The October Congress is an opportunity to learn from and inspire one another. There’s much to be achieved from celebrating the Society’s work to date, while brainstorming what we need to do as we move forward.
We live in an extraordinary time; a time of great challenges and opportunities—social, environmental, technological.
There are new ways people connect, relate and get involved. People are not engaging in institutions and churches in the same way.
This is also a time of great extremes of poverty and wealth.
How do we respond as a Society, as individuals and as part of the church community to these challenges and opportunities?
In some ways it reminds me of the apostles—waiting for Jesus to send them a sign while they were gathered in a locked room, uncertain of what to do, as the massive changes in the wake of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection spread throughout the land.
Jesus, of course, appeared to the apostles and showed them his wounds, speaking words of comfort and reassurance: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you’. John tells us that the apostles, however, continued to need prompting and reassuring before they felt bold enough to set forth into the world.
As those who believe but have not seen, the task ahead of us is more challenging. Just as the apostles and the early Church gathered together to pray, reflect and act, so too are we called to do the same. In our conferences, our councils, and at our Congress!
How do we reshape our world and share the good news in new ways, true to the vision of our founders, especially Blessed Frederic Ozanam? How do we ensure that we do not lock ourselves away from the world as the apostles tried to do, but rather go forth into the world, full of the Spirit as people of God, with all of our human fallibilities?
How do we ensure that no one need sleep rough in the streets of prosperous Australia; that no one need feel lonely and isolated in our community? How do we ensure that membership of the St Vincent de Paul Society is a joyful experience that brings people together?
These are some of the big questions we need to explore, but there are many more as we go forth. As the Society draws closer to the October Congress, what are some of the big questions for you?
Graham West is the National President of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia.