• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 18:04

A voice for the voiceless

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Sr Jane Keogh csm congressIn her address at the 2015 Australian Catholic Communications Congress, Sister Jane Keogh csb shared her personal story as a Brigidine Sister, teacher and social justice advocate and urged Catholic media delegates to be a voice for the poor and persecuted.

Sr Jane’s talk was a reflection on the congress theme, “What is our voice?" Her response: "Speaking the truth.”

“My hope is to inspire you in bringing the Christian truth to today’s Australia, at a time when our society has never needed it more,” she said. “We are called to bring Jesus' mission to our world and we are called to this together as church.” She encouraged media delegates to help bring about spiritual and social transformation through well-researched stories and a passion for justice.

“What we need from our Church is strong leadership and a passionate response to the suffering Jesus that we see today - in the faces of children in Nauru, the voices in Manus, the mothers separated from their children. In Australia we need our voices raised about climate change, aboriginal dispossession and homelessness.”

"Your writing, your input and your passion can make a real difference in helping our Church leaders."

Sr Jane emphasised that communicating the truth and advocating for change require authenticity, passion and solidarity with people who are deprived of justice and compassion. She held up Pope Francis as an example of an effective communicator.

“Why is Pope Francis listened to today?,” Sr Jane asked. “I believe it is because he speaks out of the abundance of his heart.”

“He so passionately believes in the gospel message and so passionately loves the poor and the marginalised that he speaks from the heart. He speaks with an authority that people recognise.”

Sr Jane addressed nearly 200 communications and media delegates from across Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at the congress held in North Sydney from 4 – 6 May 2015. The event included media workshops and discussion sessions on hot button issues such as euthanasia, migrants and refugees, overseas aid, the environment, religious tolerance and families. Among the speakers were the President of the Australian Catholic Media Council, Bishop Peter Ingham and Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Sr Jane also shared her insights based on her experiences since joining the Brigidines in 1962. Her stories touched on her vocation and her work as teacher and academic with a graduate thesis on teaching people how to care. She discussed social justice advocacy in the context of her relationships and ministry in Mount Druitt and the Baxter Detention Centre in Canberra which led her to facilitate legal aid for detainees and advocate for refugees to be resettled in community. She also talked about her involvement with Love Makes A Way where she was propelled to national attention upon her arrest with other Christian leaders for holding a prayer vigil in a Senator’s office, peacefully seeking action against immigration detention of children.

“I first went to Baxter without knowing if asylum seekers’ stories were true. I just wanted them to have a fair hearing. But I soon realised that most Australians don’t have a clue what asylum seekers have fled from,” she said. “Most I know have already seen a family member killed before they fled for safety.”

“I learned that there were no queues. I saw their trauma.”

“It is when I am with the marginalised that God gets through to me,” she said. “And when I’ve sat with them, I see a greater truth. I feel that gospel call to respond.”

She urged journalists and communicators to be the ‘voice of the voiceless.’

“I think Australians and many in our Church don't respond to the needs of our times because they don't know the people who are suffering,” said Sr Jane. “If they knew them, heard their stories or walked in their shoes, they would respond with compassion. If they lived beside Aboriginal people who are now being dispossessed of their lands, they would rise up and demand that this doesn’t happen.”

“What are their cries? What is their suffering? What about the voice of the suffering earth?” asked Sr Jane. “Let people hear them and hear their truth.”

Article and photo gallery by Giselle Lapitan

Feature photo of Sr Jane courtesy of Fiona Basile, Media & Communications Office, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

Sr Jane’s talk was accompanied by quotes and prayers on journalism, transformation and social justice in a PDF file which can be accessed here

Read more about the Brigidine Sisters in Australia.