Sometime last year, at a formation day with the Kildare Ministries Principals and Managers of the KM community works, we were challenged to consider ‘how will we be known?’ The answer, for us, is in the way we express a spirituality of justice inspired by the life of Jesus. The value of justice, as a core value for our College, is about making the needs of the vulnerable paramount. In the Principles of Living Justice, a charter to guide our work we are reminded that often this calls us to ‘disturb the status quo’. Jesus did this in his ministry. He befriended women, dined with tax collectors, healed the unclean, welcomed the gentiles. In being the ‘now of God’ we too are called to continue Jesus’ work for justice with the vulnerable and marginalized of our current time.
Today our staff paused to listen, learn and reflect on how we can be a community who live justly so that this will be how we will be known as a Kildare Ministries school. Today was a time to walk in the shoes of those who have experienced being on the margins as well as considering the ‘cries of the earth’ in terms of ecological justice.
Our keynote speaker Elise Stephenson shared a deeply personal story of how her narrative has shaped her life’s work in a quest for justice. Her story has led her to challenge thinking about gender inequality, domestic violence, LGBTI+ discrimination, disability and youth underrepresentation. Elise had some key messages for us as a community:
– Work out what you dislike (in terms of injustice) and change it
– Start in your own backyard
– Fighting for justice comes in many forms
– Justice only exists if we act
– Love and curiosity trumps fear.
Staff then explored more deeply various themes around our first nation people, ecological justice and understanding LGBTI+ inclusion. Some engaged in a prayerful meditation based on the sacred oak, part of Celtic Christian tradition, as a way of reflecting on the experiences of the morning. We thank all our presenters who were so generous with us today.
We are also grateful for our Catholic Identity team, led by Linda Kiernan Director of Catholic Identity, who prepared the day for us. Some of their reflections are included below:
I am feeling very proud to be a part of the Catholic Identity team and more importantly Clonard College. Thank you to Linda and Luci for allowing us to have these important conversations. Being a part of a team that is responsible for opening the hearts and minds of our school community is a big responsibility but to quote Elise Stephensen “… the universe is wider than our views of it” and “justice only exists if we ACT”. It seems that all of our guest speakers today have inspired and challenged many of us. Jordy talked about treaty and when asked why people feared it and how can we get the word out there, he explained that this movement for change is not hidden. It’s at our fingertips. We just have to be curious enough to find it and to be brave enough to walk alongside our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Gab McMahon – Catholic Identity Team: ATSI Leader
Elise inspired us to be brave, to act against injustice on our doorstep and that we can all make a difference. She spoke passionately about curiosity and love and its ability to overcome even the greatest obstacles. My hope would be that along with strength and kindliness that these can become instilled in the mindset of the staff and students of Clonard College. The sessions with Jordy and Kath were amazing. Confronting at times but necessary to provoke conversation about the injustice suffered by the First Australians. Only by confronting it can we hope to heal.
Ryan Healy – Catholic Identity Team: Living Justice Leader
Elise shared her own personal story to highlight Living Justly. There were many wonderful insights and reflections she brought to us. Some of these included; We are subtly part of the injustice if we do nothing. Instead, we can ask ourselves the question, “in what ways can I fight for justice?” We all have our own unique place in the world. Be the who and how, from where you are and make a difference. Find out what you dislike about the world and ask how can you change it? The term ‘insectionality’ was a new idea; meaning intersecting identities, a variety of people with their own experiences. Elise highlighted the importance of consultation with all groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds and experiences so that we can gain greater knowledge and insights to inform where injustice may be hidden.
A quote from Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia Founder, from his book, Let My People Go Surfing, “Justice only exists if we act.”
Elise ended her talk encouraging us with these four main points:
- Go beyond your own understanding and experience of life. “The universe is wider than our views of it.” DH ThoreauApathy breeds injustice.
- Knowledge and critical thought are essential. Justice isn’t laws and regulations, it’s morals and ethics.
- Love and curiosity trumps fear.
Margie Abbott shared a wealth of resources and information to open up our interest and curiosity on the topic of ecological justice and the important encyclical by Pope Francis, Laudato si’. Climate change affects us all but will have greater impact on poorer nations. We have a moral responsibility to look after our common home and protect the earth. Altering our forest ecosystems for the sake of profit is having huge impacts on the earth and we see how our climate is changing rapidly. Pope Francis calls us to live a different lifestyle, focus on replacing fossil fuels and reducing consumption. He warns us of the ecological disaster approaching and the urgency with which we need to respond. There is a fundamental interconnectedness between all living things. All other species have the right to exist. We need ‘Eco-Conversion’. Margie will share some resource links so that we can use these at Clonard in the classroom and within the whole school community.
Lesley managed to lead us on a beautiful, reflective journey deep into the world of The Sacred Oak. The power of her guided meditation opened up insights that could be individually explored through creative drawing and words.
What a wonderful day to pause from normal schoolwork and be inspired with such a diversity of presenters and broaden both our thinking and beingness. It felt fantastic to be part of the Catholic Identity team.
Lisa Singline – Catholic Identity Team: Sustainability Leader
As mentioned above, Elise shared a quote from HD Thoreau ‘the universe is wider than our view of it’. For me each one of our guests today invited me into their space, to be with and learn with them as they shared with us the dignity and sacredness of their life story. In a search for truth-telling, inclusion and justice there is a deeply human need to feel a sense of identity, belonging and connection. This is where living justly is fulfilling John 10:10 ‘I have come that all may have life to the full and have it abundantly.’ There is always room to do better, room to do more, to learn more, to know more and to be more. This was what today was about for us, as we strive to ensure we are known as a community that lives justice, to be the ‘now of God’.