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Mission making a difference in a changing world

About 50 colleagues and friends of Catholic Social Services Victoria gathered in the Cardinal Knox Centre in East Melbourne last night for the launch of Review, Reimagine, Renew: Mission making a difference in a changing world.

In the book, officially launched by Archbishop Denis Hart, leaders from Catholic social services and the broader church explore what it means to be a Catholic ministry, and what difference that makes to the communities being served. Some of the contributing authors include John L. Allen Jnr, Frank Brennan SJ, Julian McMahon, Maria Harries, John Falzon, Bishop Vincent Long OFMConv, Tony Nicholson, Gerard Jones and Lisa McDonald, to name a few.

Issues addressed in the book include, in the Australian context, institutional child abuse, family violence, engagement with Indigenous Australians, offering disability services, supporting re-settlement, and breaking the poverty cycle and, in the wider international setting, the situation of refugees and asylum seekers and capital punishment.
Denis Fitzgerald, Patrice Scales and Gabrielle McMullen AM edited the book. In welcoming those gathered for the launch, Gabrielle provided background to the book, which is the second in a series—the first was Listening, Learning and Leading: The impact of Catholic identity and mission, released in 2014.

‘In February 2016 Catholic Social Services Victoria held a conference also entitled Review, Reimagine, Renew: Mission Making a Difference in a Changing World with about 250 participants,’ she said. ‘It included some very powerful papers and workshops for those leading, governing and serving in contemporary Catholic ministries. 

‘It seemed to the conference organisers that these relevant and timely contributions, exploring Catholic identity and mission, looking at how Catholic ministries are responding to the signs of the times, and implementing formation to those in Catholic ministries in the Australian context, should be offered to a wider audience. In partnership with Connor Court, this has now been realised.  In most cases, the authors of this collated volume took their conference presentation and reworked it into a stand-alone chapter for the book.

‘The conference, like the book, saw Catholic partners working together and engaging with contemporary themes to empower attendees, and now readers, to approach renewal in Catholic agencies underpinned by both the timeless message of the Gospels and the necessary innovation for effective ministry in a changing environment.
 
‘This book challenges us individually and as agencies to review our faithfulness to the ministry of Jesus, to re-imagine the Gospel imperatives in the contemporary context, and to renew our commitment to ministry inspired by the call of Pope Francis to be “permanently in a state of mission” so that we bring the “joy of the Gospel” to those whom we serve and, at the same time, into our own lives.’
 
In launching the book, Archbishop Hart congratulated all who had been involved in its creation. ‘Gabrielle McMullen, Patrice Scales and Denis Fitzgerald have put together what I consider a remarkable publication of the papers delivered at the Review, Reimagine, Renew Conference in February,’ he said.
 
‘They are more than an anthology of Catholic social action and teaching. They begin with the skilful reflection of John Allen on the work of Pope Francis, which highlights his passion for the peripheries, a missionary concept of the Church and mercy as the cornerstone.
 
‘The forum, which Maria Harries led on how mission can make a difference was of tremendous practical value in implementation of the Gospel in relationship with government and community.
 
‘Father Frank Brennan, who’s recently taken up an appointment as Chief Executive Office of Catholic Social Services Australia, writes with great force and clarity on the whole question of migration. … Julian McMahon tells of his important advocacy for prisoners while Julie Edwards unites heart and soul and head in our undertaking mission.

‘Many of you I’m sure are aware of the real challenges presented by family violence. Patrice Scales has led a wonderful forum asking the questions as to how the Church can make a difference in this terrible challenge. And I do welcome the work done by Gabrielle McMullen with Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald and Maria Harries from the Truth, Justice and Healing Council on addressing and preventing sexual abuse.

‘Another thing that really touched me was the work of Tony Nicholson, Ricki Jeffery—who is here all the way from North Queensland, and Marcelle Mogg and Lisa McDonald. Lisa said something that really fixed on my mind. We don’t just have a hospital with a mission—we have a mission with a hospital. That gives the emphasis of all that we’re trying to do.’

Archbishop Hart said, ‘All of these papers are of tremendous value in helping us see where we are placed in the midst of our society … and an awareness that the people who are the most vulnerable are those who should receive our first attention. The book challenges us to think what it means to be a Catholic ministry and what difference this makes to the communities that we serve.’

In closing, Archbishop Hart commended the book as a ‘living manual of Catholic service in the community of today and of witness to Jesus Christ’.

The book launch concluded with a ‘QnA’ session between book editor Patrice Scales and contributor Julie Edwards, Chief Executive Office of Jesuit Social Services, whose chapter is titled Heart and Head Together for Action.

Julie suggested that before organisations review and renew, they should reimagine. ‘The important thing is to go back to our identity, our purpose, our roots and reimagine what that might look like now in our contemporary context, reading the signs of the times.’ She also reminded those gathered that ‘we are salt’. ‘If we lose that saltiness then what are we good for? We have to be very clear about why we’re here.’

Purchase Listening, Learning and Leading: The impact of Catholic identity and mission here.

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