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Ewa speaks from the heart on priesthood


It’s not every day that a young Catholic mum gets to speak her mind to nearly every priest in the Archdiocese but that’s exactly what happened to Ewa Starrs this month when she was invited to be the only lay presenter at one of the largest clergy retreats ever held in Adelaide.

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The former Noarlunga Seaford pastoral worker and St Luke’s parishioner admits that she was overwhelmed when Archbishop Philip Wilson asked if she would be interested in sharing her hopes and expectations of the priesthood. The only other stipulation was that she “speak from the heart”.

“I was like wow…that’s such a broad topic, very controversial and really diverse,” Ewa said.

“Depending on who you ask, you could get really different responses.”

Ewa, who is married to Adam and has three young children, said she did a “lot of pondering” and two days out from the retreat she was still not sure what she would say.

“I tried to really reflect on what God was wanting me to say, rather than what the priests wanted to hear,” she said.

Whatever the process, her words had a profound effect on the priests and deacons, many of whom referred to Ewa’s talk as one of the highlights of the retreat.

She began by speaking about her own personal experience of being a “very detached and disengaged young person” who was raised Catholic by her Polish parents and made to go to Mass in her teens.

“I would look at some dude in a collar preaching scholarly homilies and think he was crazy to choose that lifestyle,” she said.

In her early twenties she was living a “very destructive lifestyle”.

“I had no Catholic/Christian support network and my parents were oblivious to the life I was leading,” she recalled.

“I hit rock bottom and I felt incredibly lost and lonely.”

At 22 years of age, her moment of conversion came when she turned to the sacrament of reconciliation and told the priest “every single detail”.

“It was an amazing experience, I can’t explain it well, but I encountered Jesus. And He spoke to my heart. There was no turning back,” she said.

“That’s why I find the sacraments and Mass so important. For me, the encounter came through Mass and the sacraments…but this can happen and needs to happen in many different ways beyond the church walls too.”

Ewa said since then she had been “on this journey moving forward”.

As a mother she is conscious of providing an opportunity for her own children to encounter Jesus and she is passionate about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Christian formation program for 3 to 12 year olds grounded in scriptural and liturgical study based on the Montessori principles of education.

Ewa spoke to the clergy about the program which teaches children to meditate on God’s work using “works” such as a miniature chalice and diorama in a space called an atrium.

Sue Sachse from the Adelaide Hills parish brought the program to Adelaide and Fr Peter Zwaans and Marie Jaksa have introduced it to Hectorville parish.

Ewa has been trained in the program and her children attend the Bridgewater atrium on Monday nights and Tuesday mornings (for pre-schoolers). She is hoping to set up a program in the southern region and would love to set up an atrium in her own home.

“It helps kids remove themselves from this noisy lifestyle and find a quiet place and quietness of their hearts… my daughter tells me she loves spending time with Jesus, she loves going after school and doesn’t ever want to stop going,” she said.

Ewa said priests had the capacity to “empower people who are willing to serve in this way” and back these types of programs.

“Priests have been incredibly influential in my life as a pastoral worker – I really needed their support to help build relationships with people,” she said.

“Whether we like it or not the priest still has a level of influence. We need each other’s support. We need to be working together; we are all different reflections of Jesus.”

She said priests had changed and influenced her life in many ways. “They’ve come to my house, eaten meals with us, they’ve journeyed with my husband and I, they were there when I was really lost,” she said.

“My family and I have been really blessed to witness Jesus at work in this apparently out-dated and undervalued vocation.”


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