This article was written by Tracey Edstein and originally appeared in Aurora, the monthly magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle on April 7, 2018.
When the young recipient of this year’s Magdalene Award, Claire McWilliam, thinks about the source of her deep Catholic faith, the faces of women come into her mind. “My faith journey’s been with the women – my mother, women in my parish of Toronto, women belonging to the groups I’m involved in. These women have given me the confidence to remain as faithful as I have.”
Claire acknowledges too the influence of her upbringing in leading her to be the young woman she has become. “My grandparents, and godparents, have played a massive part in my faith journey. They have always been supportive, encouraging and simply present.”
Asked about a turning point in her faith journey, Claire is quick to respond. “Having been invited to be an altar server in my parish of Toronto, I was unsure ‒ so I asked the Holy Spirit. I asked and I received! For 12 years I served at Mass at St Joseph’s, Kilaben Bay. I then trained many young servers over a number of years and that was very rewarding.”
Serving at the altar is just one of Claire’s liturgical contributions. She proclaims the Word, is a minister of Communion and a member of the baptism and welcome teams.
When she was in Years 9 and 10, Claire’s mother home-schooled her. She recalls, “At this time I found great strength and reassurance from fellow parishioners. I have often said my parish is my second family.”
Claire serves on the Parish Pastoral Council and contributes to the Alpha program and activities for younger parishioners. She has been a member of the diocesan contingent at Australian Catholic Youth Festivals in 2013, 2015 and 2017. She was one of the first to take part in the diocese’s Pastoral Placement Program in 2015.
Claire certainly knows what commitment means!
In 2014 she travelled to East Timor under the auspices of Catholic Mission. “Mum, Dad and I felt it would be a great opportunity, an alternative ‘schoolies’ experience. Since then I’ve worked with Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission, Mark Toohey, to assist with parish visits and the annual appeal. I do this because I’ve seen the work of Catholic Mission ‘in the field’.”
Given this empathy with the needs of others, it’s no surprise that Claire is employed as a care assistant in an aged care facility. “In my work I try to reflect the gospel message of love in all I do.”
Reflecting on receiving the 2018 Magdalene Award, Claire said, “I don’t do the things I do to be recognised but it was an honour to receive this award in front of other inspiring women from the diocese. With grace, compassion and a peaceful nature, we have the abilities and opportunities to support each other and our church.”
Nominees for the 2018 Magdalene Award
Colleen Canny (Rutherford)
Pauline Carrigan (Scone)
Marion Gardiner (All Saints, Blackbutt South)
Eugenie Garth (Forster Tuncurry)
Ailis Macpherson (East Maitland)
Deanne March (Holy Trinity Blackbutt North)
Norma Matthews (Holy Trinity Blackbutt North)
Mary Nesbitt (Holy Trinity Blackbutt North)
Louise Roach (Blackbutt North)
Faye Robertson (All Saints, Blackbutt South)
Ruth Pearson (Forster Tuncurry)