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Tuesday, 18 August 2015 20:33

Partnerships for peace and compassion

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Fr Claude Mostowik msc 150It may be hard to imagine how Fr Claude Mostowik msc could do more to build partnerships for social justice advocacy, but he’s aiming to do even more through Catholic Religious Australia (CRA).

Fr Claude who recently took on the role of CRA Justice Network Coordinator is also the Director of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Justice and Peace Centre. He also works at the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education where he began the publication Just News and more recently as researcher for Just Comment. Concurrently he is President of both Pax Christi Australia and the Peace and Justice Commission of the NSW Ecumenical Council.

On his first week at the CRA office, Fr Claude is already busy: discussing with CRA staff about his current involvement with other advocacy groups, sharing news articles, cartoons and memes that have caught his attention, discussing a trip to the Philippines for a mining protest and international mining conference – all while learning the sundry details of a new workplace.

His energy and enthusiasm seem to be key in the way he engages with a vast network of advocacy groups, as well as taking on partnership roles in the following: Sydney Peace and Justice Coalition, Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, Action for Peace and Development in the Philippines, Community Justice Coalition (prison reform), Iran4Democracy, the Animation Committee (Campbelltown), Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes Social Justice Committee, NetAct (coalition of social justice, education, and welfare), Acceptance Australia, Edmund Rice Centre, Pacific Calling Partnership, Love Makes A Way and, until recently, Stanford House and Gethsemane Community.

He sounds surprised when one remarks on his ability to build relationships. “They were never skills that I thought I had. I’m not really a good organiser.”

“But in relating to people and experiencing the joy that there are so many people, not necessarily even religious, who care and want to leave this world better than they found it, this is where I find hope."

Working with other peace and justice advocates last year, their fellowship galvanised a new wave of nonviolent protest in Australia through the movement, Love Makes A Way. He has been arrested several times and removed from Parliament House for staging nonviolent sit-ins at MPs’ offices with other Christian leaders. Other Religious who participated in similar peaceful protests are Brigidine Sister Jane Keogh and Josephites Susan Connelly and Jan Barnett. These prayerful sit-ins have drawn national attention to the movement’s call for compassion and an end to the Australian government’s inhumane policy of refugee detention, especially children.

“In the face of brutal systems, I think that any compassion shown to people today is actually a sign of protest and any hospitality offered is a sign of resistance,” Fr Claude said.

He sees the role of CRA Justice Coordinator as vital in providing resources to congregations in the ministry of justice, peace and integrity of creation, as well as helping advocacy groups find opportunities and common ground. He is grateful for the groundwork laid by Sister Suzette Clark rsc, his predecessor at CRA who was elected into the leadership team of the Sisters of Charity.

“No doubt, the networking, resources, supporting, which has engaged me will continue in the name of Catholic Religious Australia,” he said. “The many organisations and the work of the Edmund Rice Centre for Justice and Community Education where I have been working for some 10 years will also feed into the work here at CRA.”

“Certainly, I would hope to network with people on the ground in religious congregations and it seems to me that there is a coherence of thinking and acting in terms of the people that we wish to relate to. But the people that we all need to touch are the same ones that Jesus wanted to reach. “

“At the moment, there is the treatment of people who come here seeking our protection yet have their trauma intensified. There are many people living on the streets because of their stories of pain and suffering which one does not know about unless one stops to talk to them. There is ongoing inequality in our society where the poor, the gay community and Indigenous Australians are blamed for the situation they find themselves in. There is the issue of climate change and mining which profoundly impact on people who have very little say in what happens to them, whether in the Pacific Island nations, Papua, the Philippines.”

Fr Claude’s outspokenness and passion for social justice is rooted in his family background and the charism of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. “My passion has always been about working with people and being concerned for those in difficulty. It might go back to my family and the difficulties they had when they arrived in Australia from war ravaged Europe.”

“Living the ‘spirituality of the heart‘, the basis of the charism of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, is important and I hope that I am responding to make God’s presence embodied in my relationships with people,” he said. “This is the work I wake up for.”

To join the CRA Justice Network, contact Fr Claude Mostowik msc at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone CRA at (02) 9557 2695.

To read Fr Claude’s writings and more reflections, commentary and resources visit the Justice Network on the CRA website.

Photo and text by Giselle Lapitan