Every Thursday morning during semester time at the University of New South Wales, Adriel Moniz helps to load up a trolley with fellow Fraternas Karina Bohórquez, other members of the Catholic chaplaincy team and students.
They push it to the front of the concrete tower that is the campus library. There she serves hot drinks and chats to students all day. It’s her “happy place”.
The petite, dark-haired 37-year-old with a ready laugh says she felt drawn to consecrated life out of a mysterious need to answer both people’s hunger for God and to proclaim Christ’s hunger for souls.
But as the evangelisation officer at UNSW she says she doesn’t necessarily need to preach about God or run a Bible study to do it.
“Some people who feel threatened by an invitation to church or a scripture study or a talk can be quite comfortable exploring very deep questions with us and sometimes even seminarians on placement with us, over a cup of coffee or tea,” she told The Catholic Weekly in a recent interview. “We often see the same faces come back week to week.
“It’s one way we’re trying to rebuild a sense of community after the COVID disruptions,” she says.
“She made her perpetual profession (life-long promises) last month before Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Thomas’ Church, Lewisham …”
The Fraternas (Marian Community of Reconciliation) are a society for apostolic life dedicated to announcing Jesus Christ in the midst of the world.
It’s a community of consecrated laywomen who live in community and work in a variety of apostolates worldwide, primarily in the service of young adults.
The Fraternas have had a presence in Sydney since 2006 when Adriel encountered them as a UNSW student while completing a Master’s degree in environmental management and social development.
She made her perpetual profession (life-long promises) last month before Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP at St Thomas’ Church, Lewisham, in the presence of her parents, friends and supporters. Adriel is one of only four Fraternas in the country, living in St Michael’s Parish in Stanmore.
The Fraternas also run monthly Saturday morning retreats, and formation groups for women on the second and fourth Friday of each month.
Adriel was born in India and grew up in an intensely religious atmosphere in Qatar’s capital, Doha. Her earliest memories of attending Mass with her parents were of dozens of people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the lounge room of a private house.
With no Catholic churches in the country at the time, and the practice of non-Muslim faiths strictly prohibited, these were clandestine Masses celebrated mainly by British Catholic priests on assignment in the country as teachers of English.
Growing up, she encountered plenty of devout Muslims, Hindus and Christians. She was shocked to meet atheists when she came to Australia in 2008 for World Youth Day and to begin studies here. “It was just a very foreign concept to me,” she says.
While studying, she encountered objections to the Church’s position on social, ethical and moral issues.
It caused her to question her own experience of faith. She began to study what the Church actually teaches.
“I love the sciences and that was a big part of my vocational search. So I was like, ‘okay, I don’t know if what they are saying about what the Church says is true. At the very least, I owe it to my faith to go and investigate what the Church actually says about this because I love the Lord.
“But if Christians are really called to live the way that you say Christians are called to live, then I need to ditch Christianity and become an environmentalist and dedicate my life to that cause. Because I think all of this is really important’.”
“There are two words that I hold in prayer; one is possession, the other is love. In a sense, to be possessed by love at the foot of the Cross, contemplating Christ there.”
The chaplaincy team helped her encounter the Church’s social teachings. “I devoured them and I discovered that, no, those objections are incorrect, and there is a different way.”
A mission trip with 30 other Aussies led by the Fraternas to Peru in 2010 convinced her that the Lord was calling her to consecrated life with them. Asked what she hopes to achieve through her vocation, Adriel says she is inspired by her favourite saints, Therese of Lisieux and Catherine of Siena.
“What both of them have in common is a desire to just belong to Christ, and allow him to use me in the way that he wants.
“There are two words that I hold in prayer; one is possession, the other is love. In a sense, to be possessed by love at the foot of the Cross, contemplating Christ there.
“And then to take that to others, so that people may experience the love of God through everything and anything that I do.
“Everything I do as a Fraternas is participating in Christ’s mission, it’s not about me at all.”
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