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Tuesday, 23 October 2012 23:32

One heart, many voices

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Next year in late April, Catholic Religious Australia in conjunction with Catholic Mission will convene a three-day Conference on Mission at the Salvation Army’s SCH Function Centre in downtown Sydney. The conference will be within the context of the Year of Grace and Year of Faith and will complement the theme of “new evangelisation”. It will be held from 29th April to 1st May, 2013.

We want to call a conference for all those committed people involved in mission, working and struggling for the Kingdom/Reign of God in Australia and globally: those teaching in Catholic Education, caring for people in Catholic Health, Aboriginal Ministry, Saint Vincent de Paul, Edmund Rice, Prison Ministry, Catholic Social Services, ACRATH, Catholic Earth Care, Migrant Chaplaincy, Marist Youth, MacKillop Family Services, work with refugees or battered women building Christian communities in their parish and other ministries. We all share the same mission even though we may speak with many voices. We all want to build the Reign of God clear of all evil and inequality and full of the reality of God.

Yet we also feel the need of a sound scriptural and theological vision to unite, encourage, enable and inspire us in our vocation. As well we need the support of one another and the opportunity to share ideas, successes and plans or projects. 

I have been a missionary for almost fifty years and have taught mission theology for a dozen years. My overwhelming conviction is that “mission” is a vague, confusing and much misunderstood word. Most people associate “mission” with overseas mission, the salvation of souls and planting of the Church. On the other hand, some define mission so broadly that it seems to include everything and doesn’t help or inspire. 

Many of us feel called to work for justice or care for people because of compassion for the poor or anger at injustice and unnecessary suffering. We teach because of our commitment to youth and a desire to see them have the best possible future. We welcome refugees because of shame at the way our nation treats them and an innate desire to be hospitable to the neediest. Perhaps we do what we do because of a sixth sense and a desire to love. 

Whatever our motivation, it can be strengthened by the knowledge that we are not just acting out of instinct. We are participating in God’s existence in the world. The three persons of the Trinity loved the universe into existence and are constantly healing, transforming, reconciling and uniting the world. God has a liberating plan for the world and we are participating in it.

The key note speaker at the conference will be Father Stephen Bevans svd, Professor of Mission and Culture at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Stephen is one of the leading English-speaking Catholic Missiologists in the world. He is the co-author with Roger Schroeder svd of Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today and Prophetic Dialogue: Reflections on Christian Mission Today.  Stephen’s focus will be to empower us all with a vision of mission that is scriptural and deeply theological, one that enables, encourages and inspires.

Other key note speakers will be: Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge and biblical scholar; Sister Maureen McBride rndm, Superior General of the Sisters of our Lady of the Missions,  an international missionary congregation working locally and globally; Dr. Gemma Tulud Cruz, a theologian of migration, and; Kath Evans, whose survival from cancer was attributed to the intercession of St. Mary MacKillop.

We are also hoping to have workshop major presenters/facilitators to lead streams in areas such as: Education; Health; Social Welfare; Indigenous Ministry; Religious Life; Parish Ministries; Youth; Multi-faith dialogue; Multiculturalism; overseas involvements; Justice & Peace and the Integrity of Creation etc. At this early stage we would appreciate any feedback on possible topics and questions you would like to see addressed.

We have many voices but only one heart, one mission: to bring about the Reign of God. 

Visit the Mission One Heart, Many Voices Website for news and updates. 

View Fr Connolly’s series of video reflections on the meaning of mission in Australia today.