As if making the move from a classroom in Katoomba to the Sydney office of Catholic Mission in Lavender Bay wasn’t challenging enough, Alan Wedesweiler had to do it in the midst of the most serious pandemic the world has seen in a century.
The former Religious Education Coordinator from the Blue Mountains is Catholic Mission’s new Diocesan Director for Sydney, Broken Bay and Parramatta, and he has a mighty task on his hands already: to rally hope and support for millions who will be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Alan’s message is a simple one. “Missionaries around the world remain dedicated to serving their communities, and we are still here for them,” he explains.
“We need to try to understand what it means for us to be Christ-like and Christ-centred, and to be the light of the audacity of hope in this time of the COVID-19 global pandemic darkness.”
Having contributed over 25 years in the ministry of servant leadership with schools, parishes and communities, Alan stepped away from his teaching role at St Canice’s Catholic Primary School in picturesque Katoomba to lead the formation and fundraising for mission in the three Sydney metropolitan dioceses.
Having lived and worked in remote, rural and urban settings in Australia and overseas, Alan felt the time was right to take on a new challenge. “As a married father of four, my life as a practising Catholic is of the utmost importance to me, as is my authenticity as a visible and credible witness to living out the Gospel values,” he says. “My authenticity in my workings and modelling of the faith is always at the forefront.”
Asked how his response to the COVID-19 situation would change from teacher to Diocesan Director, Alan says it probably wouldn’t. “If I was still teaching, the message would be the same: we are still here. I’d be contacting my students and their families and being a presence for them, understanding their unique situation. That’s what I’m trying to do now for my team here and for our extended Catholic Mission family – reaching out and educating through social media and other communication.”
With his appointment coinciding with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, it has been an unexpected orientation for Alan, characterised by video meetings, remotely coordinating the activities of a new team, engaging with donors and building relationships across the Catholic Mission family, all while mostly working from home.
He believes that being pushed beyond our comfort zone can provide perspective on the situation for the majority world. “While we face challenges at home in Australia, vulnerable communities around the world will be worse off [because of the virus],” he says.
“Catholic Mission wants everyone to know that, in times like this, it is important to stay connected, and that everyone knows they are a part of a larger community on mission.”
The organisation is running an appeal to raise funds for global mission programs and the hundreds of communities they serve as they respond to these difficult times. You can learn more and support the appeal at catholicmission.org.au/covid.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to remind those less fortunate that we are still here for them,’ says Alan. ‘Together, we are responding to the call to love God and to love our neighbour in these toughest of times.”
While nobody can say when things will return to normal, Alan is sure of one thing. “We can be certain of being in God’s loving and illuminated embrace during these darkening times; and, as we say in our family every night as we go to bed, ‘May God Bless You, Keep You and Hold You.”
Catholic Mission is the Australian agency of the Pontifical Mission Societies – the Catholic Church’s global organisation dedicated to continuing Jesus Christ’s mission in the world: that all may have life to the full. Founded in Sydney in 1847, Catholic Mission contributes funding and project support to critical church-run initiatives in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America. These include spiritual formation, pastoral care, education, health, sanitation and agricultural programs. Here in Australia, we form people to go out and be missionary in their professional and personal lives; to pray, advocate and take action for those on the margins. Catholic Mission has offices in 27 Australian dioceses and an active network of over 50,000 supporters.
With thanks to Catholic Mission.