Strengthening our commitment to building a more just and compassionate society
Fr Joe Caddy is an elder of Catholic social services in Victoria, and nationally. Fr Joe is currently Chief Executive Officer of CatholicCare, and he chairs the Policy and Advocacy Committee of Catholic Social Services Victoria, the peak body in Victoria for 50-plus Catholic community service organisations.
Fr Joe is also Parish Priest of All Saints Parish, Fitzroy.
It was therefore very appropriate that he was the principle celebrant at the annual Commissioning Mass for members of Catholic Social Services Victoria, held on 12 March at All Saints Church.
The church of All Saints is also an appropriate venue for a social services gathering.
Many features of the church make this so. They include an icon of ‘St Mary MacKillop of Fitzroy’ that adorns one wall, reminding us of St Mary’s unique role in our Australian social services tradition. St Josephine Bakhita, the Patron Saint of Sudan, features in another icon, highlighting the rich ethnic make-up of the Fitzroy area, and the dark shadow of trafficked women that is now a focus of several of our member organisations.
And just across Brunswick Street is St Mary’s House of Welcome, where the gathering adjourned later in the evening for supper. St Mary’s offers, among other things, regular meals and connections to many who live on the margin. Their catering that night provided experience to a group of hospitality trainees from William Angliss.
It was an ideal setting in which to reflect on the reading of the Last Judgement scene from St Matthew’s Gospel –whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me – and for the Commissioning Prayer that followed the Mass:
Deepen our respect for the dignity and worth of all people; strengthen our commitment to work for those in our communities who are marginalised and disadvantaged.
Strengthen our commitment to the common good, in the Spirit of St Mary MacKillop.
Following the Mass, and before the supper, the Annual General Meeting of Catholic Social Services Victoria was held in All Saints Hall. Patrice Scales was re-elected Chair of the governing Council, and Fr Joe was one of those re-elected to the Council.
John Falzon, national Chief Executive Officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society, was the guest speaker at the AGM. John transfixed the gathering with his potent mixture of self-deprecating humour and incisive social analysis.
A key element in his analysis is that the voices of those who are oppressed cannot be silenced, for they are the voice of God in our midst.
He speaks of the ‘beautiful lies’ with which we are confronted, and which can be very difficult to engage with. Pronouncements that all is well, or that a matter is being looked into, or that an inquiry is soon to be announced, etc, can deter many from making their voice heard.
But, when confronted with evil and injustice, we must rise above this, and not be deterred.
John left us with the thought from St Augustine:
Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are anger and courage. Anger that things are the way they are. Courage to make them the way they ought to be.
And this echoed the sentiments of the Prophet Micah, that had formed the chorus for the closing hymn of the Commissioning Mass:
We are called to act with justice,
we are called to love tenderly,
we are called to serve one another;
to walk humbly with God!
It was an inspirational evening.
It strengthened us all to respond to the many challenges facing the most vulnerable in our society – asylum seekers, those who are unemployed, children in care, victims of abuse, etc – and the challenges that face our Catholic social services organisations.
And it reminded us that it is by the Grace of God that we are called and supported in our work.