Sr. Leonie “bottled”

May 5, 2015

As the Rector of the host College for this year’s Bishop Lyons Shield Competition, Justin Boyle of St. Bede’s had the opportunity for a last word before asking Bishop Barry Jones to present the prizes.

Justin referred to Bishop Barry’s presence and homily (published here), and to Sr. Leonie O’Neill’s words of encouragement in her adjudication of the Scripture Reading on Sunday morning. He added that Sr. Leonie’s words should be “bottled” so that future generations could benefit from the wisdom she offered; it is not about being placed but about participating in a generous way.

Thirty years ago Sr. Leonie was my speech teacher,  guiding me as a young priest through speech and drama exams, ATCL and LTCL.  I felt sorry for the people who had to suffer my poor attempts at giving homilies and was looking for help. Sr. Leonie helped me to realise that public speaking is not a natural gift. It is a learnt ability. At that stage I was a young priest serving in rural Westland. Leonie taught me how to give a homily. I didn’t see her on Sunday so phoned her on Sunday night. We had a great catch-up and she was happy for me to take down notes as she told me what she had said to the gathering on Sunday morning.

An important aside, Sr. Leonie took part in the first Bishop Lyons Shield competition in 1945 and  again in 1947 as a schoolgirl representing Sacred Heart College, (later Mercy College now Roncalli College) in Timaru.

Here it is, “bottled” on Food For Faith:  Encouragement from Sr. Leonie O’Neill at her adjudication of the Scripture Readings at Bishop Lyons Public Speaking Competition 2015.

When you do prepared speech or impromptu speech – it is all about your words.

When you are preparing to take part in the Religious Questions event, the words that you are studying in the text are not your words, but you use your words to communicate your responses to the questions asked. It is about your words.

When you take part in the debate, the topic is not your words, but you use your words to argue the affirmative and the negative. It is about your words.

The Scripture Reading section of this weekend competition is different.

When you read from the scriptures, you are reading God’s Word. You are allowing God to use your mouth to speak God’s words.. It is not about your words at all. This is God’s Word that you are speaking.

You are doing (as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said) “a beautiful thing for God.”

When the Word of God is spoken aloud, effectively, through preparation, audibility, and ministry, this Word has the power to change people. The faith of everybody in the room is increased, even though we may not be aware of this increase. After hearing the Word of God we leave the room as changed people.

In this light, in a contest such as the Bishop Lyons Public Speaking event, who is placed first second or third is a minor thing. What is of ultimate importance is that this weekend through our words and actions, we have come to know God more intimately.

In the scripture text chosen for the readings from Hosea 6: “Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; His appearing is as sure as the dawn, he will come to us like the showers, like the spring rains that water the earth…For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

photo above:
Sr. Leonie O’Neill receives her doctorate from Canterbury University at age 76.
Great inspiration to all of us to never give up learning.
Sr. Leonie is about to re-publish her best-seller “Proclaiming the Good News”   Watch Food For Faith for publishing date.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts



A couple of thousand years ago, a young Jewish woman was going about her normal morning routines, perhaps with a mixture of house and garden work, chatting with parents and neighbours, aware of the local drought, the sickness of a neighbour and annoyed by the neighbourhood’s lack of sleep caused by the Romans’ noisy party the night before, when God broke into her routine and entered her life in a new and powerful way.

the real centre

the real centre

Over the last month I have had the opportunity to work with many people across Aotearoa and further afield. In every retreat and seminar I have been with committed and faith-filled people who often feel as though they are on the periphery of the Church

the adventure

the adventure

It’s easy to make the mistake of seeing life as a treadmill, day after day ups and downs, a movement through time from youth to old age, then death and beyond.
Too often if feels as if we are helplessly captive carried along by the momentum of all that is expected of us and demanded from us, and we risk falling into an existence mode, a daily rhythm of survival, enduring, coping and so the treadmill rolls on.

the bigger picture

the bigger picture

Over the years, and even in recent months, weeks and days, I’ve prayed many prayers which have not been answered as I had hoped.
You’ve probably had the same experience: praying and wondering if and when or how your prayer will be answered.

moving waters

moving waters

Bible questions still pop up regularly in quiz shows and they often cost otherwise sharp players much needed points.
I’m ready for a question asking for the two names for the last book of the Bible. The book often known as Apocalypse is perhaps more often referred to as the Book of Revelation.
It’s common (thanks to movies) to think of an apocalypse as a devastating and unwelcome time of destruction.