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What I would tell my teenage self: Penny Howchin, John Roundhill, Phyllis Marsh and Jo Leveritt


What would you tell your teenage self if you could go back in time? Penny Howchin from St Andrew’s, Springfield, Bishop John Roundhill, Phyllis Marsh from West Moreton Anglican College and Jo Leveritt from The Parish of Bundaberg share their thoughts

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Penny Howchin — Music Coordinator, St Andrew’s, Springfield

If I had the chance, I would tell my teenage self, “Relax and enjoy the journey. God knows where He’s leading.” As a teenager I was full of passion for God and plans for my future. I was focused on specific goals in my life, such as studying at university, getting a job, marriage and having a family.

In my final year of university, God threw me a curve ball that messed up my plans. I was only months away from graduating as a primary school teacher when God distinctly called me to ministry. I was ready to lay things down for God’s call, but no door of opportunity opened. This was confusing at the time leaving me wondering why God seemed to be saying one thing, whilst leading me in another direction. I graduated and worked as a teacher for seven years before having children of my own.

Many years later, I now serve in a variety of unique ministries. The “scenic route” God led me along to get to this point has brought together a myriad of different experiences that all equip me now. From music theory classes as a 12-year-old and working as a receptionist on university holidays to my years teaching and a wide variety of ministry experiences, God has woven together all different threads of the tapestry of my life to create something truly unique and beautiful.

Bishop John Roundhill and his Aunt Sheila

“In this photo I am 16 years old and standing outside All Hallows’ Church in Bardsey, Yorkshire with my Aunt Sheila at my sister Jane’s wedding. I had never worn that hired suit before. I suspect one of my sisters or my mum or my aunt tied the tie knot, despite the fact that I had tied a knot in my school tie every day since age 11,” (Bishop John Roundhill)

Bishop John Roundhill — Bishop for the Southern Region

What would I tell my teenage self?

“Life is going to be richer, more varied, more exciting than you think now. You are right now, loved more, liked more, fancied more than you think right now! Your mistakes, your moments of gaucheness, your awkwardness all matter way, way less than you think they matter right now.”

Furthermore, I could not at that age imagine the challenges, difficulties and angst of a middle-aged man, the man I am now. My teenage self, thought that adults, “grown ups” as I called them, had it all sorted out. I suspect my parents kept some difficulties hidden and did not gossip to me about others.

Faith at that age was about keeping simple rules (at least for me). Perhaps the most obvious one was to attend church and be a quiet part of a worshipping community.

I would love to tell my younger self that faith is so much more exciting than that, and that faith would be the very engine that would take me on a life that was going to be more colourful and exciting than anything I could have imagined at 16.

Phyllis Marsh

“If I could whisper back through time, I would tell my teenage self, your love for God and your faith will be your rock in years to come,” (Phyllis Marsh, pictured in a bus on a Year 9 excursion in tropical North Queensland)

Phyllis Marsh — Learning Innovator, Indigenous Perspectives, West Moreton Anglican College

This photo was taken on a school bus on a Year 9 class excursion. I don’t remember where we were going, but considering I grew up in tropical North Queensland, no doubt it was a beach somewhere.

When I look at the young girl of 14 years of age in this photo, I see youth, confidence and a person who loves life; nothing else matters to her but that moment.

If I could whisper back through time, I would tell my teenage self, your love for God and your faith will be your rock in years to come. He has never abandoned you, so when you come to those moments that test who you are, hold steadfast to your love and that will see you through.

You will never please everyone, all you can be is yourself, and that is the gift you bring to the world. Your cultural identity and connection to a long ancestral line are anchors that bring belonging, which is what everyone seeks. Surround yourself with people who love deeply, give willingly and laugh heartedly. It is in these relationships you will receive grace.

Remember, do to others as you would have done to you.

Jo Leveritt at the snow on a school trip to Thredbo, circa 1982

“Every case you fight, every individual you stand for, every article you write is a piece in the larger puzzle of societal change,” (Jo Leveritt, pictured at the snow on a school trip to Thredbo, circa 1982)

Jo Leveritt — Parish Councillor, Church Warden and Coordinator of Bundaberg Street Law program at The Parish of Bundaberg

If I could sit down with my younger self, my advice would be this: “Strive to create change through social justice, and always be engaged and truly present.”

I would say to her, “The world is a tapestry of diverse narratives, experiences and trials. Understand that privilege isn’t distributed equally and that achieving true justice often means standing up for those on the margins and those who are overlooked or marginalised. Don’t recoil from the complexity and challenge of these issues — instead, embrace them. Your future legal education is not simply a tool for personal advancement but rather, an instrument for fairness, equality and change.”

I would add that the path she chooses will not always be smooth; however, each step she takes, no matter how small it might seem, contributes to a larger, nobler goal. Every case you fight, every individual you stand for, every article you write is a piece in the larger puzzle of societal change. Your impact might not always be immediately apparent, but trust in its cumulative effect.

I would also emphasise the importance of being truly present. Always “be where your feet are”. Whether with clients, friends, family, or just with yourself, ensure you are there in every sense — physically, mentally and emotionally. This presence enhances your work, strengthens your relationships and allows you to fully embrace and understand the world with empathy.

I would tell her, “There will be moments when you feel overwhelmed, when you question whether you’re making a difference at all. But remember, lasting change often happens gradually, not overnight. Do not lose heart. Continue to fight for justice, continue to be present.”

This would be my counsel to my younger self.

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