The bushfires in Australia this summer have been at the forefront of the minds of Australians, and indeed in the thoughts of people around the world.
On a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Catherine Bourne from the Natural Fertility Services – Life, Family and Marriage Office, Diocese of Parramatta, shared her encounter with a gentleman in Jerusalem. Upon learning she was from Australia, the gentleman said, “It’s so sad about the fires in Australia. We are all thinking about the people and wildlife in your country and praying for you.” Many good wishes and the promise of prayers and support were received from many people Catherine met along the way.
News of the devastation of the fires has filled the Facebook feeds of many around the world and gestures of support have been generous. So much so, that Leisa Anslinger, keynote speaker for the 2020 National Pastoral Ministry Conference: Alive in the Spirit in recent correspondence shared the following:
“I don’t know if you are aware of how much the wildfires in your country have received attention in the US. My Facebook feed is filled with prayers for everyone who has been touched by the devastation, and for all who are fighting the fires. Today, a friend posted the attached link, with a t-shirt that will be sold here in Cincinnati with proceeds going to one of the animal relief organizations there. The hippo pictured in the middle is Fiona, who captured the hearts of people in Cincinnati when she was born prematurely.”
When I received this email and upon hearing Catherine’s story, I was struck by the overpowering spirit of the international community united in the suffering of a nation. I was reminded that in the depths of suffering, there can come such unity. Rob Bell in his book “Drops like Stars” states “Many of the most significant moments in our lives come not because it all went right, but because it fell apart. Suffering does that. It hurts but it also creates.”
Rob Bell also reminded me that the cross of Jesus is where we see the human and divine God – there with us – and the symbol of the cross unites us as Christians. He reiterated that through the cross we meet “a God who is not somewhere else – remote, detached, distant – but a God who is among us, feeling what we feel, aching how we ache, suffering like us.”
We continue to pray for all people impacted by the bushfires and to be aware of goodness that can come out of suffering. May the spirit of human connection overwhelm us and encourage us to continue to seek out lives lived in solidarity.
Leisa Anslinger will be speaking in the Diocese of Parramatta on 4 July 2020. Leisa Anslinger brings extensive experience to her ministry as an author, presenter, and coach for parish and diocesan ministry. Leisa is the founder of Catholic Life and Faith, a resource centre for evangelisation, stewardship, and servant leadership development.
Leisa is also the keynote speaker for National Pastoral Ministry Conference: Alive in the Spirit, being held in Wollongong from 9 – 11 July 2020.
Lisa Bright is the Project Officer for the Pastoral Planning Office of the Diocese of Parramatta.