Social Services Sunday – a time to reflect and give thanks

“The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice.”

Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium #24

On 20th September 2020, we mark Social Services Sunday within the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. On this day we are invited to give thanks and pray for all who provide care and support to those who are marginalised and vulnerable within our community.

Image caption, if required.

We recognise with deep gratitude, those working within Catholic Social Service Victoria’s 45 member organisations, made up of 7,000 passionate and committed staff and 17,000 generous volunteers, who together, serve more than 200,000 people in need each year. As stated by Fr Joe Caddy, Episcopal Vicar for Social Services for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, “The members of Catholic Social Services Victoria provide enormous resources to help our communities to address the needs of those who are homeless, those suffering mental illness, those who find themselves in prison, children in need of care and any who are vulnerable because of age or disability.”

We also give thanks for all in our parishes, who are often at the forefront of providing practical support and care to those in need within their local communities, and beyond. Indeed, many of our social services agencies were either born from or are sustained by Parish initiatives and support. Many have their roots and beginnings steeped in the deep desire of Religious men and women, to be a practical sign of God’s love in the world.

Recognising the inter-related nature of the work of social services, Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, Joshua Lourensz states, “To be a coherent body, which is truly able to work in a multi-faceted way on the issues facing Victoria, CSSV relies on the intimate involvement of the Bishops of Victoria and their offices, religious congregations, our 45 member organisations and their staff, and the communities which make up the 315 parishes across Victoria.”

“We also rely on and work closely with our interstate and federal counterparts and collegiate bodies throughout the Australian Church. This is how we work to build a society of justice and compassion.”

At this time, CSSV acknowledges the 2020/21 Social Justice Statement brought out recently by the Australian Catholic bishops, To Live Life to the Full: Mental Health in Australia Today, as part of the national Social Justice Sunday, marked on 30th August. In these difficult days of extended COVID-19 restrictions and the subsequent loss of jobs and housing security, the devastating impact of isolation and loneliness, more than ever the spotlight has been shone on mental health, reinforcing the importance of keeping this issue at the forefront of our concerns, and our advocacy work.

With this in mind, CSSV hosted an online gathering on 9th September titled Counselling and Therapy in a Time of COVID, which provided an opportunity for participants to understand the mental health services on offer within the Catholic Social Service Victoria member network, and how to practically reach out for assistance. Representatives from a number of local parishes within the archdiocese also attended.

As Social Services Sunday approaches, we pray that the work of Catholic Social Services Victoria, through its advocacy and through bringing together so many agencies, individuals and parish communities is a visible sign that what we can achieve when we work together is so much greater than what we can when we work alone. We also pray that as we reflect on the important role of social services within the Church, and recognise the ever increasing need, that many more will take up the call to be missionaries among the people, for the people who are struggling in their communities and beyond.

As stated by Fr Caddy, “Together we can bring Jesus’ good news to the poor, proclaim release to the prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, liberate the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Prayer for Courage and Compassion

Compassionate God,

Your unconditional love for all

inspires our hearts and empowers our actions

for those who are most vulnerable.

May we boldly and humbly serve one another

and be steadfast in our work for justice for all people.

Keep our hearts open to the joys and the hopes of our world,

and our ears ready to hear your call

to truth, justice and reconciliation.

Let us continue to draw inspiration and strength

from those, like St Mary MacKillop,

on whose shoulders we stand.

We gather here in Jesus’ name

to be nourished and to move forward together

in hope and joy.


Download PDF version of the prayer, here.