Social Justice Group

SFX Social Justice Group
10 Year History 2006 to 2016

 

The parish of Saint Francis Xavier in Montmorency (Victoria, Australia) formed a social justice group of about ten volunteers in April, 2006, aimed at trying to address inequalities everywhere by continuing the mission of Jesus to establish a kingdom of love, truth, justice, peace and forgiveness. In 2008, the parish dedicated 5% of its annual income to outreach funds to help to fulfil these goals.

Recognizing the value of all human beings, we aimed to create an awareness of the many inequalities that exist. This involved challenging social and cultural structures that cause unjust suffering and responding to immediate needs where possible. We did this by holding various symposia:

v    on the subject of mental health (twice);

v    the issue of asylum seekers (twice);

v    fostering Fair Trade;

v    the role of our indigenous people;

v    the Catholic Prison Ministry;

v    Climate Change

v    Human Trafficking (twice)

v    Decluttering – recycling

v    Life of the poor in Cebu, Philippines


We hosted visits to our parish to hear people speak about areas of social justice:

v    Charity Graff – an orphanage in Manilla, Philippines

v    Cardinal Oscar Rodrigues (twice)

v    Two social workers from Cebu, Philippines

v    Sacred Heart Mission, an organisation that offers hospitality to the homeless

v    Val Smith-Orr, Australian nurse working with burns victims in the Philippines

v    Fr. Shay Cullin, The Preda Foundation, Philippines


Our parishioners and fellow Australians are very generous and community minded when asked for practical support. We have had appeals for:

v    Food for asylum seekers (this began in 2008 and is ongoing, donated weekly)

v    Public transport travel tickets for asylum seekers

v    Warm winter coats for asylum seekers (4 collections, with around 100-150 coats each time)

v    Volunteers to prepare and serve food to the homeless (120 volunteers on weekly roster)

v    Toiletries for trafficked women in the Philippines (Twice, 1000s of packs prepared)

v    Children’s books for schools in the Philippines (3 times – 1000s of books dispatched)

v    Children’s books and educational aids for Salesian Bros in the Solomon Islands

v    Educational  equipment for Philippines

v    Medical equipment for a Burns units in the Philippines

v    Money for solar lights for the Philippines


Cash donations have been made to:

v    Construction of a Burns Unit Hospital in the Philippines

v    Catholic Prison Ministry (annually)

v    Foundation assisting indigenous children to have a Catholic education (annually)

v    Drop-in centre for people with mental health problems

v    A program to assist underprivileged people to learn to drive.

v    John Wallis Foundation to assist a new parish at Mernda.

v    Money to buy and install ovens at a drop-in centre which offers hospitality to people.

v    Preda Foundation in the Philippines to help trafficked and exploited women and children.

v    Water Safety in Vietnam to help children learn to swim.

v    Saint Paul’s Overseas Aid.

v    John Pierce Centre for the deaf.

v    Caritas – to help in Somalia.

v    Sacred Heart Mission

v    Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation to help indigenous education.

v    Only Just Fair Trade Shop

v    Repairing roofs in the Philippines following the typhoon.

 

We provide a collection service for:

v    Used batteries, which we then recycle

v    Used spectacles, which are assessed then donated to the needy

We have held sales of Fair Trade goods numerous times at our Church in order to support, by paying a fair price, producers of goods from developing countries. Immersion visits to the Philippines have been made, including one with children. Following one of these visits we had a photographic exhibition of the experiences in the Philippines, which raised awareness and money to assist the people visited. That exhibition was also shown in other parishes. Our two parish schools have made friendship links with schools in the Philippines, connecting children from both countries. In addition, by running a stamp collection, we have supported another organisation that helps to educate indigenous people and assists with free cataract surgery to the underprivileged.

When World Youth Day was hosted in Australia we assisted six young Filipinos to attend (and donated warm clothing to them because it was really cold here!) We supported the education of some of these young people when they returned home.

In the interests of the planet we have produced a booklet about recycling locally, giving preference to recycling goods for use by the underprivileged. Another booklet that we’ve made is about using natural products, rather than toxic chemicals. Both of these are freely available on the parish website.

After our parish fete, there are always left-over books, which we collect and donate to the Footpath Library, which gives books to homeless people.

This group tries to engage with other groups engaged in similar work which helps to build networks and community, for instance we assist the Sacred Heart Mission and the Exodus Community in their work, and we also support other groups such as the Montmorency Asylum Seeker Support Group. When we appeal for anything, we extend that appeal to other groups and churches. As part of the Community Coalition for Caring for our Common Home we have hosted two symposia dedicated to spreading the messages contained in the encyclical, Laudato Si’, and have organised a study group to engage further with the encyclical.

We have undertaken the responsibility of furnishing two residences that house Syrian refugees and have volunteered to assist those refugees to acculturate to their new home and to assist with language lessons, baby-sitting or whatever is needed.

The need to fight against inequality and injustice is ongoing. Underprivileged and disadvantaged people need support and advocacy and the challenge to sustainability of our planet continues. Community activism is a huge weapon against unfairness and discrimination, so our group will, hopefully, continue on well into the future.