My dear friends,
Advent is my favourite season. It speaks of hope during despair; it renews purpose amid turmoil; it heralds God’s infinite love and salvation; and reminds us that God’s dream for humanity is growing towards fulfilment.
Advent calls our hearts to prepare for the coming of Jesus, our Saviour. When we support the poor, the vulnerable, the suffering – act together and stand with those without hope, we become channels of hope. In opening our eyes and hearts to the sufferings of our world, we awaken a hope that allows us to see things from the perspective of God.
As God abandoned His security to be with us, we must leave our comfort zones and discover His presence, beauty and love in the margins and shadows of life. If Jesus was born in a manger surrounded by lowly people, then we must discover Him again in unlikely situations and people.
Like Mary and Joseph who contemplated Christ born homeless and rejected, we can learn to recognise the same Christ who does not find welcome and hospitality, or a room in people’s hearts.
A weary, heavily pregnant young woman is rejected as she and her husband sought safety and shelter before her baby is born. This is the start of the nativity story we all know.
Jenny shares aspects of this story, over two thousand years later, right here in our Diocese.
Jenny was only 19 when she fell pregnant to an abusive man, outside of marriage. Her family disowned her. She feared the baby’s father wanted to kill her and their unborn child.
Jenny had no choice but to flee. Fragile and frightened, she arrived at CatholicCare’s Houses to Homes service with nothing – distressed, broken and hopeless.
Louise, manager of Houses to Homes, told me Jenny’s traumatic story.
One of the vital services supported by our Diocese through the Parramatta Catholic Foundation, Houses to Homes gives help and hope to homeless young mums.
Every year, 30 to 50 young mothers and mothers-to-be, turn to Houses to Homes for shelter for several months at a time. The average stay is six to nine months. These women have been through some of the most shocking things you can imagine. They have nowhere and nobody else to turn to.
Houses to Homes gave Jenny housing, support, compassion and care. A hamper with baby essentials, access to mental health counselling, and guidance on raising her child. Louise did everything she could for Jenny, staying by her side throughout her two-day labour.
During Advent we journey with Mary as she waits to welcome the birth of her baby. Houses to Homes supports homeless young women as they wait to welcome their children. Louise and her team are there for them day and night, in hospital during their labour. And they’ll be there on Christmas Day too, which can be an upsetting time for some of the girls.
Our mission is to be the compassionate face of Christ to all. This Christmas, we’re counting on your compassion to support homeless young women in crisis like Jenny, in desperate need of help and hope.
Once these young mums are past the turmoil and their immediate needs are looked after, they gather themselves, find strength, and realise they are capable of good things.
Demand for support is strong with homeless young girls constantly being referred.
Houses to Homes urgently needs more houses, more staff and more resources, which is why I’m asking you to give a generous gift from the heart today.
Jenny’s story reminds me of Matthew 25:40: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”.
Thank you for your remarkable generosity in the last year which raised $1.2 million for the Parramatta Catholic Foundation to support our Diocese’s works of Faith, Hope and Charity. Annually, the Diocese contributes over $3.6 million to sustain our ministry. Your kind-hearted compassion enables us to more widely carry out Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he has loved you.
Will you please put compassion in action again with a donation today to support the shelter, independent living and parenting skills programs that homeless mums like Jenny so desperately need?
Please pray with me for the wellbeing of all families this Christmas and especially the young mothers and children in Houses to Home’s care.
Your compassionate prayers and gifts will truly change lives this Christmas and beyond.
I wish you and your family a happy and holy Christmas.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv
Bishop of Parramatta