"We are still here for you!"

Corruption, mismanagement and poverty are all obvious barriers to seeing communities around the world thrive and develop, and the Church has a unique role in delivering hope in places where governments and corporations can’t or won’t.

Proudly, the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese has a long history of generous partnership with external agencies such as Catholic Mission to help overcome these obstacles.

Catholic Mission is responsible for raising funds in Australia for global mission and providing project support, monitoring and evaluation for our partners in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. We work with local churches to establish and maintain grassroots initiatives that aim to fulfill Jesus Christ’s mission in the world, expressed in John 10:10: that all may have life abundantly.

Some examples of our work include: catechism and pastoral care in Papua New Guinea; construction and repair of churches in Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka; development of schools, teacher training and delivery of a Catholic education curriculum in Myanmar; a comprehensive maternal health unit for women in Uganda; and provision of a safe home and schooling for vulnerable children in Ghana.

I am fortunate to have witnessed many of these initiatives first-hand and their benefit to local communities. I also appreciate why it is so important to have a globally supported missionary network in place. Simply put, if these programs were not run by the Catholic Church and its dedicated missionaries, they would not exist at all.

Recently the missionaries work has come to the fore, as they remain committed to serving their communities despite the devastating impact and ongoing anxiety caused by COVID-19. "We are still here for you!”, is their response. They are providing everyday support for children like Nathaniel, one of 17 children at the Eden Gardens Children’s Home in in north-east India who have no family to return to during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Missionaries can give that reassurance to their communities because they in turn are supported through prayer and fundraising by dioceses like our own, through the work of Catholic Mission. Particularly at this time, our missionaries also need to hear from us, "We are still here for you!”

In partnership with Catholic schools across Australia, our resources and programs inform and form students, teachers and the whole school community to better understand what mission is, and how we can all be a part of it. These resources include student learning opportunities as well as professional development in mission formation for teachers. We also offer international and local immersion experiences for student and teacher groups.

Australian Catholic schools this year can partner in our work of mission through Socktober, our online community engagement initiative www.socktober.org.au  It is a straightforward way for school communities to live out mission and unpack key issues of social justice, forming a response that engages the heads, hearts and hands of your whole school. Additionally, teachers of this Diocese continue to give generously through regular contributions to the Teachers Helping Teachers – Workplace Giving Program, which directly supports teacher training projects in developing communities within Cambodia, Myanmar and India.  Our parishes will have the opportunity to respond to our Annual Mission Appeal on 18 October 2020 – World Mission Sunday.

Only through your prayer and financial support will many crucial mission programs around the world continue their vital work supporting people who are vulnerable, especially during these uncertain times. To find out more, go to www.catholicmission.org.au or call us on 1800 257 296.

Many people ask me how Catholic Mission is different to Caritas? Both agencies cross over in international development and both are the Gospel in action. Caritas is the Catholic Church’s organisation for humanitarian aid and development, operating under the auspices of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference; whereas Catholic Mission is the Church’s agency for evangelization and mission, responsible for the development of faith communities and Church infrastructure through initiatives such as those mentioned above. It is the Australian agency of a vast global network known as the Pontifical Mission Societies, which includes 140 countries and 1100 dioceses. It is subject to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and is Pope Francis’s official agency for global mission.

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Mark Toohey

Mark is the Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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