On this Pentecost Sunday, we recall the coming of the Holy Spirit whose gift it was to empower the disciples to go out and live, preach and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, the God made flesh. “Lord send us your spirit and renew the face of the earth.” (Psalm 104:30)
I am mindful that this year Pentecost Sunday falls within National Reconciliation Week; 27 May until 3 June. May 25 marked Sorry Day and then May 27 is the anniversary of the 1967 Referendum which allowed Aboriginal people to be included in the census, as part of the population. June 3, known as Mabo Day, recognises Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as traditional owners of their land.
The documentation for the second session of our diocesan synod in 2021, covering the Mission and Outreach Foundation, included the following words and recommendations:
We acknowledge and seek to be enriched by the history and wisdom of Indigenous peoples while acknowledging that reconciliation for past injustices remains a goal rather than an achievement.
The Church in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others. (Pope John Paul II speaking to Aboriginal people in 1986 NT).
To achieve an authentic Catholic Church in Australia, the gifts of perseverance, culture and spirituality of First Nations Catholics should be fully embraced. This goal can be achieved through education, participation in decision-making and a comprehensive commitment to fostering mutual respect between First Nations and non-Indigenous Catholics. (The Light from the Southern Cross p 74)
What we recommend:
Re OUR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE
MO 3.1 That our diocese listens to and embraces the spiritual, ecological, and cultural wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
MO 3.2 That the Diocese, in consultation and partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry and the wider community, commits to developing tangible mechanisms to embed their rich culture and spirituality in the life of the Church.
Since that time, the diocese, in 2022, launched its Reflect Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), (reflect-reconciliation-action-plan) and is now working towards its Innovate RAP.
As I write this message, I am aware of the varied voices around the Uluru Statement of the Heart and the Voice.
Our recent Australian Plenary Council endorsed the Uluru Statement from the Heart and encouraged, “engagement with processes for implementing the statement, including local, regional, and national truth-telling efforts.”
Fr Frank Brennan SJ wrote an article, “How to vote on the Voice”, for the Catholic Weekly on March 17, 2023.
We must strive to listen to community leaders who know what is good for their communities …
I suggest ten steps for Catholics inspired by our Catholic social teaching when approaching the forthcoming referendum. I couch these suggestions in terms appropriate for those of us who are not Indigenous.
We are all invited into constructive dialogue. We must strive to listen to community leaders who know what is good for their communities just as those of us who are not Indigenous know what is good for ourselves and our loved ones.
- Be attentive to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Stop telling them what is good for them. Start listening to them. Accept that they know what is good for them, just as we know what is good for us and our loved ones.
- Don’t expect all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to agree about legal, political and constitutional questions. It’s called living in a democracy.
- Form respectful relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and engage in respectful conversations with those who are your friends.
- Having heard a range of Indigenous voices, make your own decisions about what Aboriginal aspirations are morally justified. What would be right and proper for Australia in the 21st century? For example, the Commonwealth Parliament has power to make special laws about First Nations people. Many Aboriginal people now say, “No special laws without us!”
- Know your history; know the Aboriginal history. The Australian Constitution does not even mention Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders. They belong in the Constitution. Their belonging should be explicit and particular.
- The Constitution belongs to all the people. It cannot be amended except with an overwhelming majority of the people. Educate yourselves about the Aboriginal aspirations at Uluru and be ready to discuss those aspirations at the family meal, the workplace BBQ or the local club.
- Do something to get this issue of constitutional recognition on the right track. Speak to your local member. Ask that the parliament set up a process so everyone can have their say and so that the major political parties can own whatever is proposed. This is not just a matter for Indigenous leaders. It is not just a matter for the government. It involves all of us.
“You need to decide what concrete and just actions you will take. It’s not enough just to vote when the referendum comes around.”
- Having decided which Aboriginal aspirations are justified, you then need to make a wise decision about which of those aspirations are politically achievable. Don’t be afraid to talk to people with varying views when making that decision.
- Having decided which Aboriginal aspirations are not only justified but achievable, you then need to decide to act. You need to put some skin in the game. You need to decide what concrete and just actions you will take. It’s not enough just to vote when the referendum comes around. You need to get on board urging the parliament to put the right proposition to the vote, and helping your fellow citizens make an informed choice.
- Be respectful and attentive to those who disagree with you, but don’t be afraid to demand that they be respectful and attentive to you. Any national Voice worth its salt will have an elaborate system of local and regional ears to hear the local and regional voices which are needed to give credibility to any national Voice. That will be complex. There will be plenty of room for disagreement.
During the past week, I attended a webinar in which Fr Frank Brennan spoke. He has written a book which some of you may wish to access, called, Indigenous Voice to Parliament.
In 2015, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium said:
“An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it.
“We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. The earth is our common home and all of us are brothers and sisters.” (n. 183)
I am convinced that the Holy Spirit calls us to show concern for the building of a better world. This is why God, the Father, sent us his son, Jesus, who in turn has left us an advocate to empower us in the ways of truth, peace, healing and countless other good gifts.
Over the coming weeks please look out for invitations to the NAIDOC Week events at the beginning of July along with some opportunities to attend some information sessions regarding the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the Voice.
And at the end of this day the prayer that finds itself embedded in my consciousness is:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall renew the face of the earth.
Follow mnnews.today on Facebook.