Making a difference: Music, theology and life

Published: Monday 2nd May 2016

Music, theology and life overlap and cross-fertilise in the work for theology lecturer, Dr Maeve Louise Heaney.

Maeve is a missionary – that is to say, a consecrated member of an Institute of Consecrated Life called Verbum Dei. It is not obvious, as her community does not have a dress code and, in any case, she smiles “the habit doesn’t make the nun!”

However, she proudly continues the age-old tradition of women religious invested in evangelisation and education that has laid the foundations of the educational system of many countries around the world, as well as ACU’s own existence and ethos.

She is a musician and composer, active in performing and recording both in Australia and abroad. And she is a theologian, researching and teaching in the field of systematic theology – specifically on the role of music and the arts in theology and as a form of faith transmission, but also on themes of revelation, faith, spirituality and sacramental theology.

This ‘hyphenated existence’ has led her to live and work in Ireland, England, Italy, Spain, and the United States of America. It is an international experience of working at the intersection of theology, spirituality and music, which she now brings to the faculty of Theology and Philosophy at ACU.

“The faculty of theology is young and diverse, with an array of scholars of international repute, so it is exciting to be part of the initial stages of this faculty’s identity, which has so much to offer the Australian culture,” she said.

Her work finds clear expression at the Banyo campus of ACU. Brisbane has a rich theological and ecumenical tradition in the heritage of St Pauls’ Theological College at the heart of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.

“Banyo is a microcosm of Australian Catholic life, as it not only provides formation for its future teachers, but is the only ACU campus that provides the theological formation for future priests," she said.

"These seminarians are from the Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, which serves Queensland’s five Catholic dioceses. So teaching here allows us to build understanding and collaboration between the future leaders of parishes, schools and dioceses going forward.”

This influence does not remain solely at the level of students. Since coming to ACU, Maeve has been a frequent speaker and performer for a variety of audiences, including principals and leaders of Catholic Education in various dioceses of Queensland, Anglican clergy of the Diocese of Brisbane, pastoral associates of different dioceses and denominations, youth festivals, leadership conferences and national gatherings of liturgists and musicians.

Since arriving, the international reach of her work has continued through performances and conferences in Rome, the US, Singapore, the Philippines and Ireland.

“I love my life and my work, precisely because it is rich and complex. Theology is important because thought changes the world. Music is important because what would life be like without it?

"The two together open doors little else can” she said, “because music changes the way we experience both space and time, and therefore potentially our experience of how the divine inhabits human life”.

“It is not always easy to move between the demands of teaching theology, making music, academic publishing, and belonging to an international community, but it is precisely that complexity that makes it effective, and allows me, in some small way, to make a difference”, Maeve said, adding that her time in Australia had already provided a multitude of opportunities to do so.