The need for the Church to be inclusive, open and adaptable was canvassed on the final day of a three-day mission conference held in Sydney, Catholic Mission reports.
Catholic Social Service Australia's Fr Frank Brennan SJ gave the closing keynote of the Mission: One Heart Many Voices conference, sponsored by Catholic Mission and Catholic Religious Australia. Fr Brennan's address tied together many of the diverse themes and elements of the conference, including reconciliation, mercy, leadership for mission and indigenous advocacy.
Earlier in the day, Larissa Behrendt spoke of her work with the Strengthening Indigenous Communities program at the University of Technology, Sydney, where she lectures on indigenous issues and law.
Professor Behrendt, a Eualeyai/Kamillaroi woman, shared her reflections on her work to empower indigenous communities. Her speech was a timely answer to the question of how to apply some of the learnings of this year’s conference, which strongly incorporated indigenous spirituality and perspective.
"To begin to change entrenched socio-economic conditions, it is crucial that communities are empowered and indigenous people are involved in the policy making, as well as the design and the roll-out of development programs," she said.
Fr Brennan then expertly united the many voices of the conference in the final keynote, calling for all present to take up the challenges presented by conference speakers Ginn Fourie, Evelyn Parkin, Bishop Vincent Long, Cathy Ross, Sr Elaine Wainwright and Professor Behrendt, in order to become a more inclusive Church in the future.
Charged with the task of presenting a vision for the Church, Fr Brennan reiterated Pope Francis’ assertion that we will not in the future see the Church as a “perfect society”.
"We are all members of a Church that has failed its most vulnerable," he said. "We are all in need of forgiveness."
Fittingly, Fr Brennan’s way forward was a nod to those who had spoken before him: "For us to be a Church of mission in 2030, we must provide a place at the table for all ... for indigenous people, for women, for refugees and for the abused. We must be adaptable and open to change."
Bringing it all together - Mission conference day 3 Wrap (Catholic Mission)
Mission one heart many voices day 1 wrap (Catholic Mission)