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Pope Francis' 'Laudato Si' - Transforming parish communities

On Saturday 15 September 2018, more than 30 people from 12 parishes gathered at St Francis Xavier and St Clare Combined Parish of Greater Box Hill to share insights into how parishes might respond to Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on care for our common home, the earth.

Fr Tony Kerin, Parish Priest of St Francis Xavier and St Clare hosted the forum jointly with Catholic Social Services Victoria. Fr Joe McKay OFM and three students, Cosmas, Gerald and Nelson, led us in liturgical celebration and thanksgiving. Pat Long, an experienced speaker on ecological issues, took us to the heart of the encyclical, while Sr Bernadette Keating pbvm led the workshop “Laudato Si’ – a workshop on personal and parish engagement”.
Bernard Holland, who was recently appointed Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia, spoke regarding his new role. Denis Fitzgerald, Catholic Social Services explored the external supports helpful to parishes in responding to the encyclical. 
Christine Kennedy, Sr Caroline Vaitkunas and Robyn Humphery from Endeavour Hills, Elwood and St Kilda West and Cheltenham parishes told of their parish initiatives responding to the encyclical, what has been learned, and future activities.

Common features of the presentations included providing information to parishes and communities, interacting with local school students, liturgical responses, a growing and broader awareness of the need to care for the environment, and uplifting and deepening personal experiences of everyone taking part. You can read their reports here.

Everyone attending rated the forum very highly, and agreed the forum should become an annual event during the Season of Creation (1 September – 4 October, Feast of St Francis of Assisi). Several participants recommended a larger conference format, with more time for reflection and interaction. A recurring theme was the opportunity that Laudato Si’ presents to engage students and youth. These suggestions will be considered in planning future forums. 

Catholic Social Services Victoria has established a webpage to record relevant news, events and resources to promote the take-up of Laudato Si’ in parishes. Please help us build this resource by forwarding information regarding your parish events and activities – email Lucia.brick@css.org.a

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