Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion

Catholic Social Services Victoria’s is excited to launch its latest book, Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion, described as ‘a book for the was launched virtually on November 11 by Archbishop Peter Comensoli. Purchase the book here. Watch the virtual launch here

Published by Connor Court, Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion draws together an edited collection of keynotes, workshops and panel discussions that were presented at the national Catholic social services conference held in Melbourne earlier this year, which saw more than 280 participants gather from across Australia and New Zealand.

The book includes more than 50 contributions from professionals working from across Catholic social services in Australia and New Zealand, as well as education, health, aged care and parishes. In moderating the launch, executive director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, Joshua Lourensz said, “This book itself is a great example of social services working together with our broader community to put something out that will be really useful for everyone.” He acknolwedged the current “difficult time for Australia and the world” and said the book will enable conversations from the conference to continue today.

This is the fourth book to emerge from conferences hosted by Catholic Social Services Victoria together with Catholic Social Services Australia. It was edited by long-term contributors to the Catholic social services sector — Prof. Gabrielle McMullen, Patrice Scales and Denis Fitzgerald.

Speaking on behalf of the editors, Prof. Gabrielle McMullen said the book seeks “to provide a volume that is ‘right for the times’; a volume to bring the inspiration and momentum of the conference to the challenges for social services, challenges emanating from society, from government and from the Church.”

“The book captures the hope that emerged from examples of courageous and compassionate service recounted at the conference and it explores the richness of Catholic social teaching, with which the sector identifies so strongly.”

She said, “Conference books can often be dry, technical volumes. This one is different – it’s all about ‘people’, people whose stories make ‘mission’ a reality: those needing homes, people coping with bushfire disasters, families needing child-care – and it’s also about the glorious stories of those in our sector who respond to the need.”

“A key element for the conference and now the book is formation for mission. Such formation goes beyond the acquisition of knowledge, or the building of new skills, important as these are for our ministries. Formation reaches to the development of the heart, to a deeper understanding of why service is needed, to an interior disposition to sustain commitment, and to nurturing of that understanding and that commitment. The editors now pass this challenge to all of you in ministry as we hand over the volume.”

In officially launching the book, Archbishop Peter Comensoli reflected on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. He said “at the heart” of Pope Francis’ encyclical, is “social friendship”. He explained social services as the what; social justice as the how and social friendship as the why. “In perhaps a more simple way, we might talk about the hands, the head and the heart,” he said.

“I make mention of all this because at the heart of this book is so much of the ‘why?’ It’s more than just the actual descriptions of things that Catholic social services do. It’s much more than the catholic social teaching of it. It’s something of the life and the heart that’s there.”

One of the chapters, Makarrata: Healing the Wounds of the Past, which captures the discussion by four Indigenous panelists on the opening night of the conference, spoke to Archbishop Comensoli in a particular way. He said, “that word, as I have now come to understand it, is about restoration of peace after a dispute.” 

“That sense of ‘restoration of peace’ was opened up by the panellists not by theories of social justice, or theories of reconciliation, but by stories. It wasn’t presented to us by way of a concept to grapple with; rather it was a way to walk.” He said at the heart of this journey together is fraternity and friendship, and encouraged all to walk on this journey together.

He concluded by saying, “Here in this one article in the book, Serving Communities with Courage and Compassion, is something that might be said of the whole and has brought this volume together – of somehow making things right, of personal conversion that is also about social conversion. A Makarrata. A healing. And doing so from the heart.” 

Dr Ursula Stephens, Chief executive officer of Catholic Social Service Australia, provided some further reflections before the floor opened for questions and answers.

In closing, Lourensz encouraged those gathered to “be creative” in how to engage with the book moving forward. He encouraged organisations to make copies available for staff, board members, principals and parish leaders. With Christmas coming, it would make a great gift!

“It covers so many different aspects of mission and service. It is a valuable resource for anyone working in mission-inspired social service organisations, but there are also numerous lessons for parish and school communities, education and health-care settings,” he said. “Think about who would benefit from receiving this book from within your networks.”

“Over to you now, the book has been launched. What we do with it is up to us.” 

For any enquiries about the book, please contact Lucia Brick —

RRP – $29.95  | Order your copy here.

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