The prayer called us to lament and make a commitment, as each person sat at their computers in darkness with their faces aglow by a lit candle. I quote from the brochure which invited us to gather and the150-day campaign calling on the Federal Government:
This initiative began because Pope Francis declared 2021 to be the year of Joseph, Patron of Refugees. He and Mary were forced to flee with Jesus, their refugee child. Pope Francis named Joseph as “the special patron of all those forced to leave their native lands because of war, hatred, persecution and poverty.”
Australia needs a new heart, a new way to show mercy. We have been using our resources and talents at schools, parishes, within our own communities and organisations to call for three things:
- to provide income support and a financial safety net for all people seeking asylum in Australia
- to end temporary protection visas and create a clear pathway to permanent residency
- to ensure access to family reunion for refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia.
My message for this week is going to focus on the Plenary Council, which begins next Sunday 3 October, and each week I think it important to keep us connected with the wider issues which our church is attempting to connect us to. This Plenary Council is calling us to listen and dialogue, but most importantly, to respond. This response must first come from our hearts not our heads. As I sat in the darkness of my study, the names of those people who had died while in our detention centres were read out. So many names of people who came to us to find shelter, to find safety and a place to call home. Our Catholic Church must accompany and give a voice to those who are seeking protection and who are lost. This and other social issues must be the focus of the Plenary Council.
While structures are important, I fear that to make that our focus, and not God’s mission, as given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, will continue to leave our Church ineffective for the majority.
The theme of this year’s Migrant and Refugee Sunday is, Towards an Ever Wider “We”. It is followed by the words – God created us in his image, in the image of his own Triune being, a communion in diversity.
Pope Francis in his message for this Sunday said:
The truth however is that we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single “we”, encompassing all of humanity……The Holy Spirit enables us to embrace everyone, to build communion in diversity, to unify differences without imposing a depersonalized uniformity. In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another. All the baptized, wherever they find themselves, are by right members of both their local ecclesial community and the one Church, dwellers in one home and part of one family.
The following link will take you to a page which has on it a wonderful 5-minute video about this Migrant and Refugee Sunday:
Our Sunday readings from the Book of Numbers (11:25-29) and Mark’s Gospel (9:38-43,45,47-48) call upon us to recognise an ever wider “we”. It is not about the ones who we think are chosen, but it is about listening to the voice of God’s Spirit and responding with the gifts we have been given. We are compelled to make real God’s mission today and every day. This must be the reflective exercise of the Members of the Plenary Council who are considering the following agenda:
The Spirit of God is present and active in the world. As children of God, disciples of Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are called to develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time.
It is sometimes through the least important member of a community that the Spirit speaks.
This was part of my experience on Saturday afternoon when I joined 40 other participants in the Season of Creation celebration. The worldwide theme for this year’s Season of Creation is, A Home for all? Renewing the Oikos of God. This year’s symbol Abraham’s tent expresses our ecumenical call of radical hospitality, safeguarding a place for all creatures, human and non-human, in the household (oikos) of God. There were four presenters from diverse cultural backgrounds who spoke about their experience of ‘oikos’ and calling Australia home and their experience of hospitality, both giving and receiving. Amazingly, the video footage from the finalists of a film competition were shown. These were from young people and the quality of their work, both its content and the filming was very impressive.
As members of the Catholic faith community, we have a grave responsibility to the many social issues in which we find ourselves and are reminded of daily, via the many technological devices that surround us.
I invite you during the days of the Plenary Council to create a space to participate where you can.
You will be able to attend Mass, virtually, each day. There will be an opportunity for us to pray each day via the prayer resources that can be found on the Plenary Council website and to view the Plenary Council daily livestream.
Here are some highlights from the livestream schedule:
- October 3: Opening Mass of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, 2pm AEDT from St Mary's Cathedral in Perth.
- October 4-9: Daily Mass broadcast at 9.30am AEDT and on demand afterwards.
- October 4-6 and October 8-9: Plenary session livestream starts at 11am AEDT and runs until approximately 12.15pm AEDT.
- October 7: Plenary session livestream starts at 12 noon AEDT and runs until approximately 12.45pm AEDT.
- October 10: Closing Mass of the First General Assembly, 11am AEDT from St Stephen's Cathedral, Brisbane
I implore you to engage with the Plenary Council, to pray for it and its Members, and to think of the “we” not “I”. As Fr Andrew Doohan said in his homily for this Sunday, it is God’s faith, authority and power that we are given for the sake of bringing about the Kingdom. God works through us. Good will come when God chooses to bring it about. So let’s not get in God’s way.
Director Pastoral Ministries
28 September 2021