A Woman of All-Encompassing Compassion:
Beryl Gleeson mss
in 2012 we invited Beryl to write a brief article about her life and mission for Highways and Byways. Beryl is now in her late 70s. She is alive to the world about her, radiating life and joy in her work of helping refugees resettle in Toowoomba. Beryl also works as a volunteer a day a week at the Toowoomba Paulist Bookshop. Reflecting on the journey that has brought her to this point of her life, Beryl writes:
“Born in Blackall in Queensland, I was always a questioner from an early age. I wanted to know the meaning of life.
Attending daily Mass always made me feel good. Learning about “the missions”, I felt drawn to participate. At school, I saved pennies to contribute to “the missions”. When I was working at Queensland State Stores in Brisbane, I contributed sixpence a week to help the Home Missionary Sisters of Our Lady, now known as Missionary Sisters of Service. At age 18, I considered joining them. But there was another attraction: my sister, Iris, and I went overseas, where we travelled and worked for 3 years. I was thrilled to encounter people of many different cultures and faiths.
In 1965 I became a lay missionary on Bathurst Island. The 3 ½ years I spent there among the Aboriginal people were spiritually uplifting for me. I knew, at last, that all I wanted was to have a deeper relationship with my Creator and to give my all to others.
So it was that I was almost 35 when I joined the Missionary Sisters of Service. My early years saw me missioned in country areas in Tasmania, New South Wales and South Australia. The following two decades saw me in the dioceses of Rockhampton, Townsville and Cairns. There it was my privilege to work among Aboriginal and Islander peoples as well as people from Papua New Guinea. I learnt much from their way of life, their attitudes and spirituality.
Throughout my years I have experienced a deep hunger for God and the things of God and life. Spiritual books have fed my hunger and whetted my appetite for deeper knowledge and understanding. Meditating on these and the Scriptures, my mind and heart are opened to the vast mystery of God revealed in all of creation. I am excited to be living at this time, when we are coming to ‘a shift in consciousness’, a different way of thinking about God in whom we – and all creation - live and move and have our being, and to explore the meaning of Christ and the Gospel in this new context. Eckhart Tolle sees in this shift of consciousness a “new species... emerging on the planet”.
Over the years as an MSS, I have been uplifted when sharing with others this journey of our relationship with and in God. The presence of the Divine is always there, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Always in my heart I had a yen to work among people for justice in our world. Working here in Toowoomba, with people from Sudan and other African countries, I am more aware than ever that peace can come only when people are respected for who they are. In opening ourselves to others we open ourselves to a relationship that is mutually enriching. True friendship comes out of that relationship.