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Catholic social services, do-ers of God's love

"Doing to the least of our sisters and brothers; this is the call and response of charity, the work of grace, and the root of justice."  These were the words spoken by Archbishop Peter Comensoli who led today's Commissioning Mass for Catholic Social Services Victoria.
 
More than 50 representatives from member organisations of Catholic Social Services Victoria gathered at MacKillop Family Services in South Melbourne for the annual Commissioning Mass and Annual General Meeting.
 
Archbishop Peter Comensoli led the Mass with Fr Frank Brennan SJ and Fr Joe Caddy concelebrating and Deacon Mark Kelly assisting. In his homily, Archbishop Peter said, "the root of justice lies in charity. And where there is charity, there is God."
 
"We reveal ourselves as children of God by becoming do-ers of God's love - sacrificially and in friendship. We are made this way; it is our path to fullness of eternal life."
 
Sr Mary O'Shannassy SGS, coordinator of Catholic Prison Ministry Victoria provided a reflection at the conclusion of Mass. "Today, representing the many and diverse member organisations of Catholic Social Services Victoria, together, we heard again, an invitation, a call, to come and to become immersed in the many field hospitals where we have the opportunity to get the ‘smell of the sheep’.

"We heard the Son of Man’s words about his identification with the poor and needy, with their pain and their poverty. God’s mission is our mission.
We hear afresh that call, that invitation.
 
"Many and varied are the situations of the person whom each of us meets in our daily ministries. 
It is the person who is central to our mission and ministry – from the smallest infant through to the aged. Over people’s life span, we meet them at places like MacKilllop Family Services, Prague House, Greenvale, the prisons, Youth Justice Centres - and then there are the Refugees, and also Rosies and St Vincent de Paul on the streets, to name just some of the many.
 
"The homeless, broken and needy Jesus awaits us as we minister for a just and merciful world.
 
"Mirroring the love that our God has lavished on us, our response in love, in mercy, in compassion and in hospitality, engenders hope - together with the recognition of the precious dignity of every person. By our very presence, our being for, and with, the other, there is the opportunity to be bearers of dignity and hope."
 
Read the full reflection, here.
 
Following the Mass, the Annual General Meeting was held with Member representatives. During the meeting, congratulations were extended to Bernie Cronin on his re-election for a further two-year term as Chair of Council; to Joce Bignold of McAuley Community Services for Women and Cath Garner of Cabrini Health Australia who were re-elected to a further two-year term as Council members; and to Sherry Balcombe of Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, who was elected to Council.
 
In addressing those gathered, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, Denis Fitzgerald, said "Catholic Social Services Victoria is built on the premise that, working together, the many arms of Catholic social services can contribute more to the wellbeing of society than they can when they work by themselves."
 
"Last year we commissioned a report that highlighted the contribution of Catholic Social Services across Victoria. It indicated that more than 200,000 people were supported by Catholic social service organisations during 2016-2017, with the total number of occasions of support being in excess of 400,000. The total expenditure in assisting these people was more than $700 million and included 6800 employed staff and at least 17,600 volunteers.

"We need such a network, in order to better serve those on the margins, but also to help each of us build on the strengths of our Catholic identity and tradition. We need to continue to play our part in ensuring that our organisations and all of the Church is truly safe for children and vulnerable people; that victims of abuse are supported and just redress is made; and that perpetrators are held to account. And we also need to be nourished from the wellsprings of our mission –the call to love of neighbour as an essential part of our response to God’s love for us – and reflect on how to advance that mission with courage and humility, in cooperation with all those who share our vision of a more just and compassionate Victoria.

“It is always a privilege, and so humbling, to acknowledge all of you and those you represent, our member organisations. Thank you for your work of service and work for justice.”
 
The Catholic Social Services Victoria Annual Report 2018 can be viewed, here.
 

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