“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.”
For 2,000 years Catholics have instilled charity, service and sacrificial love as the most important expression of being Christian in the community.
It is hard to imagine how challenging this call to service was at the beginning. In the centuries after Jesus’ death, the followers of Christ mostly lived in secret, under persecution, in the shadows of the Roman Empire. For four hundred years it was legal to arrest, torture and even kill those accused of practising Christianity. The Roman catacombs - a vast underground network where these early communities gathered – are evidence of how our Christian brothers and sisters once lived. They were truly Christ’s “poor in spirit”.
Inspired by Jesus’ message, and transformed by Divine Love, these same Christians took in the unwanted of Rome – the sick, orphans, widows, infants left to die in ‘exposure’, the poor and slaves. Christians would even fast so they could give their food to those in need. These poor were cared for and treated like members of the family and the familial treatment eventually led to the custom of calling priests and religious ‘father’, ‘mother’, ‘brother’ and ‘sister’.
Julian, an earlier emperor of Rome and no friend of what he called ‘the Galilean cult’, was so struck by this that he once commented to his fellow Romans; “[The Christians] support not only their poor but ours as well”.
As Catholicism spread across the globe, it brought with it this message of radical love and so institutions for the poor and sick began to spread across Europe. The Biblical teaching that all were made in God’s image, and that what was done for the “least of these brothers and sisters” was done for Christ Himself, meant that the first institutionalised hospitals, orphanages, shelters, schools and universities were open to serve everyone.
To this day, the Catholic Church still operates more hospitals, schools, orphanages, pro-life societies and charitable institutions than any other organisation in the world.
Our heritage and tradition of service to the poor is an area where we can take genuine pride.
In Australia, we have felt the benefit of this Catholic tradition, as many of our most prestigious schools, hospitals and welfare institutions trace their roots back to religious orders of men and women who sacrificed everything in service of others.
There is no modern substitute, or government agency, that could equal the work of those countless anonymous men and women of faith who served quietly in love.
There are the well-known examples, such as St Mary MacKillop, founder of the Sisters of St Joseph, who developed a series of schools and welfare institutions for the destitute and rural poor to the more recent example of Eileen O’Connor who sanctified her suffering (resulting from a spinal injury at an early age) and founded Our Lady’s Nurses of the Poor.
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Sydney continue such ministries in the Charitable Works Fund, which supports the likes of CatholicCare, the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Centre, Chaplaincy Services and much more.
The ancient Romans saw ‘charity’ as a weakness, not a virtue. In the Christian worldview, however, charity is an opportunity to be united to Christ and to serve Jesus in the poor, as seen in the Gospel; “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me … Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Hence, despite growing hostility toward Catholic Christians in Australia, we will not stop doing what we have always done in charity.
It is our privilege to continue this beautiful tradition, and we hope to do it for the next 2,000 years in an effort best summarised by St Paul; “in the end, there is these three, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.”
The Church continues this ministry and invites you to join us.
As the social services agency of the Archdiocese of Sydney, CatholicCare programs help families and individuals to flourish in the face of life’s challenges.
Most importantly, CatholicCare work within the community itself, supporting vulnerable families and individuals.
CatholicCare services help with counselling, relationships, parenting, ageing, disabilities, addictions and mental health concerns.
Their programs include support for the following:
- Family and parenting support
- Counselling and relationship services
- Specialist services for domestic violence
- Help with addictions and mental health concerns
- Therapies and allied health services
- Guidance through the Government’s My Aged Care system
In 2018, with the introduction of the CCareline 131819 telephone service, CatholicCare received over 20,000 calls for help.
Consider giving today.
Catholic Chaplaincy Services
Catholic Chaplaincy Services are a series of chaplaincies that look after the pastoral needs of all people connected to various Catholic institutions.
University Chaplaincy: Established by Cardinal Pell at the beginning of 2002, it aims to create a Catholic culture on campus and provide spiritual and friendship support to all students.
Hospital Chaplaincy: The Sydney Archdiocese has a long history of ministering to the sick, as well as the family and friends of those affected by illness. There are both religious and lay chaplains serving within our major hospitals in the Sydney region.
Prison Chaplaincy: Chaplains are available at Long Bay (currently with over 1000 men interned) and at Silverwater (with nearly 1500 women resident in its five gaols). The Chaplaincy office provides a range of services from Mass, to prayer reflections, counselling, assistance and general support for family and friends.
Consider donating today.
Aboriginal Catholic Ministry
The Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) provides pastoral care and support to Sydney’s Catholic Aborigines.
In his historic Alice Springs address in 1986, Pope St John Paul II said “the church in Australia would not reach its potential until Aboriginal people had made their contribution to her life”. ACM seeks to make this hope a reality. Operating from two premises, Reconciliation Church and Alexandria Office, the ACM offers a range of services including Sacramental preparation, monthly cultural Mass, prayer resources, support with funerals and baptisms, prayer groups and pastoral support.
The Ministry also provides an interface between Indigenous Catholics and the wider Catholic and political community. They connect Aboriginal educators and speakers with schools and parishes. Where necessary, the ACM will act as advocates and provide counselling services and practical aid.
The ACM hopes to build ties with Nungalyina and Wontulp Bi Buya indigenous theological colleges to support the spiritual development of Indigenous Catholics in Sydney.
Help our Sydney Aboriginal Catholic reach their full potential. Consider donating today.