Divine Word Missionaries embark on new ministry with asylum seekers


By Debra Vermeer

Members of the Society of the Divine Word AUS Province have met for their Assembly and Chapter meeting, resolving to renew and deepen their current ministerial commitments as explore new areas of advocacy, particularly in support of asylum seekers and refugees.

Sixty-five members of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVDs) and their lay collaborators met at Marsfield in Sydney for the Provincial Assembly which focused on the theme of “See, I am doing a new thing” (Is 43:18-19).

In particular, the three-day Assembly explored the current situation of Catholic Social Teaching and discussed how social justice could be more actively incorporated into the life and mission of the SVDs.

Noted author, theological lecturer and social justice advocate Fr Bruce Duncan cssr gave a keynote address on Catholic Social Teaching in the World Today and helped to facilitate discussion among the confreres and their collaborators on the themes raised.

Fr Tim Norton, SVD Provincial, said the triennial Assembly and Chapter meeting provided a chance for members of the Province from Australia, Thailand and New Zealand to come together and focus on both the work being done in Divine Word Missionary ministries and the challenges and opportunities that exist.

“It was a chance to gather with our lay collaborators to discuss the Biblical and Doctrinal foundations of Catholic Social Action and recall the need to keep a focus on this area in our ministry,” Fr Tim said.

“So, as SVDs, we renewed our understanding of our present commitments and considered further opportunities in light of this call to actively pursue justice in the world and particularly for the people and communities we serve.”

Among the SVD ministries that were featured in panel discussions during the Assembly were those with the Aboriginal communities in Alice Springs and Santa Teresa; in Thailand, working with people living with AIDS; as well as parish ministry throughout Australia, New Zealand and Thailand.

Fr Tim said an important outcome of the Assembly and Chapter was a commitment by the Divine Word Missionaries to embark on “a new thing” by welcoming asylum seekers into SVD accommodation in Melbourne and Sydney while they await the outcome of their claims.

“This is a new area of ministry for us,” Fr Tim said.

“We are delighted to be working with Jesuit Refugee Services, CatholicCare Melbourne and the Federal Government to enable these vulnerable young men to live in the community while their claims are processed. Our focus on the Gospel call to social justice during our Assembly helped us to place this new ministry into context for us and underline both the Biblical and Missionary nature of this initiative.”

Fr Tim said the Assembly also resolved to increase support for SVD missions in Central Australia and Thailand, as well as promote the SVD Bible apostolate, and justice and peace initiatives in parishes.

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