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Monday, 11 May 2015 15:21

Social justice passion ignites parish plan

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Sr Denise Desmarchelier ibvmLoreto Sister Denise Desmarchelier is starting a social justice program to help Adelaide parishes respond to the immediate needs of the most vulnerable locally and to cast an eye wider to social injustice on a national and global scale.

Sr Denise last month began contacting several parishes to help set up social justice groups, or support those already established, and begin to identify the needs of their communities.

“I’m hoping to help parishes interested in issues affecting their community to think through the prism of social justice and then to think about how they can take action,” she said.

“It may be an action to compassionate prayer – all of us can pray, or it might be the action of becoming informed about a social justice issue like human trafficking or asylum seekers – all of us can gain knowledge and share information with other people,” she said.

“Some parishes will be able to contribute time and money and some will be able to take direct action,” she said.

Sr Denise said the social justice needs of each parish community would vary significantly as would the parish’s response.

She hoped the parish-based social justice groups would form a network across the diocese and become connected to Catholic agencies like Caritas Australia, Catholic Charities and Catholic Mission.

“The aim is to help people form a social conscience and to understand that compassionate prayer and being informed are ways of participating in social justice ministry,” she said.

The first groups could be up and running by the end of the year.

“I’ve always had a passion for social justice,” said Sr Denise.

Sr Denise arrived in Adelaide eight months ago and soon after offered to serve the Adelaide Archdiocese in a social justice capacity. She is an active member of the Norwood Parish.

Chancellor Heather Carey said the diocese was “very supportive” of Sr Denise’s initiative and would offer her assistance through Catholic Communities and the Multicultural Office.

Before arriving in Adelaide, Sr Denise spent six months helping Loreto Sisters in Mauritius develop governance structures for seven Loreto schools.

She became a school principal at the age of 28 and has spent more than 30 years leading Catholic schools in Victoria, New South Wales and Western Australia. She is author of Voices of Women: women and the Catholic Church (2000) and was a member of the Catholic Education Commission in both Victoria and WA. She is a member of: the Provincial Council of the Loreto Sisters, Catholic Religious SA, and Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking of Humans.

Sr Denise says she fist felt the call to a religious life as a teenager. After her final year at Loreto Kirribilli, Sydney, she joined the Loreto Sisters to follow the three founding virtues of foundress Mary Ward: freedom, justice and sincerity.

“Justice is embodied in those three founding virtues – it is fundamental to my charism as a Loreto Sister and it’s also what I grew up with,” said Sr Denise.

Parishes wishing to set up a social justice group or initiatives, or those wanting support for an established group, can contact Sr Denise Desmarchelier on 8364 4135 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This story by Rebecca DiGirolamo was first published in the May 2015 issue of The Southern Cross, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.