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Catholic Social Services Victoria – instruments of hope!

Thursday 9 March 2017
“We are instruments of hope,” proclaimed Bishop Patrick O’Regan of Sale, at the commencement of the Commissioning and Blessing Mass for Catholic Social Services Victoria.

About 60 representatives from member organisations of Catholic Social Services Victoria gathered at MacKillop Family Services in South Melbourne today, to attend the annual gathering. Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services Australia, Fr Frank Brennan SJ, also attended.
Bishop O’Regan led the Mass, with Deacon Mark Kelly of Sale Diocese and Fr Joe Caddy, Episcopal Vicar for Social Services, concelebrating. Musician Genevieve Bryant led the music.

At the beginning of Mass, there was a procession of the Aboriginal Message Stick, symbolising our unity with peoples who are created by the Creative spirit, in unity with Christ the redeemer, sustained by the all-embracing spirit.

Embracing the message in the First Reading of Esther, Bishop O’Regan called us to recall our Baptism and to think about how this impacts how we see and connect with the world, engaging our head, hands and heart. He also said that we’re called “to remember”.

“It is an important Biblical tradition to remember what God was going to do because in so doing, we then recount that which God has done for us. The human heart is prone to forgetting. Esther remembers, she crystallizes in her own heart her own experience—it’s never foreign, it’s never away, it’s genuine. Even the difficult moments aren’t pushed away into the cozy corners. It’s an intercessory prayer and it begins with remembering. 

“And it’s groups such as yours and part of the role of the Church, to help people to remember … and we remember especially those who are forgotten. And part of the extraordinary work that you’re involved in is making sure that we don’t forget, especially those who are easily forgotten, those who lie on the outside, where arbitrary lines are often drawn.”

Bishop O’Regan renewed the call for each of us to embrace the “feistiness of Esther”, to remember that the journey of Lent calls us back to our Baptism and to be “bearers of hope”. “There is so much Good news, so much extraordinary work going on and you’re part of that,” he concluded.

During the Mass, Chief Executive Officer of MacKillop Family Services, Robyn Miller, also provided a moving reflection based on her experience of working for the agency for the past seven months.

“I was reflecting about Queen Esther and how she had to face the lions and had to have courage,” she said. “I think as leaders, we’re called to have courage. We’re called to speak for those who can’t. We live in times when there is great injustice.”

Robyn shared a story about a tough interview she faced with the ABC’s Dan Oakes, in a time “where the polarization of young people is very apparent in our media”. “It was a very difficult moment because the children in residential care were being portrayed similarly to those in youth justice—as ice-riddled, drug addicts. Demons. … And we know the pain and the trauma that these young people have experienced and we stand by them. So the media has a very important role in portraying the message to people who don’t know.

“As I entered the studio ABC, I was praying. There were some very challenging questions, and all of a sudden, I knew I was being boxed into a corner, and that point, I prayed, ‘Please help me’ and bang, the lights went out in the ABC studio. True story! … It took 20 minutes and during that time I was able to engage Dan Oakes and call on him to have an intelligent response that took into account the complexity of these kids’ lives … and that he had a role to play in that.

“Many of the children we help don’t have the words or the voice,” Robyn said. “We’re called to be brave, to face the lions—because we all have our own lions—and to keep asking and to know that we will receive. And it’s such a privilege to do this on behalf of children who can’t speak on behalf of themselves—big children and little children.”

Robyn closed with words from Pope Francis writing in his pastoral letter to conclude the Year of Mercy:

By its very nature, mercy becomes visible and tangible in specific acts. Once mercy has been truly experienced, it is impossible to turn back. It grows constantly and it changes our lives. Mercy impels us to roll up our sleeves. Mercy is inclusive and tends to expand in ways that know no limits hence we are called to give new expression to the traditional works of mercy. For mercy overflows, keeps moving forward, bears rich fruit.

“I think it’s beautiful because we roll up our sleeves and we do something about it,” said Robyn. “People often ask, and I’m sure you’ve experienced this: How do you do that work? How do you not get depressed? I say, ‘because we’re doing something about it and it has such meaning and it has such joy in that’.”

Mass concluded with everybody joining in for the Commissioning Prayer:

God of justice,

You want the fullness of life for all your creation.
Continue to call and form us in your compassion and mercy.

Deepen our respect for the dignity and wroth of all people; strengthen our commitment to work for those in our communities who are marginalized and disadvantaged.

Strengthen our commitment to the common good, in the Spirit of St Mary MacKillop. Open our hearts and minds to respond more energetically and creatively to your call to build your kingdom of love, justice and peace in this world.
We pray in Jesus’ name.


The Annual General Meeting followed.

To download the Catholic Social Services Victoria 2016 Annual Report, click here.
Report and photography by Fiona Basile, for Catholic Social Services Victoria.

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