Regularly every second year, I spend time visiting parishes in the northern half of the Diocese. Over almost seven weeks, I move from parish to parish for the formal Visitation and Confirmation. It is always a joy, as I feel most at home in Pastoral Ministry.

Wherever I go, I find common ground among people, especially in the area of Faith. God's gift of Faith is wonderful for many reasons. One reason is that it unites us across countries and cultures. I marvel at how the same gift of Faith is given to people all around the world.

In the north among our priests and religious sisters alone, apart from the Australians, we have Irish, Tanzanian, Nigerian and Polish. It would be a much harder task to count the number of nationalities of Catholic lay people there. In the space of a minute I could list twenty!

Somehow on this visit it struck me how we all talk a common language. We understand each other in our relationship with our gracious God and Father, with Jesus our Saviour who walks with us and with the powerful and loving Holy Spirit.

It's also because of this Faith that I and we, priests and religious particularly, have a privileged entree as it were into people's lives. As we minister to people we see the same God present and working so naturally and so clearly.

A recent trip was no exception in this regard.

In one town after a visit to a very successful business person I said as I left the shop -"As the Irish say, God bless the work and the people." The parishioner quickly answered -"I know God is close. I can't do anything without our God".

Then another visit was to a young woman with a brain tumour. She is the mother of two young children. Previously, a strong and capable sports woman, the illness had a severe effect on her physically, mentally and emotionally, and she admits that in all this God is giving her courage.

Another person I have known for years is a grandmother and has grand faith. She has her feet firmly on the ground as well. She openly says "I love Jesus and want so much that others love Him as well". She said this to me, however, when there is an opening, she happily talks of her Faith to others as well.

In one town with our priest I visited the local Anglican priest. They work together when the opportunity arises. At the end of the visit, the Anglican priest suggested that we pray together. It was a special moment of common faith in God and in Jesus Christ.

Well, I went on my northern visit to give, and I did give. I came back, though, the richer for all that I had received. I came back rejoicing at seeing God at work in so many ways in our lay people, religious and priests.

Bishop Bianchini