With more than 130,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics in Australia, listening to the voice of the fastest-growing group of people in the Church is vital, says elder John Lochowiak. Source: The Southern Cross.
Mr Lochowiak was recently re-elected for a second three-year term as chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Commission.
He is also one of only 13 people appointed to the Plenary Council 2020 executive which is helping to shape consultation and the final agenda for the historic gathering to discuss the future of the Church in Australia.
Mr Lochowiak, who is manager of Aboriginal Services at Centacare Catholic Family Services in South Australia, said the Plenary was an opportunity to show what Aboriginal Catholic ministry was doing well and to encourage the building of relationships through cultural awareness.
But he acknowledged that it was coming at a time when the Church was going through difficult times and the subject of much criticism, which was another reason to listen to Indigenous Catholics.
“Aboriginal people are very important to the Church now,” he said. “We have been knocked, shoved and put down for a long time, we know what it’s like. Because we’ve been so decimated, we’ve hit out against each other; the Church has to be careful it doesn’t go the same way.”
He is confident the Church has much to offer Aboriginal people, in particular youth, and that’s why they are bucking the trend in terms of participation. The number of Aboriginal Catholics has more than doubled over the past three decades.
“We are spiritual people and we understand the connection of spirit, for example, when I go out with the elders, some of these fellas are traditional men and they’re reading the Bible,” he said.
“They love to read it because some of the stories are very similar to our traditional stories.”
Mr Lochowiak said understanding Aboriginal culture brings people closer together, “because we’ve got more in common than we have differences”.
Aboriginal Catholics leading the way (The Southern Cross)