The Missionary Sisters of Service were pleased to be part of the ‘Mission: One Heart Many Voices’ national conference hosted by Catholic Religious Australia and Catholic Mission from 1-3 September. Held online, the conference presented a wide range of inspiring and informative presenters who shared their thoughts, reflections, actions and ideas on current issues in the Church, and providing possible ways forward in living out, and sharing the joy of the Gospel in the world today.
MSS Congregational leader, Stancea Vichie and Bernadette Wallis MSS attended a number of the online sessions. Speaking about the importance of attending the conference, which is the fifth to date, Stancea said, ‘Mission is at the heart of who we are as Missionary Sisters of Service and it is important to join with the 500 other people who come to the conference each time and who are also on mission in the world.
‘It is a mission which is expressed in such diverse ways, hence the title of the conference – Mission: One Heart Many Voices. It is a time for us to meet new and familiar faces, make connections, encourage and support one another as we seek to live out the Gospel in the world today.
‘My hope is that people of the Church community will always look beyond to the peripheries of society to hear the voices of those most alienated, this includes creation.’
Supporting these sentiments, Bernadette Wallis MSS said, ‘The Mission Conference offers the opportunity to be part of the bigger picture of the mission, God’s mission in Australia and in the world.
‘Keynote speakers pick up the relevant and significant issues of the day and point to future directions. Their presentations can challenge and inspire, educate us, give hope and situate us in the middle of what may seem to be chaos and on the edge; they take us further and it is where life shines.
‘The workshops and presentations at the mission conference are like a sparkling diamond, shining light on multi-faceted good works, where you see individuals and groups filled with passion as they share good news of what they are doing, explaining the reality of the issues they see. They arise above despair and hopelessness, and show gospel approaches, attitudes and ways to respond. We can celebrate this.
‘They can also lead us to integrate our own thoughts and actions, whether it be in relation to homelessness, poverty, ethical investments, the Uluru Statement of the Heart, or creation, nature and Australian birds.
‘So, it is a case of “do not shine your light behind a bushel”. God’s mission is alive and well!’
Stancea’s reflections on some of the keynote speakers:
Miriam Rose, as she shared again the beautiful experience of Dadirri (deep inner listening), an experience that makes us whole again,quiet stillness and waiting, watching rain filling rivers, the moon, God’s time is the right time.
Ursula Stephens, CEO of Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd, provided a great presentation on Leading Mission through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching – a powerful body of teaching which focuses on the person through the eyes of truth, freedom, justice and love.
Hugh McKay, psychologist, social researcher and writer outlining the thinking from his book The Kindness Revolution. He mentioned that the ego is the enemy of kindness, which is the purest form of human love. In the last 30-40 years with so much change in the world, we are being pushed in the opposite direction to kindness. There is much social fragmentation in society. These crises remind us of our interdependence, kindness can come to the surface.
Andrew Skeoch, educator, naturalist, nature and sound recordist. Andrew played powerful recordings of nature to encourage listening, to learn from nature. What is nature saying? The first was in woodland country in central Victoria recorded between 8am – 9am in which we could hear 15 species of birds, a fly and a frog! Nature cooperates, not competes. We need to learn the ecological game.
Victor Joseph, an Anglican priest from the Torres Strait Islands sharing the story of the people and cultures of the islands, each island having its own culture and identity. God was already present in the Islands but he also rejoices when the missionaries came in 1871 and brought the scriptures with them.
Robert Fitzgerald, Commissioner, Ageing and Disability Commission NSW spoke on building a Church without borders, walls. The Church has thrived on diversity. There is great need for dialogue and participation on the part of all people in the governance of the church. Mutual respect is the key.
Dean Parkin, Quandamooka people of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island, Queensland), Director of From the Heart, the campaign to highlight the Uluru Statement From the Heart. Dean spoke to us from his family place in Quandamooka Country. He works to advocate for constitutional and structural reform for Indigenous people in the struggle for Voice Treaty and Truth. The campaign has grown enormously with a great percentage of people in Australia supporting the constitutional recognition and an Indigenous voice toParliament. Dean and the From the Heart team are hopeful that change is happening in a big way.
Craig Foster, human rights activist, sport and social responsibility, author, adjunct professor, broadcaster, former socceroo, always wonderful to listen to!