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Parishes as Centres of Service
December 5 is International Volunteer Day. Volunteers are vital to our work in supporting parishes and to our 50+ Catholic Social Services member organisations, which provide assistance to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our community. In fact, 17,000+ volunteers contribute to the work of our members!
 
Once such member organisation is Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH), which is lucky enough to have the support of more than 630 volunteers who donate their time and talents to brighten the lives of the older people, children and adults with disabilities, their families and carers.
 
In the northern suburbs of Melbourne, as in many parts of the city, residents are being priced out of their local neighbourhoods. Accordingly, the need for free meals, community help and food banks is growing. In Thornbury a local initiative between the parish of St Mary’s and the Salvation Army is seeking to address this increasing need with a weekly community dinner.
Mental Health Week was held in Australia from 7-14 October. With this in mind, a small group gathered at St Pius X Parish, West Heidelberg on Saturday 14 October to conclude Mental Health Week 2017. Fr Wayne Edwards and the parish community, together with Catholic Social Services Victoria, welcomed people to join with them to pray for all people touched in whatever way by mental health issues.
At our most recent forum on parish support for asylum seekers, Catholic social services reiterated its support for the Victorian Government’s assistance for asylum seekers who have been cut off from Federal Government benefits. Catholic agencies and parishes, together with many others, are already providing substantial accommodation, material aid, mental and physical health, legal and other support to this group, and to many other asylum seekers and refugees in similar circumstances. Our agencies and parishes warmly welcome this Victorian Government initiative and are keen to keep contributing themselves.
Increased education and awareness, and a united voice from churches are just some of the things that are needed to help shift public opinion and policy in supporting refugees and asylum seekers. More than 20 people gathered at the Cardinal Knox Centre in East Melbourne on 11 October to discuss how Catholic parishes can strengthen the support provided to refugees and asylum seekers living in the community.
Our latest Catholic Parishes Serving the Community newsletter contains news about local parishes serving in their community including St Dominic's East Camberwell and Holy Eucharist St Albans South; events of interest, in particular an upcoming evening forum to assist parishes in supporting asylum seekers, on 11 October; along with important in depth articles  that will assist the parish community to understand more deeply the issues of homeless and youth justice, and what role we can play in lessening their detrimental effects within the community.
 
Download the full newsletter, here.
The parish of St Dominic's East Camberwell has recently erected a large banner facing Riversdale Road, stating: 'St Dominic's Parish Welcomes Asylum Seekers'. The banner is 3.5m long and 75cm high, and was erected after support was given by the parish priest, Fr Peter Toan Nguyen OP, the Dominican Community who reside there, and the parish council.

Parishes play an important role in providing support to refugees and asylum seekers. It is a central call of the Gospel to welcome the stranger, and to love our neighbours as Jesus loved. In this light, parishioners are invited to our upcoming evening forum to learn how we can strengthen support provided by parishes on Wednesday 11 October, from 6pm - 8.30pm in the Cathedral Room of the Cardinal Knox Centre. The Forum will discuss practical ways in which you and your parish can make a difference. Please let as many people as possible know about this!
We are all invited to join with Pope Francis and his worldwide prayer network in praying this month's intention: Parishes at the service of mission. Pope Francis says: Parishes must be in contact with homes, with people’s lives, with the life of society. 
They have to be houses where the door is always open so as to go forth toward others. 
And it is important that this going-forth follows a clear proposal of faith. 
The doors must be opened so that Jesus can go out with all of the joy of his message. 
Let us pray for our parishes, that they not be simple offices, but that animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen.
 
Watch the video here.

At a workshop as part of the Welcome the Asylum Seeker Parish Support Forum at St Monica's Primary School, Moonee Ponds on Tuesday, 11 July 2017 participants busied themselves writing letters to their Government representatives requesting more humane responses to the treatment of those on Manus Island and Nauru, the tragedy of children in detention and requesting an increase in the number of Syrian refugees received in Australia. 

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Catholic Social Services Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Elders in each of the Communities where we work. Click for our Reconciliation Vision
Cardinal Knox Centre. 383 Albert Street (PO Box 146), East Melbourne Vic 3002
Tel: (03) 9287 5566 Fax: (03) 9287 5567 Email: office@css.org.au
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