Social ministries meet in Sydney

During the course of the day the ministries made a commitment to create a better future for those they serve, through collaboration and a more regular sharing of ideas and information.

On 24 April representatives from Jesuit Refugee Service Australia, Jesuit Mission Australia, Jesuit Social Services and the Cardoner Project met in Sydney, with the aim of learning more about each other’s work, and exploring ways in which they can collaborate more closely.

Jesuit Mission CEO Helen Forde addresses the joint ministries meeting.

JRS Australia Director Carolina Gottardo addresses the joint ministries meeting.

The first part of the day took place in the Catherine McAuley Room of the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy Congregation Office, next door to JRS’s Western Sydney hub, Arrupe Place. Over the course of the day there were visits to Arrupe Place, and to two Jesuit Social Services social inclusion projects in Mt Druitt, including the Ignite food store social enterprise.

During the meeting, the head of each ministry gave a presentation or shared information about their organisation’s work with the group. The stories and insights confirmed the commitment of all Jesuit social ministries to providing services that the people they serve find meaningful.

JRS shared the importance of its mission to accompany, advocate for and serve people seeking asylum, especially in Australia. JRS works in situations of greatest need, where people are most vulnerable, where there are gaps in services and where partnerships can be formed to better serve people seeking safety.

‘We were delighted to host other Jesuit social ministries to celebrate the fantastic work being done by each ministry, as well as the commitment and dedication of all staff and volunteers’, said Carolina Gottardo, director of JRS Australia. ‘We also enjoyed visiting the other ministries and seeing their inspiring work.’

It was a happy gathering of ‘cousins’, connected by Ignatian values and by a proud history and tradition of Jesuit missions. During the course of the day the ministries made a commitment to create a better future for those they serve, through collaboration and a more regular sharing of ideas and information.

Tony MacMahon, finance manager at Jesuit Mission, described the meeting as ‘truly inspiring’. ‘It was great to hear of the work being done, the people being served and how the lives of people were changing’, he said. ‘It was also great to meet everyone and hear their stories.’

Jesuit Mission Australia partners with Jesuits and other companions overseas to empower women, men and children living on the frontiers so they can liberate themselves from poverty and injustice through participation in programs that build skills, capacity and resilience to live full and free lives.

‘The team at Jesuit Mission were very excited at the prospect of meeting their “cousins” from the other Jesuit social ministries’, said Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission. ‘We all share the same mission — Jesus’ mission — to accompany and serve the most poor and vulnerable communities in our society.

Group photo from joint ministries meeting

Group photo from the joint ministries meeting.

‘But we all do this work in different ways and to different groups. So the gathering represented a wonderful opportunity for us to share and exchange stories and ideas, and to begin discussing opportunities for future collaboration.’

Jesuit Social Services is a social change organisation working to build a just society where all people can live to their full potential. Partnering with community to support those most in need, it works to change policies, practices, ideas and values that perpetuate inequality, prejudice and exclusion.

‘In the intensity of working with such disadvantaged communities, it is critical to step back and look at the big canvas, and to hear from others who are just as passionate about the space they work in’, said David Hammond, general manager of Jesuit Social Services in Western Sydney.

‘I know I can become very focused at times, and while that can help to keep things moving forward, it can also mean I can lose touch with the bigger context. Being able to share our story and hear from others can help us see ourselves in a different light, and from a different perspective.’

Maeve Brown, the manager for the Arrupe Project with JRS, echoed the need to look for ways to collaborate to better serve the most marginalised in our community. ‘We’re looking forward to working more closely together’, said Brown. ‘There is so much we can learn from each other and its worth exploring opportunities to share resources and collaborate on projects.’

The Cardoner Project is a not-for-profit, student-focused hub for volunteering, founded in 2010 by Fr David Braithwaite SJ. In 2018, it has 44 young volunteers on placements with Jesuit works overseas for up to 12 months, and will send roughly 160 young people on three-week immersions into disadvantaged communities this year. It has a particular focus on social enterprise, and has established the Jesuit Centre for Social Entrepreneurship to measure and increase the overall impact of the ministry.

Sean Hogan, a 21-year-old business student, works part-time in the Centre as an impact analyst, and lives in Bellarmine House, the Cardoner ministry’s residence. Hogan attended the meeting with Fr Braithwaite. ‘I was excited at the sheer amount of potential for collaboration between the ministries’, he said, ‘and I’m more convinced than ever that creative collaboration for mission is what young people want and expect of the Jesuits.’

Fr Braithwaite felt similarly when he noted, ‘The narrative for cultural change, and future strategy in the social ministries, must be one of thinking big with a huge dynamism for mission, and not a sad, risk-averse myopia.’

It is hoped the meeting will be the first of many, with a second joint ministries meeting hosted by the Caronder Project proposed for later this year.