By Ali Biddiscombe
Hearing, Healing and building Hope in a sector enmeshed by disruption and challenges are the key messages that underpin the 2018 Catholic social services national conference to be held in February.
The conference, which will run from February 21 to 23 at the Catholic Leadership Centre, East Melbourne, will provide an opportunity for delegates to reflect on major challenges that affect local communities, Catholic social service organisations, parishes and their leaders.
Denis Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Catholic Social Services Victoria and conference host said social service organisations are a key element of the Catholic Church in action in Australia but as with the services they provide, the challenges are also building.
“The conference will be a time to reflect on the many developments around us, and on our mission, to identify the springs of hope that are to be nurtured and built on,” he said.
“Rather than being overcome by these challenges, we will meet to ensure we can continue to successfully uphold the fundamental Catholic social teachings of giving precedence to the poor and vulnerable in our society.”
Mr Fitzgerald said delegates will be encouraged to actively participate in a number of workshops and forums during the conference that will encourage discussion on complex issues facing a sector that works across many agencies Australia wide.
“On any given day, our social services agencies are providing services as diverse as family and relationship services, mental health support, homelessness services, community building, and disability and youth services,” he said.
“On top of this, some agencies are also providing chaplaincy services for those in prison, in youth justice or immigration detention, in hospital, and beyond as well as providing assistance to Indigenous Australians and recently arrived communities.
“There is, therefore, no room for complacency as we endure change and disruption. More than ever, love of neighbour and the call to work with humility for a more just society are central to the mission of the Gospel.
“The Second Vatican Council served as a beacon: it reminded us that ‘the Church has always had the duty of scrutinising the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.’ ”
Mr Fitzgerald highlighted the impact of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex abuse, the diminished standing of the church in civil society, community needs and a changing awareness of what these are, radical changes in government policies, the nature of rapidly changing communities, environmental challenges and the need to keep pace with innovation and technology as signs that the sector is grappling with change and complex issues.
“These challenges are draining, but springs of hope can emerge on the darkest landscape, whereas the smoothest path can mask weaknesses and risks,” he said.
“No single person, parish, organization or diocese can successfully digest these changes in isolation. No single review can answer all current questions, let alone identify those that are emerging.
“That is why it essential to gather to bring our collective experience and understanding to bear on the issues of the day. Catholic social service providers regularly gather as a community of faith, committed to responding to the Gospel call to stand with those who are in need, and are joined in these gatherings by people from many other parts of the Church and beyond who share our passion and commitment to the promotion of human flourishing.”
Click Here for more information and or conference information and registrations.