Archives for the month of: June, 2013

Music, food, stories, sharing, art and best of all, a nice warm hall which the Anglican Church provided at the very last minute! While we weren’t prepared for rain, we were prepared for conversation and hospitality, as we gathered with diverse people from the town and beyond. We were a mix of backgrounds, from Aboriginal to European to refugees and recent migrants. There was such a pervasive spirit of welcome to one and all, brought together in a statement which was used nationally combined with a Port Augusta focus:

“We believe Australians are a welcoming, generous and compassionate people. We believe an Australia is possible where prejudice is unpopular and cruelty hurts at the polls. An Australia that recognises the equality and dignity of all people – no matter who you are, where you’re from or how you arrived here – and extends out values of fairness and mateship to everyone.

We dream of a nation that celebrates diversity, made up of communities where people of our First Nations, asylum seekers, refugees, international students, skilled migrants and every other human being can experience the joy and security of belonging.
Here in Port Augusta, we welcome diversity, and we are home to many, from Aboriginal Australians to new migrants. We have a history of detention centres and asylum seekers, and some of us have met those who seek safety and freedom from persecution in our land. Together we walk; together we strive to live with compassion, in peace and harmony.”

We heard a moving story from Hoveida Saberi, a Baha’i from Iran who had to flee from persecution there. She told how 3 Baha’i houses on her street were burned down. When the mob came again to burn down Baha’i houses, her Muslim neighbours stepped up to tell the mob that if they wanted to burn houses, they would have to start at the start of the street – the Muslim houses. Their courage, putting their lives on the line for their neighbours, was how Hoveida survived to tell the story today.

Thank you to all who took part here today – the musicians, those who provided food from all corners of the globe, the Anglican church community, those who traveled long distances to join us and the committee.

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On May the 22nd, a funeral was celebrated in Concord, NSW, for the Sister of Mercy Leonie Crotty. It was a sad event for all in our religious order, as she had been so intrumental in recent years in facilitating the massive change from small individual Mercy groups, to a large one covering most of Australia and Papua New Guinea. However, despite her obvious gifts for organisation, practicality and business, I remember her most for something entirely different…

In 2010, the candidates (novices) of the Sisters met together in Sydney for a month for joint formation with the theme of mission. We met Leonie during this time and she lived in a building next to ours. She greeted us with great hospitality and we shared some lovely meals. But when she spoke to us about her work – the “reconfiguring” process – she expressed her struggles with the isolation of her work. Not isolation from other people, but isolation from those who are poor, disadvantaged or uneducated – the people that Sisters of Mercy vow to serve in “works of mercy”. Hers was an office job, dealing mainly with other Sisters in order for us to carry out our ministries more effectively. We all agreed that there are times when our first calling is to serve our ‘family’ – the Sisters – as a priority. But I soon learned that her missioning call was always wider.

One morning Leonie related a story of the night before about a desperate someone coming to her front door asking for money. The person knew her and had called before. I imagine that her generosity was widely known. She then went on an adventure, trying to get to a hospital, or drop off at a shelter, or find relatives, or…I can’t remember the details. I do remember her concern and compassion as she told the story and that the whole process had taken a couple of hours from what I assumed would have been a quiet comfortable evening. What struck me was that though her official ministry or job was not a “work of mercy” for the needy, she was one of the best examples I had seen of mercifully responding to need. In fact, it was more beautiful for the fact that it wasn’t part of her job description.

Works of mercy are done in small ways, at many times and places, by many different people. They do not need a label, a badge or a title. ‘Sisters of mercy’ and ‘brothers of mercy’ exist everywhere – wherever people respond to God’s struggling ones. Leonie Crotty was a true Sister of Mercy, and she didn’t need a Religious Profession or a job description to make her one.