This Thursday the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will launch the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) Social Justice Statement 2015-2016 For Those Who've Come Across the Seas – Justice for refugees and asylum seekers and bless the work of CatholicCare Refugee Service (formerly Penola House) ahead of Social Justice Sunday this weekend.
Social Justice Sunday is celebrated on the last weekend of September each year. The ACBC invites Catholic parishes to honour Social Justice Sunday and produces a Statement to mark the event. This year's Statement was developed in response to the longstanding divisions in Australian society over asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by sea.
Bishop Bill Wright will join diocesan staff, those served by CatholicCare and other service providers to launch the Statement and to bless CatholicCare Refugee Service, a place of welcome and support for refugees and their families.
Bishop Wright said this year's Statement is particularly pertinent as the world witnesses the greatest displacement of people since World War II.
"This is an extremely relevant and important statement, not just for our parishioners but for Australia. Our country's approach to asylum seekers and refugees has consistently been a key policy item in election campaigns since 2001, which sadly has seen the introduction of tough deterrent measures rather than compassion and welcome.
"Our government's apposite announcement to resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian refugees and provide extra financial assistance on the same day the ACBC launched its Social Justice Statement gives me hope that Australia can have a change of heart and welcome those who've come across the seas," said Bishop Wright.
"I am grateful for the warm reception accorded this announcement and I remind everyone that the Catholic Church has a unique and critical role in ensuring we're ready not only to provide essential services to these refugees, once the logistics for the resettlement are finalised, but to make them feel at home. I encourage those who've been inspired by our government's announcement to realise each of us has a role to play," said Bishop Wright.
Director of CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, Helga Smit, is eager to see what the government's resettlement program will look like and will play to the strengths of CatholicCare Refugee Service to offer support beyond that of the government to those who may be resettled in the Hunter and Manning regions.
"When the Syrian refugees arrive, CatholicCare Refugee Service will have a key role to play to ensure they feel at home and welcome, that they have support to access necessities such as low-cost housing, education, job opportunities, religious and language support and health services.
"We will also be helping them understand how to link into local communities to foster a feeling of 'belonging' to a safe, secure and diverse nation," said Ms Smit.
Thursday's launch and blessing will feature guest speakers, including refugees and advocates, and a multicultural lunch of traditional Eritrean, Iranian and Persian cuisine prepared by refugees served by CatholicCare Refugee Service.
Local reality TV personalities, Carly and Tresne from "My Kitchen Rules" 2014 will assist with serving the food because they feel strongly about the importance of diversity and multiculturalism.
"We believe food is a universal language and being able to learn from refugees from different parts of the world will be a great experience for us," said Carly.
The event will be held at Mayfield Parish Hall between 10.30am and 1.30pm.
CatholicCare Refugee Service - Background
Formerly named Penola House, the service was originally established in 2005 by Sr Betty Brown rsj. In 2008 the Sisters of St Joseph, Lochinvar supported its mission at Hamilton and in 2013 it moved to its present location in Mayfield West. It was at this time that the governance and operation of the centre was transferred to the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle before coming under the management of CatholicCare in 2015.
Over the years, working collaboratively with other service providers in the area, this service has become an integral part of the settlement of refugees in the Newcastle and Hunter region.
The aim of the service is to be a centre of welcome, hospitality, friendship, fun, healing and communication.
The vision of CatholicCare Refugee Service is to walk with refugees as they move from dependence on services, to an empowered position of integration and belonging within the local community.
CatholicCare Refugee Service consists mostly of volunteers who work with staff to meet the pastoral needs of newcomers. This service works collaboratively with other agencies in the Newcastle area to assist refugees settle into the community. Staff and volunteers facilitate programs and activities to help refugees benefit from religious, health, education, social and welfare opportunities in our community.
To view the full Social Justice Statement 2015-2016 For Those Who've Come Across the Seas – Justice for refugees and asylum seekers visit www.socialjustice.catholic.org.au
WHAT: Launch of Social Justice Statement and blessing of CatholicCare Refugee Service
WHO: Bishop Bill Wright, Director of CatholicCare Helga Smit, other service providers, refugees, Carly and Tresne from "My Kitchen Rules" 2014
WHERE: Mayfield Parish Hall, 30 Church Street, Mayfield
WHEN: Thursday 24 September 2015
10.30am Arrival of guests and morning tea
11.00am Welcome and prayer
11.15am Guest speakers
12.15pm Launch of Social Justice Statement, blessing of CatholicCare Refugee Service, closing prayer
12.30pm Multicultural Lunch prepared by refugees and served by Carly and Tresne from "My Kitchen Rules" 2014.
Please confirm your attendance by contacting the Diocesan Communications Manager.