Social Justice

Photo: Pope Francis walks with a group of refugees AP)

Refugee Week in the Year of Mercy

As he always does, Pope Francis reminds us yet again, through another of his powerfully compassionate acts, what mercy asks of us.  The article below was published on Thursday in Church Resources.  And in the Acting Principal’s Message this week,  you will find an article written by Sr Libby Rogerson ibvm which invites us all into some soul-searching.  I would also like to mention a very powerful film/documentary  –  Chasing Asylum –  which reveals the disturbing situation and the suffering on Manus Island and in Nauru. This refugee Week, let us not let the moment pass us by.  May our eyes be opened and our hearts and consciences disturbed in the spirit of Jesus who, after washing the feet of his disciples, said:

“Just as I have done, so must you do” 

John 13

Welcome the Marginalised: Pope Invites Refugees Up on Stage

Published : 23 June 2016

Call for inclusion:

Flanked by a group of refugees, Pope Francis has appealed to Christians at his weekly general audience to care for and welcome those whom society often excludes, reports the Catholic News Service.

“Today I’m accompanied by these young men. Many people think they would have been better off if they had stayed in their homelands, but they were suffering so much there. They are our refugees, but many people consider them excluded. Please, they are our brothers,” the Pope said at the audience yesterday.

The group, holding a banner that stated “Refugees for a better future together,” caught the Pope’s attention as he was making his way to the stage in St Peter’s Square. He signalled them to come forward and instructed aides to allow them to sit in the shade on the stage.

In his main talk, Francis discussed the Gospel story of the leper who begged Jesus to heal him, saying: “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

He noted that the leper not only asked to be “purified” in both body and heart, but also broke the law by entering the city to find Jesus in search of healing.

“Everything this man – who was considered impure – says and does is an expression of his faith!” the Pope said. “This faith is the strength that allowed him to break every convention and try to meet with Jesus and, kneeling before him, call him ‘Lord’.”

The leper’s plea, he continued, serves as a lesson to Christians that “when we present ourselves to Jesus, long speeches aren’t necessary” and that there is no place to feel safe other than with God and his infinite mercy.

Jesus’ act of touching and healing the leper, an action forbidden by the law of Moses, is also an example for all Christians in helping the poor, the sick and the marginalised, the Pope continued.

 

Knowledge and awareness lead to compassion and a change of heart, to motivation to take action. Our biblical tradition and particularly the ancient Hebrew prophets, constantly exhort us to take notice, see injustice and need and to respond, to bring life to all.  Jesus described himself as the one sent to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind and to usher in the ‘reign of God’ –  a world of justice.   And our discipleship is firmly based in this call.  Our Church’s Social Teaching provides us with a strong and consistent message in this regard too as does our Loreto mission, particularly expressed in ‘Call 2’  of the IBVM:  “Bring those forced to live in poverty to the centre of our life and ministry”.   And so we regularly provide opportunities for our students and staff to raise awareness and be educated in social justice needs and to discern a response, consistent with the Gospel call.  A few weeks ago a group of Year 10 and 11 students and staff had just such an opportunity.  Below is their reflection on the evening.

 

Ms Kerry McCullough

Dean of Mission

 

On the 31st of May, twelve girls, accompanied by three teachers were privileged enough to attend a Social Justice Forum at Mt Saint Benedict College with around 500 other students, from a number of schools. The forum included workshops with not-for-profit organisations, such as Share the Dignity, the Big Issue and many others with a very exciting keynote address from Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi from Orange Sky Laundry.

Orange Sky Laundry was set up in 2014, a free mobile laundry service in the form of vans with washing machines and dryers that operate in 9 cities around Australia.  A full load of laundry takes one hour and during this time the volunteers sit down in front of their van and initiate genuine and positive conversation with their friends on the street.  The organisation washes 5.9 tonnes of laundry a week and allows the public to purchase laundry washes at $6 per wash.  The amazing thing about this organisation is that it enables the marginalised of society to engage with something we all do every week, whilst establishing a relationship with others.  As clothes are the only possessions of the homeless, a lot of trust is built between these disadvantaged people and the 622 volunteers. Eventually, those who are homeless are given a sense of hope for the future and suddenly clean clothes become merely a fraction of what Orange Sky Laundry provides.  Volunteers empathise with the homeless and hear amazing stories which ultimately change the way they interact and perceive the world.

A speaker from Kiribati told us that her way of life was very different to Australia’s.  Fish and marine resources are a primary food source and she said that when there is a shortage, the community combines their food as one and shares it amongst themselves. The country is so affected by climate change, yet has the ability to unite and sympathise. This is something I feel we lack in Australia.  We have access to resources yet spend a lot of time focused on oneself as opposed to giving to others and serving the community first. If we are to combat climate change and all social justice issues around the world, we must begin to coordinate with each other.

I was very intrigued and chose to listen to a representative from Share the Dignity, an organisation founded in 2015 by Rochelle Courtenay, when she recognised a huge need for sanitary products for vulnerable and homeless women in our society.  As part of a Social Justice incentive we are going to have a donation box placed outside student services!  We encourage each and every one of you to purchase a pack of pads or tampons (or any other sanitary items e.g. baby wipes) to transition the women’s lives from using paper towels to dignified sanitary items.  After this seriously informative talk I went to yet another great workshop hosted by a volunteer from ‘The Big Issue’ who swiftly said that the ‘The Big Issue’ saved him from homelessness.  He told us that the organisation had new educational programs designed to complement teachers and schools which got homeless people on board as well to help increase their knowledge.  I believe ‘The Big Issue’ to be an incredible organisation, I think it so beneficial for homeless people to get back up on their feet through essentially starting their own business.  Not only does this give them more independence, it also helps with confidence in their own ability.  

Following the workshops we had a short break which was then followed by a keynote address from the Young Australians of the Year Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi (which Aisha has spoken more on in her reflection above – truly amazing).  We would like to extend our thanks to Mrs Parker, Miss Alcaro and Miss Oxley for accompanying us and assisting with the organisation of the night, as well as Mt Saint Benedict College for hosting such a wonderful forum for young people to begin taking action as it takes a lot of heads to work together to make a change!

 

Aisha Dadlani and Cara Fagan