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Parishes as Centres of Service
Parish Forum for Refugees: "It's just about treating people decently"

“It’s just about treating people decently”, was the main message of those gathered for a recent parish forum to discuss practical responses in assisting people seeking asylum within our community.
Fifty people from 16 Melbourne Catholic parishes and five Catholic agencies and communities gathered on Saturday 23 March in East Melbourne for the Parish Forum Helping our Refugee Families and Friends. The focus of the forum was on how parishes can assist refugee families and the Catholic and other agencies who support them.
Participants heard from Catholic support agencies – Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project (BASP), CatholicCare Melbourne Geelong Gippsland, Society of St Vincent de Paul, Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) and parish leaders with experience supporting refugees and asylum seekers. They heard of the needs of people presenting for support, and how parishes can practically assist. The choir from St Theresa's Parish, Essendon, led by Jacinta and Mark Hyland, opened and closed the forum with song and reflection.
Federal government policies have resulted in many thousands of asylum seekers in our communities being left destitute without the support of family or friends, generous people and organisations.
Sr Claire Griffin csb led participants in identifying how they and their parishes might contribute support, through providing accommodation, financial or food aid. Click here to see a list of the ways parish communities can practically help.
Peter Charles and John Smith of Camberwell East Parish led workshops exploring how parishes can commence and sustain a support program. As John Smith said, "providing support is not about politics, it's just about treating people decently".
The forum was a valuable experience for all who attended, with connections made with neighbouring and experienced parishes eager to help others get started, or to renew focus. 

Denis Fitzgerald | Executive Director | Catholic Social Services Victoria | tel: 0418 136 372
Photos courtesy Adrian Foley.

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