By Sr Louise McKeogh FMA, Catholic Outlook, November 2016
Social Justice Sunday on 25 September 2016 saw a most significant and meaningful launch of this year’s Australian Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement at Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath.
To view a gallery of photos from the launch, click here.
the prayer for Social Justice Sunday,
A Eucharistic celebration began our morning with the celebrants being Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv and Parish Priest Fr Bob Sheridan. Our Eucharist began with a prayerful PowerPoint reflection. We then invited Don (as the representative for our senior community members) and Chantelle (as the voice of the young) to read the prayer for Social Justice Sunday, A Prayer for All Ages.
Communion reflection was an inspiring social justice hymn written and sung by Pat Drummond and supported by the rest of the music ministry team.
We then gathered in the parish hall to launch and break open the social justice statement, beginning with a reflection and challenge from Pope Francis.
“There was a father, mother and their many children, and a grandfather lived with them. He was quite old, and when he was at table eating soup, he would get everything dirty: his mouth, the serviette … it was not a pretty sight!
“One day the father said that, given what was happening to the grandfather, from that day forward he would eat alone. And so he bought a little table, and placed it in the kitchen. And so the grandfather ate alone in the kitchen while the family ate in the dining room.
“After some days, the father returned home from work and found one of his children playing with wood. He asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ to which the child replied, ‘I am playing carpenter’. ‘And what are you building?’ the father asked. ‘A table for you papa, for when you get old like grandpa’.
“This story has stayed with me for a lifetime and done me great good. Grandparents are a treasure.” (Pope Francis)
After being welcomed by David Buckley, chair of the Parish Council, Bishop Vincent launched the statement.
“At this time in Australia, we face a threefold challenge: to work for an inclusive society that brings older people into the heart of the community; to ensure the dignity and care of people who are frail and most vulnerable to neglect or abuse; and to foster solidarity among all generations, recognising the special affinity that exists between young and old.
“We must never forget that the older person before us is a spouse, a parent, a brother or sister, a friend and, most importantly, a son or daughter of God. All of us are called to have our rightful place at the table.”
Bishop Vincent as chair of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council spoke of his concern for all areas of social justice and the impact of his recent meeting with Pope Francis.
Monica Bright then spoke of a local parish response to A Place at the Table within the context of parish community. The care and concern of this inclusive faith community flowed through all of their preparation, including the beautiful sacred space prepared in the hall.
Trace, Irene and Val from Blacktown Neighbour Aid then spoke of the CatholicCare program in the Blacktown LGA to encourage and support inclusion and social contact for seniors within the community through assistance with shopping, medical appointments, outings and events, especially for people living independently at home.
It was inspiring to hear of the energy, joy and vibrancy for life that this program was bringing to people and the support it was providing them in remaining connected and socially engaged within the wider community.
This was especially significant and meaningful as the program relies largely on the goodwill and enthusiasm of a significant volunteer network. More volunteers are always welcome to meet the growing need for this outreach and service.
Before we concluded with some final words of recommendation from Fr Bob Sheridan PP, we gathered in small groups to reflect on what we had shared, and to take up the challenge of the Ten Step action leaflet that accompanies the statement.
We concluded with a rousing rendition of the parish hymn written specifically for Sacred Heart Blackheath by Fr Kevin Bates SM.
For more information and resources on the social justice statement, click here.
To read the November 2016 issue of Catholic Outlook online, click here.
Sr Louise McKeogh FMA is the Social Justice Director in the Diocese of Parramatta.