Updated on 7 July 2016
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples so often live the name of mercy in their lives, Bishop Christopher Saunders stated as he launched the annual statement to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday on 3 July 2016.
“The peoples of Australia’s First Nations are famously resilient and in their own words they are survivors. Notwithstanding the vagaries of government policy or the faulty efforts at work to close the gap, or the dreadful prejudices evident in racist attitudes so notoriously on display even in the public forum in recent times, Aboriginal and Islander Peoples so often live the name of mercy in their lives,” he said
Representing the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (BCATSIP), Bishop Saunders also launched a new brochure Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners 2016 as a guide for parishes and Catholic organisations to use when hosting an event or service.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday is celebrated at the start of NAIDOC Week, which is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements. Held from 3-10 July, NAIDOC Week provides an opportunity to recognise the contribution of Indigenous Australians to our country and our society. This year’s theme is, ‘Songlines: The living narrative of our nation’.
The week is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities but also in increasing numbers of government agencies, community organisations, local councils, workplaces, parishes and schools, and sporting groups.
The theme of the bishops’ statement this year is how We Need Mercy. “Pope Francis tells us that humanity is deeply wounded and for this reason is in need of mercy, a mercy proclaimed by God and tenderly shared among people,” Bishop Saunders said.
“The word ‘encounter’ used so frequently by Francis demonstrates that the Mercy proclaimed in this Jubilee Year is not a one-way street. Our meeting with Christ, Francis tells us, is authentically an encounter.
“It is an exchange in which the outpouring of a generous love made present in Christ evokes in us a loving response, given freely and generously.
“In the merciful love we experience in this Godly encounter we have the opportunity to embrace those around us who perhaps are not coping or who are weighed down with the terrible disappointments of life.
“The Church we belong to, Francis tells us, is a ‘field hospital’, which serves people in need of healing. However, it is each of us singularly and all of us collectively who are capable of being ministers to our brothers and sisters in need. And there-in lies the challenge.”
Praying for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Bishop Saunders asked that “in their prayers and in their loving communion may they continue to enrich the Church in Australia so that it will be fully the Church that Jesus Christ wants her to be”.
As we celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday this year, so we might echo with one voice the thoughts in Psalm 66: “Let the earth cry out to God with joy and compassion for all.”
Aboriginal Catholic Services in the Diocese of Parramatta celebrated NAIDOC Day on Monday 4 July with a day of activities at Holy Family Parish, Emerton. This free day out was a great way to start the school holidays with many activities for children, including a jumping castle, cup and saucer ride and a giant slide.
Lisa Foster from Aboriginal Catholic Services said NAIDOC Week was a great way to bring the local community together. “This event, like others organised during NAIDOC Week, helps to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures,” Lisa said. “We welcome everyone and encourage all Australians to participate in the celebrations and activities that take place during this week.”
Aboriginal Catholic Services is located at 252-254 Luxford Road, Emerton. The centre offers a range of free services, including counselling for children and adults, financial and problem gambling counselling, free tea, coffee and computer access. There are groups for arts, sewing, cooking, playgroup and tutoring.
The centre also runs the HIPPY Home Interaction Program for parents with children aged four and five. Inquiries tel (02) 9628 0084, drop in to see us or find us on Facebook