Name: Caroline Coggins

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Lives: On an island in the Hawkesbury

Part of St Canice’s since:
I used to come into St Canice’s during the quiet of the daytime and just sit. It was 2002. I was usually alone, and I would feel this silence, not an absence of noise, but a depth of stillness. I would rest there, my mind quiet, and without any words or understanding I felt whole, accepted.

I had a yoga centre around the corner. I was not a Catholic, or even a Christian, I was not anything, I sensed only that I was being ‘called’. I was in the dark, conscious of what was not the way, but I could see nothing, I could not rely on anything I knew. But my spiritual senses were awakening, my need was strong. I had forgotten the one big thing that I needed to know.

In the chapel I could feel that people belonged to this church, and although they were gone, I could feel their presence. This was a mystery to me, but I wanted to sit there in this ‘presence’ and begin to unfold myself. I had been sick and now I was aware that I was a long way from my life and I was skating.

After some months of these afternoon meetings, I went to the parish house to see the priest. Where any of these ideas came from I do not know. I remember I was welcomed in the most simple manner, as if to come knocking and asking “Is this my home?” was the most natural thing.

The priest was Steve Sinn, and he understood the need that brought me in. He said we were the same, he and I, ‘chosen’. Now looking back, writing these words, I understand that when we meet like this, we are in God’s presence, and we are silenced, stilled inside, though there may be stumbling words or many words, but there we are, just placed together, naked, opened, to be ourselves with him, in grace.

A year went by, visiting the elderly, meeting up weekly with Kevin and Marg Walsh as my companions, coming to mass 2 times a week, and talking to Steve fortnightly. I did not learn the
Catechism, but only to pray, to wait on God.

I was still quite silent and overwhelmed when I entered the Church that next Easter vigil. It was a strange thing to enter this church, weird and counter cultural, but I did not doubt that this was where I was to be.

Where will we find you in the parish?
That was 14 years ago. Canice’s has been my Parish. I have been the Chair of the PPC for the last 6 years, now I have just stepped down for Sue Wittenoon to be at the helm. During this time, I have continued to study theology, do the Spiritual Exercises in Wales, and then do a Masters in Spiritual Direction in the Ignatian tradition. I have visited and studied in St Ignatius’ birthplace for an extended time. All this time St Canice’s has been my home.

I believe that our stories are God’s, in writing this I know that this is about God. I believe that if we can be open and listen, each working with the gifts we are given, together to make a whole, we become alive, relevant to the needs of the present, free to be the arms and legs for God.

Snapshot of Daily Life:
Now my Yoga centre is in Redfern, and I am there or at Canisius Jesuit retreat house in Pymble. I live on an Island in the Hawksbury and so I am not always at mass at Canice’s on Sunday, but mostly I am.

What keeps you coming to St Canice’s?
I will continue to work in spirituality, and with any companions who are drawn to this work, in retreats, stories, weeks of guided prayer, and accompanying on the Spiritual Exercises. I believe that by prayer, silence and discernment we are led by God. God speaks so strongly to us through stories, our own, others.