By BEV JORDAN
For Carmel Ieraci returning to Australia after living abroad in Rome and England for 16 years has been a huge journey through COVID restrictions, hotel quarantine and overnight meetings and services as she wound up her commitments in the UK.
On the bright side, she was able to attend her daughter’s wedding in Byron Bay just after her hotel quarantine ended and before the Sydney Lockdown started.
She has now started her new position as Minister at Wesley Uniting Church Castle Hill and although the NSW continues in lockdown restrictions, working remotely are the conditions that Carmel Ieraci has experienced for the last 18 months.
“I feel incredibly welcomed by the congregation,” she said. Carmel Ieraci was drawn to the role at Wesley Castle Hill Uniting Church because of its Vision and Mission Statements and its aim to grow and be a positive influence in the community.
On October 3 the church will be holding an online Blessing of the Animals at 9.30am which is part of the Uniting church’s Season of Creation services.
The Blessing of the Animals is a custom attributed to St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and ecology, who was born in Italy around 1181.
“I think the service is important now because of the importance animals play in people’s lives, bringing comfort and companionship in the midst of isolation,” she said.
“It is one of my favourite services in the church’s calendar. I love animals, I see them as part of God’s creation. Christian communities around the world celebrate the Season of Creation and this is part of that. At the last one I did in the UK a little boy brought along an African snail. His parents thought the snail was dead but the vibration of the organ bought the snail out of its shell.
“It’s a service that lifts people and encourages them. It gives people hope,” Carmel Ieraci said.
Carmel Ieraci was born in Adelaide, South Australia with a Catholic mother and atheist father and always felt spiritual. Teaching at a secretarial college in Melbourne “to teenagers who didn’t want to be at school” she was invited to join a Bible Class run by Bible Fellowship International.
It started a 25 year involvement which resulted in working in Rome for four years to set up an ecumenical Bible study class.
During that time, as well as the BSF work she led a multi-national fellowship group at the United Nations World Food Program and was a youth leader at the Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church in Rome.
Fired by her experience she felt called to explore ordained ministry and moved to the UK to study theology at Wesley House in Cambridge and then served as a minister in Andover, Hampshire followed by Maidenhead, Berkshire.
“I always knew deep down I would return to Australia and COVID really accelerated that decision,” Carmel Ieraci said.