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Wednesday, 08 August 2018 19:44

Religious life calls us to the periphery of society

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CRA President Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj 150By CRA President, Sr Monica Cavanagh rsj

At this time of the year the church community gives a particular focus to those who are called to serve the mission of God as religious women and men. It is often referred to as ‘Vocation Awareness Week’. We who live the experience of Religious Life today know that all vocational calls stem from Baptism - no one is greater than the other and all are needed to serve the mission of God today. As Pope Francis writes: ‘In the virtue of Baptism, all are called to become missionary disciples’.

Religious women and men are called in a particular way to be the prophetic and charismatic voice within the church and world. The public profession of religious vows is a concrete expression of our commitment to this way of life. They call us to go to the periphery of society to those places where people who are broken hearted wait to have their tears wiped, where those who are suffering seek solace, where those seeking refuge find welcome and where those seeking freedom from unjust systems rely upon our advocacy. Religious women and men today will rarely be found in those familiar ministries of the past in health, education and social service. Instead they will be found in unfamiliar places responding to the emerging needs of today’s world as Steven Bevans writes: ‘By participating in God’s mission at the margins and from the margins’.

Drawn ever more deeply into the Mystery of God’s love, we find ourselves today working together across charisms to be a sign of God’s tenderness and love as we live in and among people in our common home, Earth. We are challenged each day to hear God’s voice in the midst of this reality of life and to embrace the emerging possibilities that each new day offer us. Above all, Religious women and men are people of hope, living the gospel with fresh eyes ever attentive to the Spirit’s breathe pulsating in the emergence of the new.

At this time of the year, we celebrate the feast of St Mary MacKillop. She stands among us as one whose heart’s desire was to live into the fullness of her humanity as a Religious. In 1871, she wrote to Monsignor Kirby in Rome: ‘I longed for a religious life, one in which I could serve God and God’s poor neglected little ones’. She steps forward risking the sacred journey to embrace the emerging possibilities of her time. Her only guide: being attentive to the Mystery unfolding in this act of giving birth to a new moment of Religious life here in Australia. Her presence brought an explosion of God’s love to the great need in Australia to improve the lives of those who were poor. May her life continue to inspire us as we raise the power of love upwards in this time.

In particular at this time, let our hearts be drawn to those in our Australian community suffering the severe effects of drought. Our rural and isolated communities form the backbone of our nation. Religious women and men have served for many years in these communities scattered across this vast land and continue to do so today. They know the stories of heartache and wonder that these families face at this time. For many, they are the face of God and church as they sustain hope in these difficult times. Let us join with the many organisations who are responding to this urgent need at this time as we pray that the God of abundance pour down rain upon our parched and barren land. May our hearts be open to respond to this natural disaster in supportive ways.

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) join with the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference in announcing our decision to release the Truth Justice and Healing Council reports. As joint partners in supporting the work of the Truth Justice and Healing Council, CRA Members present at our National Assembly in June voted in favour of releasing these documents. We have worked with the Bishops in finding common ground regarding the release of these reports and we are pleased that these reports will be released by the end of August as another step towards healing and hope both within our church and beyond.

As we continue to respond to the evolving movement of Religious Life let us continue to move forward in hope centred in the heart of God’s love and mission.