Fostering justice and respect through faith in action

By Wendy Shaw

Fostering a better understanding and awareness of social justice issues is the aim of Launceston Catholic Parish’s new Social Justice Team.

The team is committed to putting gospel values into action, according to team members Donna McWilliam and Maree Wright.

Mrs Wright explained how it came about.

“The Parish Pastoral Council (PPC) has formed a pastoral plan looking forward over a five-year period,” she said.

“Back in July we had a parish forum to share the thinking with people and then they joined groups that they were interested in. There are four pillars to the pastoral plan: prayer and celebration; building community; social justice; and formation and faith.”

The PPC was heartened at the enthusiastic response to the forum with about 50 parishioners attending.

The Social Justice Team has about 12 members and it started work on a priority list that included: Social Justice Sunday; Laudato si’ [the second encyclical of Pope Francis, subtitled ‘on care for our common home’]; migrants and refugees; and increasing knowledge, awareness and understanding of First Nations People and the Uluru Statement of the Heart.

“We are about expanding opportunities for quieter voices of our communities to be heard,” Mrs Wright said. “It is all about raising awareness and understanding.”

Mrs McWilliam added that social justice was a fundamental Christian value.

“It is a Christian message: Care for the earth, care for the poor, love one another and God’s creation – His gift to us,” Mrs McWilliam said.

“These initiatives are relevant to society today. We need to show that the Church has a stake in this too; that the Christian message is absolutely in step with what is going on in the community.

“This is Christianity in action: social justice and gospel values in action.”

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference released a social justice statement entitled ‘Respect: Confronting violence and abuse’ ahead of the Catholic Church’s Social Justice Sunday event on 28 August. 

In it, the president of the ACBC, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, urged the whole community to confront violence and abuse wherever they occur to ‘become a community that fosters justice and respect for all’.

“The teaching of Christ urges us to promote relationships marked by respect and freedom rather than coercion and control,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“The message of the Gospel is not a message of domination by one person over another but a message of mutual esteem and kindness.”

Mrs Wright said that the Social Justice Team was keen to implement simple steps to make a difference.

“For Social Justice Sunday our ideas were to distribute a prayer card and action card and at the Mass centres, the congregation would say the prayer together,” Mrs Wright said.

Launceston Parish Assistant Priest Fr Chathura Silva, who is the Archdiocese of Hobart’s Assistant Chaplain for Migrants and Refugees, stressed the importance of raising awareness and of providing practical help and support, such as to migrant and refugee families within the parish.

The next meeting of the Launceston Catholic Parish’s Social Justice Team is in November and more members are welcome. To find out more, please email the parish office, or telephone 63 314 377.

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