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A Theology for everybody

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Audience members at St Mary’s Cathedral College Hall listen as Dr Christopher West, probably the best-known communicator of St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in the English language, speaks. His visit to Australia was arranged by the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Centre for Evangelisation. Dr West and colleague Mike Mangione, at right, below, also presented at All Saints Parish in Liverpool. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

What’s so great about the Theology of the Body and what’s it got to do with real life?

Everything, say these five Sydney Catholics who took advantage of an archdiocesan partnership with the Theology of the Body Institute to study its most popular course.

The Head to Heart Immersion course was taught by institute president Dr Christopher West and his team online during April and tailored to suit our Australian time zone.

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It introduces key themes of St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and the students said the time spent with Dr West and his team opened their eyes and hearts to many of the truths of the Catholic faith in new and life-changing ways.

The next Head to Heart Immersion course will run from October 9-20. Registrations are open until 25 September at https://www.sydneycatholic.org/tobi/

Reg and Cyn Argana. Photo: Supplied
Reg and Cyn Argana. Photo: Supplied

Reg Argana

Tell us about yourself

I am from Good Shepherd Parish in Hoxton Park. My day job is as a tax and financial reporting manager for an international investment bank, although I always say that my primary and most important role is being a husband to my wife Cynthia, and father to our three beautiful children.

Cynthia and I have been long time members of the Catholic community of Couples for Christ, and our children all grew up in being involved with us in our ministry.

What attracted you to the Theology of the Body Head and Heart Immersion course?

My wife and have been keen learners of the Theology of the Body for many years now and have attended a few courses conducted by different lecturers.

We found that once we start wearing the lens of the TOB, the teachings of the church become more understandable, such as “what does being made in the image and likeness of God really mean?” or “what does the sacramentality of the human body mean?”

I knew that the Head and Heart Immersion course will be a deeper dive on JPII’s teaching and have been hoping to be able to attend the course onsite in the Theology of the Body Institute at some point.

Lo and behold, we did not have to go to Pennsylvania to attend the course. Thanks to the initiative of the Archdiocese of Sydney, TOB came to us!

I have been sharing what I have learned so far with my ministry in Couples for Christ, and I am hoping that the learnings from the Head and Heart Immersion course will equip me even more in imparting the reflections of JPII foremost with my family and friends, with my local parish and in my other service.

What are some of the blessings you’ve received from TOB?

“Weren’t our hearts burning within us…” This is how I felt as I was going through the course.

Learning about TOB is like an unpacking of a beautiful mystery that God has been wanting us to discover.

Every session led me to being in awe in gaining a deeper understanding of the love, wisdom and compassion of God. It is at times overwhelming but always inspiring.

I have learned to see the people around me, not for their shortcomings and imperfections, but in the goodness of how God created them and me to be.

It did not only change the way I look at myself as a person, learning about TOB also helped me to understand how valuable the gift of marriage is.

It also helped in providing a starting point in answering today’s current moral issues. TOB for me is a gift that you just cannot help but share.

What’s next for you?

Together with my wife, I have been sharing TOB insights in retreats conducted by Couples for Christ, especially in subjects such as the roles of Christian husband and Christian wife, being a self-gift in your service and ministry and other topics.

It is amazing to know that once you start wearing the TOB lens, your view of the world changes and you realise that you can apply the learning in almost all aspects of your life.

Upon discussing this experience with my parish priest, we are both excited to incorporate and share TOB in the faith formation of the parishioners.

Would you recommend it to others?

Learning about TOB has been both an informational and transformational experience for me.

It has led me to a deeper love for the God and the church. I definitely recommend others learn the Theology of the Body and take the journey of diving deep into the great mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Agnes Nazarenko and husband on their wedding day. Photo: Supplied
Agnes Nazarenko and husband on their wedding day. Photo: Supplied

Agnė Nazarenko

Tell us about yourself

I am from Lithuania, currently working in the aged care and disability sector while studying a diploma of leadership and management.

We moved to Sydney almost one year ago together with my husband. We followed our dreams to live in Australia and we made this decision after one year of marriage because we thought it would be a great family adventure.

What attracted you to the Theology of the Body Head and Heart Immersion course?

For the past seven years, I have had the privilege of working at the Archdiocesan Youth Centre, where I have had the opportunity to engage with young people and spread the ideas of Catholic teaching.

One of the main activities has been a sexuality education project, through which we created content for social networks, YouTube podcasts, and delivered lectures to Lithuanian schoolchildren and students based on Theology of the Body.

Ever since I was 16 years old and joined the charismatic Catholic community, the topic of Catholic teaching on sexuality has always been one of the most interesting for me. That’s why I started sharing these ideas and creating various activities for young people.

What are some of the blessings you’ve received from TOB?

