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.


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