The spirit of generosity, service and collaboration was truly alive as more than 60 people from across the northern suburbs, and beyond, gathered at St Francis Xavier Parish in Montmorency
for the ‘Parishes as Centres of Service Expo’ on Saturday 6 May.
Hosted by Catholic Social Services Victoria and St Francis Xavier Parish
, the expo provided an opportunity for parish representatives, social services agencies, groups and organisations, to gather in one place to network and collaborate, share ideas and resources, and to dream and plan the way forward for their parishes and service-outreach programs among the community.
There were parish representatives from St Francis Xavier, Montmorency
; Christ the Light Catholic Parish of Mernda, Doreen, Whittlesea and Kingslake
; St Pius X Parish, Heidelberg West
; and St Francis of Assisi, Mill Park
, along with representatives from social service agencies such as St Vincent de Paul Society, Welcome the Asylum Seeker Parish Support Program
, Young Christian Students
, Sacred Heart Mission
, Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project
, Villa Maria Catholic Homes
and Jesuit Social Service’s Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA)
, to name a few.
The day commenced in with an inspiring and hope-filled presentation by St Francis Xavier parish priest, Fr Terry Kean. Quoting Pope Francis, he said, “The parish is not an outdated institution, precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community.”
Fr Terry and the parishioners try to be very creative and generous when it comes to helping those in need in the local community—for the past 11 years a parish Social Justice Group has coordinated and planned various social outreach programs, with 5% of the parish’s income funding the programs.
The parish is also involved with a mission in the Philippines; they have a very active St Vincent de Paul Society, they collect food and toiletries for asylum seekers and continue to support the Syrian refugee settlement in Eltham, and for the past eight years, more than 100 parish volunteers attend Sacred Heart Mission in St Kilda to assist with the lunchtime meal service.
Fr Terry reminded everyone, “Can you or I claim to be Catholic if we are not involved in social justice or outreach? If a Catholic and for that matter, a Christian, wants to take the Gospel seriously, the Gospel will immediately take you into the lives of the poor, the sick, the marginalized. These are the people Jesus always sought out in his mission.
“When it comes to being Catholic, the Word of God and the Eucharist are primary sources of our inspiration, and of our coming together as a community of disciples. And parishes have a central place in gathering people to hear the Word of God, to share the Eucharist. And if we are to live in action the meaning and message of Jesus, social outreach and social justice will be at the heart of our story.”
Following the presentation, everyone gathered in the parish hall where the various information stands were set up for people to wander around, ask questions, share resources and discuss ideas. Following lunch, the day concluded with a plenary session where the attendees discussed the impact and way forward for their outreach and service activities.
Moving forward, there was a definite call to action—parishes have an ongoing and important role to play in reaching out to those on the margins, particularly those who may not even know their services are on offer.
There was a call for parishes to link in with their Catholic primary and secondary schools to ensure that young people can understand and take up the Gospel’s mission of helping others.
Opportunities also exist for parishes to link in with the various social service agencies within the archdiocese that can provide support and resources to the various outreach programs. Linking in, coordinating and sharing the ‘good news’ of so many successful social outreach programs implemented by agencies, organisations and parish groups across the archdiocese, is a goal that Catholic Social Services Victoria would like to assist with over the coming year.
Let’s continue our work together in sharing the Good News, and in living the Gospel concretely in our every day lives!
Help us spread and share the Good News of your work
We encourage parishes, parish groups, social justice and outreach groups, social services agencies and organisations to link in with our social media platforms to help us stay informed and to help in the cross promotion of your good news stories, events, resources and information.
CSSV Newsletter is published every two months. View our latest newsletter here, and our special edition Volunteers newsletter here.