Speak up, speak out and speak on

By Margurite O'Connor, 3 October 2022
Children and their families at Our Lady of the Nativity Primary, Lawson, recently slept out in the cold in solidarity with the homeless as part of the Winter Sleepout for St Vincent De Paul. Image: CEDP


Prophets are the heroes of the day. They keep one eye on society’s will for a few and the other eye on God’s will for everyone.

The time is now to be people who are committed and have courage to speak the word of God. The roar of silence is no longer acceptable and we need to take steps to determine the future of our planet and our people.

This was the message of American Benedictine nun, theologian and author Sr Joan Chittister as she addressed her audience at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College North Sydney on 30 May 2022.

Sr Joan spoke with passion about our need to be challenged by the example of Jesus and to be people who speak out against injustice. Speaking about the prevalence of violence, she shared her fears for the modern world, where people come second to personal profit and advancement and where the planet is carelessly used and not protected.

Her concern, she said, is for the choices that we make when faced with challenges. Sr Joan suggested that we are people who choose to ignore, leaving it to others to answer the problems. We are people who surrender and eventually just accept the situation, taking on the values of society rather than the Faith. Her response is to not ignore or surrender, but rather disrupt. She suggests we become prophets who speak up against all that goes against the voice and vision of God so loudly it cannot be ignored.

Sr Joan acknowledged that being a prophet is not easy. She recounted the stories of the Biblical Prophets who were afraid to accept the call from God, not wanting to have their lives interrupted, and so made a list of all the reasons why they could not accept the call, including their personal limitations. God’s answer was that He needed them now, demanding that they be courageous and committed, trusting they had something great to offer.

Sr Joan Chittister OSB is seen during her presentation, “Roots and Wings: The Emergence of a Synodal Church”, an event co-sponsored by Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and the Diocese of Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

The reluctance to be a prophet in the modern world has not changed. We too feel that we are unavailable to do the will of God for all the same reasons – too busy, not skilled enough, or afraid. Just like the prophets of old, God needs us now. God wants us to disrupt rather than ignore and challenge rather than surrender.

On a personal level, I felt inspired to learn more about the issues that threaten the equality of people and the planet so that I would no longer be a passive observer but rather someone who was able to contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way. Sr Joan’s suggestions made me think that the call to be a prophet in the modern world was possible, stating that even the smallest of acts have the potential to seed change and make life better for everyone.

“…we must show our students the way to a Gospel-centred culture of love and compassion, solidarity and service in the world where there is so much fear, indifference and marginalisation…” – Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, CEDP System Leaders’ Day, January 2018.

Taking action for change

  • Get involved in the conversations that matter through blogs, petitions and groups.
  • Study the issues that threaten life and justice by reading and engaging in dialogue with others.
  • Seek solutions that are not the trusted old way but are innovative, capable of making real change and taking us into the future.

Schools leading the way

Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta schools work with various agencies to actively live out the message of Sr Joan to be prophets who speak up, speak out and speak on. Examples of initiatives include:

  • The Winter Appeal and Winter Sleepout (St Vincent de Paul).
  • Project Compassion Fundraising (Caritas).
  • Socktober (Catholic Mission).
  • Food Drives (Jesuit Social Services).
  • Interfaith Education (Together for Humanity).
  • Catholic Earthcare Summit (Catholic Earthcare).
  • Recycling and sustainability initiatives (Catholic Earthcare).

Through such initiatives, our students and staff are invited and are accepting the call to be prophets who say NO to everything that goes against God and YES to equality, justice and life.

Margurite O’Connor is a member of the Mission Team, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Season of Creation | Spring 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes, schools and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.


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