Hearing Healing Hope: The Ministry of Service in Challenging Times
Edited by Gabrielle McMullen, Patrice Scales and Denis Fitzgerald
Paperback, 312 pages, $29.95
Preface by Archbishop Mark Coleridge
“With more accountability, more onerous responsibility, and often less funds, this space requires dedicated people who not only understand their own organisations and the sector but also understand the community and the global factors at work, which will change and disrupt what we are doing”. -- Elizabeth Proust
With chapters from:
Paul Bongiorno AM
Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO
Archbishop Mark Coleridge
Dr Bob Dixon
Geraldine Doogue AO
Phil Glendenning AM
Dr Maria Harris AM
Dr May Lam
Professor Gabrielle McMullen AM
Dr Robyn Miller
Des Powell AM
Elizabeth Proust AO
From the Introduction:
The 2018 national conference entitled Hearing, Healing, Hope was held on 21-23 February at the Catholic Leadership Centre in East Melbourne. This volume captures the essence of that gathering which was a most successful collaboration of Catholic Social Services Australia and Catholic Social Services Victoria. The theme of the conference – Hearing, Healing, Hope – emerged from reflection on many aspects of the environment in which social services and other Church ministries operate in Australia today.
As conference planning was underway in 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was nearing conclusion – key for all parts of the Church was hearing both the voices of survivors of abuse and the confronting findings of the Royal Commission. Other voices were also seeking to be heard – those of victims of family violence, the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers, those with disability dealing with the new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Indigenous Australians and countless others experiencing disadvantage. The Church as a whole must be attuned to their needs and those in Catholic social services and other Church ministries ask themselves not only what Jesus would hear in the contemporary Australian “field hospital”, to use the terminology of Pope Francis,1 but also how they can most effectively respond. Furthermore, Pope Francis had put out to us the challenge “to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor”.
There is much healing to be done. In his ‘field hospital’ interview, Pope Francis emphasised the centrality of healing for the mission of Church in the modern world:
The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal
wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs
nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after
battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has
high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You
have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything
else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds ... And you have to
start from the ground up.
This ‘healing’ ministry then extends to the causes of marginalisation and disadvantage, where a deeper healing is required. And in Australia today, this work must be accompanied by healing within the Church, lest the aftermath of sexual abuse somehow limits the ministry of the Church and its agencies in service and work for justice.
There are countless Catholic ministries across Australia – alongside many other people and organisations – serving at the margins, healing wounds, transforming lives and strengthening families and communities. Many dedicated staff go the extra mile, with a vocational commitment to service of the vulnerable. There is much innovation, and inspiring professional competence. All of this is a source of great hope, and gives confidence that the issues and changes within Australian society today can be effectively addressed, as social services and other Church ministries, faithful to the mission of Jesus, truly “heal the wounds”. Such hope was reflected in feedback on the conference from an emerging leader participant who wrote: “I walked away having a real sense of optimism for the future of Catholic Social Services”.