By Peter Diamond, Engagement and Project Lead CSSV
The Catholic Mission Conference 2023 held in Sydney earlier this month was an event which will live long in my memory and has given me a renewed sense of what Mission really is.
In many ways it felt more like a retreat than a conference and I particularly felt the spirit moving in me on day two of the conference, after taking in three excellent speakers.
Her Excellency Chiara Porro, Australia’s ambassador to the Holy See, spoke from Rome via Zoom at 2am (European time) and even at that late hour possessed an envious energy that permeated the audience. She provided great insight in her keynote speech about her role as a diplomat and the work of the Holy See.
One of her finest anecdotes came when she took a question from the floor about gender stereotypes, women in the Church and their roles within decision-making. Chiara’s response involved a tale about her youngest son, whom when quizzed about what career path he might want to follow exclaimed that being a ‘builder’ was top of his list. Chiara shared that it was a reasonable response and one that didn’t really surprise her but when she questioned him about if had he ever thought ‘about doing mummy’s job’ he turned around very innocently and said ‘no mummy only girls can be diplomats!’
Following Chiara was Bishop Tim Norton, Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Brisbane, who shone a light on a Brisbane man, Roby Curtis, a young urban missionary and father of seven. Bishop Tim described the 300km pilgrimage walk he endured with Roby during Holy week earlier this year from Brisbane to the Aboriginal community of Cherbourg to raise funds for Emmanuel City Mission.
Bishop Tim described with great zeal how Roby’s mission to help the homeless in his community gave bishop a profound sense of the Church we are all called to be. That witness to Christ through service. He also spoke about the dangers of stereotyping on our synod journey and how important it is to form a culture where we don’t just create our vision of a person or thing through one story.
Mingling with the audience and coming off the stage at the conference during his speech you got the sense that this was a bishop who could break the mould and breakdown stereotypes of what people have come to expect from Church hierarchy.
Bishop Tim, who qualified as a physiotherapist before he was ordained a priest, eloquently described how he nursed his dying father in the same way that his father nursed him as a child. He shared how he was moved to care for his father in that way because of Jesus’ call to serve other people. That spirit of God was something that brought him to that place and it was quite astonishing and refreshing to hear a bishop of the Church share such a personal anecdote with the conference.
Over the three days we were also exposed to the mysticism and moving ways of Aboriginal Catholic ministry. The conference Mass was celebrated using a Rite which was created in the Broome Diocese for the Aboriginal community and is rarely used in the Mass, so it felt pretty special and unique.
Evelyn Parkin, a Quandamooka woman, from Stradbroke Island gave a powerful testimony of her Faith journey in her workshop presentation at the conference and also offered deep knowledge and insight into the culture of First Nations Australians. It was very informative to understand more about the spirit of God from an Aboriginal perspective along with her anecdotes from her upbringing as a Catholic.
Overall the conference allowed CSSV to engage with the themes of the conference about Mission, Synodality and how we can respond to the challenges we face in our world.
Join our mailing list
Keep up to date with latest news, information and upcoming events.