SAD LOSS: DEATHS OF MARIA GEORGE AND GARRY EASTMAN RIP
During October 2020 Catholics for Renewal suffered a great loss: the deaths of Maria George and Garry Eastman.
Maria was a gentle, kind, humble,
resolute and courageous faith-filled woman, firm in her commitment to do what she
understood to be her mission. Her inner strength and conviction impacted in the
most profound way on those around her. In her indefatigable zeal for the reform
of the Church she loved, her judgments were characterised by a hard realism
that never degenerated into bitterness or resentment. She stood as a shining
example to women and men of what it means to be a post-Vatican II Catholic.
Maria served as a pastoral associate
in many Melbourne parishes, and her insights into the workings of the
Archdiocese, gained from years of sticking with it through thick and thin, were
equalled by few others. Her quiet
leadership among other pastoral associates, her tireless work for proper
recognition of their ministry, her courageous advocacy for the equality of
women in the Church by word and action and never seeking personal praise or
recognition, were all sourced from a deep well of spiritual strength.
spiritual qualities were never more evident than in the way she met and
dealt with her health crises of recent years.
She accepted her predicament with honesty and directness, inspiring
others with her humility, patience and trust in God.
Maria was an original supporter of Catholics for Renewal, later on a member for many years, and in recent ones served as Secretary. While writing minutes and sending out agendas are not the stuff of glory, they are the essentials for a group seeking reform and renewal of the Church. In marking each step on the journey, recording the progress made and facilitating the work ahead, she rendered an important service. She also brought to this role her special gift of seeing connections and finding gentle ways to bring people together and to link them. She did this in the parishes too, seeking out the ‘outsiders’ and bringing them in with the warmest welcome. It was her charism.
When Maria, due to her health, resigned from her position, we bestowed on her the honour and title of Secretary Emeritus of Catholics for Renewal. She accepted it gracefully.
Garry was not a member of Catholics for Renewal, but a great supporter of our work for the renewal of the Catholic Church in Australia. As the owner and chairman of the Board of Garratt Publishing he reached out to Catholics for Renewal at Easter 2019, after reading our submission to the Plenary Council, asking if we would give our permission for it to be published as a book. We immediately agreed and later that year it was published by Garratt as Getting Back on Mission: Reforming Our Church Together
Garry was a visionary for Church renewal in Australia. Called in the late 1960s from adult education in Ballarat to form Cripac Press, Garry and Moira Eastman were like Abraham and Sarah leaving country and people for they knew not what. Though initially sheltered within the Catholic Education Office to produce 'Let's Go Together', a weekly publication for primary schools, they moved as Cripac to produce Move Out!, a publication for secondary students. They soon found themselves often at odds with some in the Catholic Education Office (CEO), with the diocesan censors, and much more so with many in the wider church community, especially some parish priests and others under the influence of the National Civic Council.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Garry and Moira and their associates were under constant siege from many quarters, and became heavily dependent upon their supporters within the church for their mission of reforming religious education in schools, and of forming adults to teach it. They were also dealing with tensions within their founding group over how their mission ought to be defined, and how to manage the commercial and financial consequences for Garry and Moira personally. This eventually led to the supersession of Cripac by Dove Communications, and some pain among protagonists. Survival as a business was always an issue, though their supporters were spared the details.
It took genuine heroism to maintain a sufficient commitment to Catholicism to persevere in their educational mission in the face of relegation to the institutional sidelines by CEO authorities still too dominated by an inadequately reformed understanding of church on the one hand, and outright public hostility by right-wing Catholics on the other, the latter sometimes supported by narrowminded censors. Since all this imposed considerable personal strains on them, heroism is an apt characterisation of Garry's contribution to the life of the church.
Our deep condolences are extended
to Garry’s wife, Lynne, and their family.
May he rest in Peace.