Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Chair, Australian Catholic Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service
Message for Social Justice Sunday
30 August 2020
As the coronavirus pandemic deeply affects our public health and economy, now more than ever, we are called to reach out to one another and to be the love that God calls us to be in the world.
The ups and downs of the health crisis, as well as the reality of the economic situation, has meant that another element of this crisis – the pressure that it puts on our mental health – is being felt across our community. Many people are facing challenges that they have never faced before and may be surprised at the mental strain they are feeling. Some may not know how to reach out for help or even feel an embarrassment about this.
I join with the Bishops and the Church across Australia when I say that we are with you and we are praying for you. The Bishops join together to say ‘Mental ill-health is not a moral failure, the result of a lack of faith, or a weak will…People experiencing mental ill-health are not some “other” people, they are ‘us’ … – people in our families, faith communities, workplaces and society … and they can be of any age or socio-economic background.‘
God’s unending love and mercy is always present in our lives, but in this time of upheaval, it more than ever is our refuge in the storm and source of new life and energy. In moments of darkness and disconnect, it is our warmth and beacon of light and hope. I encourage you all to be instruments of God’s love in our community by calling your friends and family, visiting when you can do so safely, writing messages of support, advocating for proper resourcing, and seeking the care of mental health services.
Each year on Social Justice Sunday, the Bishops of Australia release a statement. This year, the statement To Live life to the full: Mental health in Australia Today focuses on the church’s role to remove the stigma associated with mental ill-health. It demonstrates how poverty, social, economic and political contexts can increase mental ill-health and calls for ‘policies and service provision to meet the needs of the poorest, the most marginalised and to recognise in them the face of Christ Jesus.’
It encourages parishes and communities to make mental health a priority in their ministry and offers practical guidelines released by the Bishops Conference in 2019 called Do Not Be Afraid.
The Diocese is here to support during this crisis, too. CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains provides counselling services which are available for individuals, couples, single parents, families, those experiencing grief and loss, seeking financial counselling or a way to reach out and support through volunteering. These services are available across the diocese, and you can call CatholicCare to arrange support.
My brothers and sisters,
These are challenging times and while evil comes only to steal, kill and destroy, Jesus has come that we may have life and life to the full (Jn 10:10). So God is with us in these times and just as He gave His life us, for our salvation, He makes His love for us known in our hearts today. Now more than ever, we the church are called to be that radical love for the world.
So may we have the courage to align with God’s plan and may we move to the future where God beckons.
The 2020-2021 Social Justice Statement, To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia today, can be downloaded from the Office for Social Justice website: http://bit.ly/SocialJustice_2020
If you need support during this time, please contact CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains on 8843 2500, contact email@example.com or visit ccss.org.au.
 Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, To Live Life to the Full: Mental health in Australia Today, 2020, pg 2.
 ibid, pg 18.