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Thursday, 11 October 2018 18:00

Catholic Religious to follow National Apology with Day of Sorrow and Promise

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

As this Pathways goes to publication, we here in Australia will be moving towards the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which will take place on Monday 22 October 2018. The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, will deliver the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse at Parliament House in Canberra. The Australian National Apology will be televised live throughout Australia. Organisations and workplaces are encouraged to pause for these events and share in this occasion. At this time, let us hold in our circle of prayer all those survivors of sexual abuse and their families whose lives have been severely impacted by this reality both within our church community and in the wider Australian society. It is a time, once again for we in the Church, and particularly as members of Religious Institutes, to apologise for the pain and suffering that has been caused through sexual abuse and the impact this has had on physical, emotional and spiritual realities of people’s lives. It is also a time for members of Religious Institutes to renew our commitment to ensure that safeguarding children and vulnerable adults is integral to everything we do in the Church, every activity and ministry. 

Catholic Religious across Australia will be holding a National Day of Sorrow and Promise on Sunday 2 December 2018, the first Sunday of Advent to recognise survivors and secondary victims and to make a commitment for the future. It will be an opportunity for communities to gather, to pray, to unite in acknowledging the pain of survivors and of the community and to promise a safer way forward for all. 

I recently noticed advertised in the SEDOS Bulletin (Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission), a seminar entitled ‘Contribution of Women Religious to Mission’. Having just returned from a visit to the western part of the Bathurst Diocese where I met and engaged with Women Religious, I could only ponder on the contribution that these women are making to the life of the Church and the wider society and how each one continues to offer a prophetic voice within the midst of daily life. Above all, through the faithful gift of their presence and encouragement in these communities, they keep the rumour of God alive in the heart and minds of the people. Across our nation, we find women and men Religious at the outposts of our society doing as Pope Francis urged Religious to do: ‘A whole world awaits us: men and women who have lost all hope, families in difficulty, abandoned children, young people without a future, the elderly, sick and abandoned, those who are rich in the world’s goods but impoverished within, men and women looking for a purpose in life, thirsting for the divine’. He continues to ask Religious to work concretely in welcoming refugees, drawing near to those who are poor and to find creative ways of proclaiming the Gospel. The living God continues to call us as Religious women and men to serve at the periphery of our society. Above all, we are called to be the presence of love and hope as we stand with people in their pain. 

The distinctive sign of consecrated life is prophecy. Bonifacio Tago from the Philippines sees this prophetic role as ‘walking in the footsteps of Jesus, from the perspective of those who are marginalised, and working for and with them at the margins of the world.’ Or as someone recently reflected, participation in mission calls us to work from the margins. Fr Anselm Grun osb in his article ‘Consecrated Life and Prophecy, the Identity of the Prophet’ describes the prophetic voice of Religious as: keeping alive peoples’ yearning for the spiritual, discovering in society and in the world the structures that prevent people from having dignity as persons, keeping the Church focused on forming communities in which people feel accepted and bringing to light tendencies in the Church that are in contradiction with the original idea of Church and offering realistic hope in the future. The needs and challenges facing both our Church and the world call Religious more deeply into our prophetic role. The Justice committee of CRA assists us in taking this prophetic role, to speak out about injustices that keep people oppressed. 

Recently, the Emerging Futures committee held a two-day seminar to explore the evolving story and emerging vision for religious life here in Australia. We were inspired by Pope Francis’ words written in the Year of Consecrated Life: ‘I hope for a growth in communion between the members of different Institutes. Might this Year of Consecrated Life be an occasion for us to step out more courageously from the confines of our respective Institutes and to work together, at the local and global levels, on projects involving formation, evangelization, and social action? This would make for a more effective prophetic witness. Communion and the encounter between different charisms and vocations can open up a path of hope. No one contributes to the future in isolation, by his or her efforts alone, but by seeing himself or herself as part of a true communion which is constantly open to encounter, dialogue, attentive listening and mutual assistance. Such a communion inoculates us from the disease of self-absorption’. This workshop was a very fruitful time as we engaged together around areas such as the diverse needs of differing Religious Institutes, the diversity within each Religious Institute, Canonical Congregational Leadership, emerging collaboration for mission and ministry, the common charism of Apostolic Religious Life, and our collaboration in and between vowed Religious and those who are drawn to the charism of Religious Congregation. The work of this Committee continues to explore these possibilities. 

Let us go forth believing that our God walks with us into the unknown future, knowing that in essence it is God’s work and we are participants in this mission. This is our time and each one has been gifted with a unique word of God to make visible in the world of today. May each one be open to sharing this gift within their reality.