the Church.
The Emmanuel Community’s Ignite Youth director shared faith spearheads his New Year resolve, prompted by an early-morning wake-up call.
“I had no plans of waking up … (but) disobedience wasn’t an option,” he said of knowing God had set inward alarm bells.
“I sat down, turned on the computer, opened a blank document and waited for inspiration to come. Then I typed in the first word that came to me … ‘Spearhead’.”
Why type, “Spearhead” and give the ensuing book, his third, the same name?
The musician and father-of-three, better known as “Pat”, said that’s what he “wanted to write about … spearheading a new evangelisation of our nation and paving a way for the Church of the future”.
“I realised I had something to say, something I hadn’t heard anyone else say yet, at least not the way I wanted to, something Australian, something for ordinary lay people like me,” he said.
“For me, there’s nothing better than being caught up in the creative process.”
Asked what young people can gain from the book’s succinct and engaging 100 or so pages, Pat was his honest self.
“I think young people are looking for inspiration, they are inherently hopeful and optimistic about what is possible and what can be done in the Church,” he said.
“My hope is that young people reading Spearhead will feel inspired and encouraged by myself, as someone a little further down the track, to ‘go for it’ and lead the Church forward, rather than be told, ‘You can’t do that in here’.
“Who knows what young saints and renewal the Lord is raising up among us right now?”
Pat said Spearhead was also for older generations.
“Not all of us have that inherent youthfulness, that openness to new possibilities, a real barrier to creativity and hope,” he said.
“Many of us who are older have adopted a hard-wired response of, ‘We tried that ten years ago and it didn’t work’ mentality, which is very limiting, both for us and for the next generation who we are meant to be inspiring.
“In the book I talk about two young people, Jonathan and his armour bearer (from the story in 1 Samuel:13) who turned the tide of battle through a radical and courageous response.
“If we’re not in a battle as the Church today we’re kidding ourselves.”
Embracing renewal and because he couldn’t “help” himself, the musician has created songs around the book’s key themes.
Also hopeful of reaching those in prominent positions in the Church, Pat said Spearhead had honest wisdom for them too.
“My hope for all those in leadership who read the book – lay people, priests or bishops – is that they first be refreshed and encouraged themselves, and reminded about what our main mission is, which is to lead people to Jesus,” he said.
“It isn’t to get bogged down in a ‘web of obsessions’, as Pope Francis coined it, but to lead God’s people from a place of personal life and freedom.
“Leadership in Jesus’ framework is all about service in community.”
The book outlines the need for more “brotherhood” in priestly ministry.
“One of the things I challenge us with is to set our priests up for a win through community rather than isolation,” Pat said.
“I emphasise the need for clergy to work in teams, drawing upon the giftedness of the lay people around them, so that we can all move forward together in what Pope Benedict called ‘co-responsibility’.
“As I say in the book, ‘Most of the priests I know just want to lead alongside great lay people who they can be real with, laugh with, have a drink with, pray with and go out on mission with’.
“I hope that Spearhead provokes more parishioners to come alongside their priests in support, as true friends and colleagues … (and) by learning to work collaboratively, clergy at all levels will welcome and benefit from the giftedness we have to offer.
“We’re all in this together, or not at all.”
Conscious of those who are “missing” in our churches, Pat also addressed the impact of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, saying the process was “like a two-by-four in the back of the head … (and) the Church has received a good public hiding and we absolutely deserved it”.
Above all, Pat said “hope” must prevail.
“If we don’t have hope, we may as well pack up shop now and go home,” he said.
“I have to have hope in the Church, not because the bride is perfect but because the groom is.
“(And) if He still believes in her, as weak and flawed as she is, then I have to as well. Forgiving the Church for her faults is something I’ve been doing for a long time now and will probably need to keep doing for the rest of my life.
“(But) it would be a very imperfect picture to see her only in a negative light.
“Without the faithfulness and breadth of her teaching, without the grounding I experience through the Eucharist, without the witness of two-thousand years of saints and martyrs, I would have swivelled off years ago into theological and ecclesial confusion.
“We’ve been through harder times than this. We just need to learn our lesson in this season and keep in step with the Spirit.”
Married to Kym for 21 years, sharing life and ministry, as a couple and family, with children, Bethany, 20, Chiara, 18, and David, 15, Pat said creativity was in his “wiring”.
“I think that’s what we’re all called to do, find ‘that thing’ and do it,” he said.
And how did he become passionate about a topic like Church renewal?
“Like many people, I had enough bland experiences in the Catholic Church,” Pat, who was born in Coonamble, central western NSW, said.
“(Those experiences) planted in me a ‘holy discontent’ for what could be, a desire for more.
“Then I experienced Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit personally in my life, which changed everything.
“At the same time, I glimpsed what was possible through the ministry of evangelical friends and churches that reached out to me in my twenties.
“(And) I thought, ‘If you want something done you’ve got to get in there and make it happen’.
“Once I was involved in ministry, starting with NET (National Evangelisation Teams) in 1994, I haven’t turned back.
“To be able to continue ministry professionally is something I’m grateful for every day.”
And with that, whistling was heard well beyond coo-ee.
Courtesy The Catholic Leader