These words remind me of the responses and relationships at the heart of many of our local agencies, which respond to and walk with asylum seekers and refugees in our community.
These agencies go about their work day in and day out: CatholicCare Social Services Diocese of Parramatta, House of Welcome, St Vincent de Paul Society, Jesuit Refugee Services, Josephite Community Aid and others.
As we have prepared for the Year of Mercy over the past few months it has been a privilege to experience this first hand, meeting together to build a practical and effective network that aims to enable us to effectively walk with and empower the expected 7000 Syrian refugees who will arrive in NSW over the coming year.
These agencies are a living and concrete sign of mercy. The agencies would have us focus our attention on mercy being a sign of God’s expansive love, focus our hearts and actions not only on those who arrive recently, but also on those already in our community seeking hospitality and welcome.
This network is already a local sign of mercy, being able to collaborate recently to respond to the social, material and employment support needs of a group from the Tamil community.
Local parish communities are planning to support these agencies, host welcome dinners, volunteer at English classes and build community, listening to and sharing the stories of asylum seekers and refugees at table talks and community events – a concrete call to all of us during this Year of Mercy.
May we all reflect on Pope Francis’ words: “What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which He read the hearts of those He encountered and responded to their deepest need.” (MV 8)
From Pope Francis:
“The relationships JESUS forms with the people who approach Him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs He works, especially in favour of sinners, the poor, the marginalised, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in Him speaks of mercy. Nothing in Him is devoid of compassion.” (MV 8)