To Lead, To Teach, To Include

Anne Hansen looks around her church as people are gathered together for liturgy. She thinks of all the different stories among the assembly: the broken-hearted, the alienated, the rejected. And for the few minutes that they are together as the Body of Christ, something happens that is “very graced and blessed”. In the word, the Eucharist and the community, everyone deserves to participate and to receive. Then they go out into the world, back to their everyday lives, changed and encouraged by “those moments to cherish.”

So Anne describes the experience of bringing people together around Jesus that is the Liturgy, the public worship of the church. For her, it has really been a family affair. Anne was born into a large Irish Italian clan with “deep roots” in the church of Los Angeles. Among her aunts and uncles, she had 2 nuns, a priest (eventually a bishop) and a deacon. Anne had primary, secondary and tertiary Catholic education before herself becoming a Catholic school teacher. But, she says, “It is fair to say that my ministry journey began in childhood, but was not fully realised until recently.”

Anne has spent all of her working life in church roles, from writing for a diocesan newspaper to various projects for the Jesuits. Furthermore, she took fifteen years away from work to raise five children. That experience has been fundamental to her faith and ministry. She says, “They have given me a glimpse into the goodness of God – the love of God.” And over the years, their shared life experiences have taught her about what may or may not be effective in being part of God’s mission.

Over 25 years ago, Anne was asked by a deacon to be part of a team to help develop parish bereavement ministry. She started by assisting practically with the sessions, then eventually became a leader and teacher. Over the years, Anne often taught men studying to be deacons, and their wives, all around the diocese. She helped them to serve grieving families by caring, and evangelising more by actions than by words. When she started, Anne found a big need was to convince people that the deacons’ ministry was just as important as that of the priests. There were less priests around to serve the people, so male deacons and, later, lay ministers were learning to conduct funerals.  

About 9 years ago, Anne followed another calling to develop her area of study in graduate theology on the marginalisation of women and homosexual people in the church. Both of these topics had affected her personally – being a woman and journeying with her brother, a seminarian who died from AIDS. Anne set up a series of conversations about the Church and Homosexuality within a Catholic university, and the room was filled. Many people came up to her at the end to share stories and gratitude for what she had allowed to open up. They were faithful Catholics who were simply seeking to be heard and included.

A recent Ignatians West retreat with Fr Greg Boyle SJ.

Today Anne feels very privileged to be working in a Jesuit-affiliated ministry called Ignatians West. It gives opportunities for older adults to serve those on the margins and then reflect together using the Ignatian tradition. The members meet monthly in a convent and have a “small church experience” of sharing, prayer, service and advocacy. Although the volunteers sign up for a year, most never want to leave. In accompanying people in this context, Anne feels that she is a pastor, leading people in their own ministries. She reflects, “The bottom  line is that I have been a minister all of my life in one capacity or another.” And now she realises how much she feels called to ordained ministry. In recent times, Anne has discovered the work of Phyllis Zagano and the American organisation Discerning Deacons, and something has been sparked. Somehow she came to this Liturgy on the Margins blog and so has become our first international visitor to share her story. For your faithfulness and creativity in ministry, Anne, thank you very much.

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