After participating in an event of the Archdiocese of Sydney with Christopher West, I heard about the course and my heart burned with the desire to participate. I had dreamed about it for a long time, but I did not have such an opportunity in Lithuania. And the scholarship I received was a complete gift.

Learning about Theology of the Body has given me a renewed sense of hope and healing. I realise that no matter my past mistakes or struggles with sexuality, God’s redeeming love can transform and heal my heart.

I feel empowered to live a more virtuous and fulfilling life, embracing the gift of my sexuality in accordance with God’s plan. Also, the course taught me that desiring earthly things is not bad, as long as they do not take the first place.

What’s next for you?

Christopher’s inspiring examples and burning heart inspired me to look for my own passions in life, what I like, and what makes me happy.

Would you recommend it to others?

I recommend this course because the Theology of the Body addresses relevant and challenging topics related to human sexuality and modern culture, offering a Christian perspective on subjects that impact daily life.

The course explores the meaning of love, marriage, and sexuality in light of God’s plan, fostering healthier and more fulfilling relationships built on respect, self-giving, and authentic love.

Ningzi Weng. Photo: Supplied
Ningzi Weng. Photo: Supplied

Ningzi Weng

Tell us about yourself

I work in marketing for a major bank.

What attracted you to the Theology of the Body Head and Heart Immersion course?

I’ve read John Paul II’s book Theology of the Body and it is so deep that I don’t understand it. Yet at the same time, my heart resonates with it so much that I want to know and experience more of it.

What are some of the blessings you’ve received from the TOB?

I have more freedom to accept myself (that includes my body) and others. I also gain more awareness of myself when I look at the other person as an object or judge others based on their appearances.

What’s next for you?

I’ve enrolled in Theology of the Body II for August. I hope by sharing my experiences with my family and work and my community, more people will learn about TOB.

Would you recommend it to others?

Yes, because we need it.

Philippa Manley and husband. Photo: Supplied
Philippa Manley and husband. Photo: Supplied

Philippa Manley

Tell us about yourself

I’m a family educator at St Charles Catholic Primary School, Ryde

What attracted you to the Theology of the Body Head and Heart Immersion course?

I regularly listen to the “Ask Christopher West” podcast and have a number of books on TOB at home which I had skim-read but not taken the time to read properly.

I love to learn, so when I saw the course advertisement and found out that the Archdiocese of Sydney was offering subsidies I jumped at the opportunity. As a working mother, the fact the course was offered online meant it was accessible to me.

I also have three teenage kids and really want to understand TOB deeply myself so I can pass this onto my children and use it in my role as a family educator.

What are some of the blessings you’ve received from TOB?

The course itself was such a blessing. Even just the lectures were so engaging and uplifting.

All forms of media were woven into the course—popular music, movies, YouTube clips—and I found this really powerful.

It has given me a new way of discussing tricky moral topics with my family.

What’s next for you?

Recently I gave a talk to the young adults in our parish on Theology of the Body and married love. I would never have imagined doing that before, preparing for the talk really consolidated what I had learned.

I help coordinate a parish parents group that runs simultaneously while the youth group is on. In Term 4 I plan to facilitate a Theology of the Body series for parents who attend.

Would you recommend it to others?

I would definitely recommend the course to others. The course itself was incredibly enjoyable, I felt like I was on retreat.

Christopher West is a wonderful presenter, and that wasn’t lost on the online format.

It gave me a thorough foundation to the TOB, which I hope to build on in the future through more studies.

Jane and Simon Yeak celebrate teh Sacrament of Matrimony. Photo: Supplied
Jane and Simon Yeak celebrate teh Sacrament of Matrimony. Photo: Supplied

Jane Yeak

Tell us about yourself

I’m a Chinese medicine practitioner in acupuncture and have a side apostolate making chapel veils and mantillas for women locally and around the world.

My conversion to the Catholic faith back in 2016 was intimately related to TOB. It was while reading Christopher West’s Theology of the Body for Beginners that I experienced my interior conversion moment.

Since then, I have always wanted to enter more deeply into St John Paul II’s teachings on the Theology of the Body.

What are some of the blessings you’ve received from TOB?

On an individual level, it has helped me enter into the Lord’s mercy in a more tangible way, knowing that his love language is so personal, and this is incredibly healing.

It is also a huge blessing to be doing this course together with my husband, as it has opened the way for us to share more deeply with each other and understand each other better as husband and wife.

What’s next for you?

My husband and I are excited to continue learning and receiving these teachings and have already enrolled in TOB 2, Into the Deep.

The rich wisdom within these teachings provide a constant source of daily reflection as we live out our marriage, and in the future if God calls, may its fruits also pour into our parish communities.

Would you recommend it to others?

Yes absolutely! I highly recommend it for everyone, regardless of their state in life or vocation.

The teachings penetrate into the very heart and soul of what it means to be man and woman, something the culture desperately needs to hear today.

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