While in Rome to attend the Marist Sisters’ General Chapter Sr Noelene Simmons, a member of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans), took the opportunity to meet with Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Chiara Porro.
Ambassador Porro was interested to learn more about the work of ACRATH. During the meeting topics such as Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, the PALM Scheme (Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme), the need for a National Compensation Scheme, the 2022 Chocolate Scorecard and ACRATH’s international reach through organisations such as Talitha Kum were discussed.
Marist Sisters in the Asia-Pacific region celebrated the Season of Creation in various ways. The Season of Creation provided us with an opportunity to reflect on our common home, the Earth, and commit to ways of respecting and protecting it into the future.
In Fiji the sisters do this simply by planting their own vegetables, keeping their environment clean, pot planting, planting root crops and composting.
In the Raiwaqa community Sr Rosemary put together a display depicting creation from the beginning and the current devastating state of the earth -the natural and man -made destructive forces brought about through the effects of climate change. Many of the psalms sing in praise of God’s creation. As Bearers of Hope, we believe the Earth is alive and vibrant and wish to do all in our power to protect it.
In the Sefton Community in Australia, Srs Gail and Kate celebrated the Congregation feastday, the Holy Name of Mary, with a practical response to the Season of Creation. They did a make over of their garden.
As part of the Human Rights component of their Legal Studies course, Year 12 students at Marist Sisters College Woolwich are studying Human Trafficking. Recently ACRATH member, Noelene Simmons sm, was a guest speaker for the class. The presentation included an explanation of what human trafficking is and the forms it takes in Australia and beyond, the legislation that exists in Australia to fight against this crime and the actions we can take to help in eliminating human trafficking and slavery. The students were very engaged throughout the presentation. Comments from the students include:
“Sister Noelene’s presentation opened my eyes to the injustice within the global community in relation to human trafficking and how we as young adults can act to strive for a more equal world.” (Emma)
“The presentation was really informative and helped me understand more about human trafficking and slavery issues within our world. The ethical brands booklet is very interesting, it’s good to learn more about the products I buy. (Cinzia)
“Sister Noelene’s presentation was engaging and really emphasised the ways that us as a community can make a difference in stopping modern day slavery” (Lauren)
In the Philippines the Marist Fathers Chanel Community joined the celebration of the opening of the Dental clinic for children at Balay Pasilungan. The newly blessed dental equipment enables Marist Sister Sheila Manalo SM (a dentist) to offer safe and covid-free clinic to children.
Founded by the Society of Mary in 1989, Balay Pasilungan is home to former street boys. They eat, sleep, play and pray as a family, supported by a social worker and house parents under the supervision of a Marist priest. Many of the boys also attend a local school.
[Photo: www.maristasia.org. Marist Community with Fr Gil Casio SM, the new executive director of Balay Pasilungan with their dentist, Sr Sheila Manalo SM]
On this Peace Sunday (17th January) we join with Pope Francis in praying for peace in our world. In his message for the World Day of Peace on 1st January 2021 Pope Francis took as his theme A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace. Download the Pope’s message here.
The 2020 Lenten Season has begun. There are various ways of journeying through Lent so that we deepen our relationship with God, with each other and with the whole of creation. Catholic Religious Australia has developed a Lenten Fast Calendar to assist us in this journey. The calendar provides suggestions for each day of Lent. Download your copy here.
Following the tragic massacre of so many members of our Christchurch community there was an outpouring of grief, compassion and support throughout New Zealand. Here in Auckland, Bishop Pat arranged a special prayer service in our church in Vermont Street which is opposite one of the Muslim mosques. We Marist Sisters were pleased to be able to attend. The church was filled up to capacity and among those were some fifty Muslim men and women who were seated at the front of the church. After the service, we crossed the road expecting to place our gifts of flowers with those already there outside the fence of the mosque. However, we found the gates open and so became part of a long procession which ended at the entrance to the mosque itself. There, we were graciously welcomed inside by Muslim women and seated inside, heard again of the gratitude for our presence and support. We came away happy to have been part of this special experience.
On Wednesday 21st March 2019 the Marist Sisters of the Nadi community in Fiji witnessed a very simple but meaningful missioning ceremony of Sister Lora who is undertaking a reforestation project in the Yasawa Islands. Also present were Srs Lavinia Henry, Fiji Unit Leader, Noelene Simmons, General Bursar, and Lorraine Campbell, Fiji Unit Bursar. The hymns and readings reflected the purpose of missioning Lora to the land of her ancestors named MATANIWAI. The reforestation project that she is undertaking involves planting long term and short term trees, shrubs, flowers, fruit trees and vegetables. The principles of Laudato Si as expressed by Pope Francis are mirrored in this project. The Marist Sisters support Lora in this project and wish her well.
The Cerdon College Year 10 Justice and Peace unit of work this year involved students in reaching out to those less fortunate as well as learning from those working in the field of Social Justice. Keynote speaker on the day was Marist Sister Noelene Simmons who spoke of her work with ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans).
At lunch time students were able to purchase sausages cooked by Rotary with the funds raised being donated back to Rotary so as to purchase a Shelter Box, a resource to provide immediate relief for families affected by natural disasters and conflict. The Shelter Box ensures that a family of 10 can survive while more permanent infrastructure is organised.
The day concluded with a practical activity where all students were asked to assemble a solar light to assist students in developing countries complete their homework. This initiative is in an attempt to break the poverty cycle by ensuring children gain an education so as to achieve employment as adults. The solar light “kits” were purchased from Solar Buddy with the funds for this kindly donated by the Marist Sisters Australia.
The United Nations General Assembly recognizes that social development and social justice are indispensable for the achievement and maintenance of peace and security within and among nations and that it cannot be attained in the absence of respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms. On 26 November 2007, the General Assembly declared 20 February will be celebrated annually as the World Day of Social Justice. The theme for 2018 World Social Justice Day is Workers on the Move: the Quest for Social Justice. In his message for World Social Justice Day, International Labour Organisation(ILO) Director-General, Mr. Guy Ryders said “Migrant workers, like all workers, are entitled to fair treatment and fair treatment for migrant workers is also key to preserving the social fabric of our societies and to sustainable development.”
Throughout the world Marist Sisters are committed to “accompanying by prayer – and where possible, our actions – all peoples in situation where life is at risk'” (General Chapter 2015). In the Asia Pacific Region sisters are actively working to be a voice for refugees and asylum seekers and for women, men and children who have been trafficked or exploited in situations of forced labour.