You are sent forth: commissioning Catholic social services

Bishop Martin with National Executive Officer of ACRATH, Christine Carolan and Executive Director at Good Samaritan Inn Felicity Rorke.

The Commissioning Mass for Catholic social services as well as the Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) Annual General Meeting was held in April at the John Pierce Centre.

Bishop Martin Ashe presided at the Commissioning Mass with John Pierce Centre Chaplain Fr Wayne Edwards co-celebrating and Catholic Social Services Victoria Council member Deacon Mark Kelly assisting. Bishop Martin is an Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, and his ministry covers the Western Region.

You and your 43 member organizations are near to people who are vulnerable and in need. You are seeking to accompany and respond to people in all kinds of situations. You and your work of service is one revealing example of the kind of Church we continue to need in our world at this time. You speak up for the wounded and you seek to be close to them bringing dignity and hope to them – Bishop Martin

At the Mass, Bishop Martin thanked CSSV members who are supporting the most disadvantaged Victorian communities by responding to their real lived experience and tending to their trauma. Attendees were heartened by his reflection at the end of the Mass. It has been a difficult couple of years and this recognition of the work being undertaken in Catholic social services was very well received.

Fr. Kevin in full flight

The life and work of the late Fr Kevin Mogg AM (pictured above in full flight), the founder of CSSV, was recognised and celebrated. Fr Kevin died in February, aged 89 (just two months shy of his 90th birthday). Fr Kevin had spent over five decades as a leader in Catholic social services. He was an inspiring parish leader for over six decades, an educator, and a prison and youth justice chaplain. For 24 years he also served on the Board of CatholicCare where he continued to serve as Emeritus Board member. Fr Kevin was also a member of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council for 15 years. His dedication to the Church and towards creating a just society had been a lifelong mission, and he encouraged many others to take part in this mission, too. The eulogy given at his funeral is available here.

At the meeting the CSSV Chairperson, Bernie Cronin argued for a Church ‘tuned into the Australian context’. The Chair talked about CSSV involvement in the Plenary Council process which has been well received by delegates. The CSSV call for a statement on justice and equity at the Council by the Church is being listened to.

The Executive Director, Josh Lourensz, stated that he was proud of the 2021 work of CSSV to coordinate 19 member and community meetings as well as participate in 50 sector meetings where the organisation worked collaboratively with experts and the community. He explained that due to the impact of COVID-19 there has been increasing draw on emergency relief and less capacity for preventative work. Consequently, the strategic priorities of CSSV have changed greatly due to these factors. For a short time increased social security support provided during the early stages of the pandemic lifted many out of poverty; however the trend is now reversing. The ACU / St. Mary’s House of Welcome report, ‘Scarring effects of the pandemic economy: COVID-19’s ongoing impact on jobs, insecurity and social services in Victoria’ has starkly set out the issues and will form the basis of much future work.

Josh also paid tribute to Lucia Brick (pictured above) for her decade-long commitment to CSSV, and her gentle guidance and support. Lucia coordinated administration and provided executive support to the organisation – and even worked voluntarily for a period of time after leaving her CSSV Secretariat role.

Anne Astin, Chair of the Governance and Finance Committee of CSSV highlighted changes in governance structures across the life of the Catholic Church and related entities and groups. For example, Congregations are becoming Public Juridical Persons (PJPs), there is greater layperson involvement, and Bishops are forming companies limited by guarantee. A priority of CSSV Council is that CSSV continue to maintain strong relationships with members. CSSV benefits from the expert contributions from members and any change to governance arrangements will maintain this.

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