Catholic Church plans national response to bushfires

Parishes across Australia will take up special collections at Masses on Australia Day weekend to support people and communities affected by devastating bushfires that have claimed more than 20 lives.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge, in a statement on January 7, spoke of “our powerlessness before the devastating force of nature”, while praising the “heroic” efforts of firefighters and the resilience of the affected communities.

But, he said, “we need more than words. Expressions of solidarity are important, but they are not enough”.

“The bishops are aware of the huge amount being done around the nation, led by governments and first responders. Many local faith communities, including Catholic parishes and organisations, as well as ecumenical and inter-religious coalitions, are also making a big contribution,” Archbishop Coleridge said.

“While the bishops typically respond to challenges at a parish or diocesan level, the scale of this crisis requires a national response from the whole Church to complement and coordinate what is happening locally.”

In addition to the special collections on the Australia Day weekend, which will support the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal, the bishops will also facilitate efforts to connect people in need with people who can help meet those needs.

Catholic Social Services Australia has said its national network of agencies has significant representation in many affected communities, with work to support individuals and families under way – but certain to take a long time.

“Our strengths in responding are in areas of trauma-informed counselling and support services, critical incident debriefing, financial counselling and children and family therapies,” CSSA chief executive officer Ursula Stephens said.

“For Catholic social services responding to disasters, the efforts are targeted and sustained for weeks, months and years – well after the national spotlight has faded.”

National Catholic Education Commission executive director Jacinta Collins said families of students in Catholic schools in affected areas should consider speaking to principals about school fee relief.

Catholic schools and Catholic education offices also have trained counsellors who can help students and their families.

Catholic Religious Australia also pointed out that many members of religious institutes work in rural and remote parts of the country and will look to support affected communities, in partnership with other Catholic agencies.

Archbishop Coleridge said that the practical work to respond to the bushfire crisis “must draw strength from prayer, which inspires concrete and compassionate action”.

The Bishops Conference has published prayers for various settings. They can be accessed on the Bishops Conference website.

1 thought on “Catholic Church plans national response to bushfires

  1. Peter Murphy

    To Whom It May Concern

    I am very pleased that the ACBC is arranging for an appeal to be made at Masses for the bushfire relief on the Australia Day weekend.

    I would like to make two comments:

    1) I hear time and time again people asking whether the Catholic Church is doing anything to help with the bushfire relief. For Catholics, we know that ‘Vinnies’ is a Catholic organisation, but this is not true for many. The same applies to the support being given by Caritas, CatholicCare, Catholic Hospitals and Schools, etc. But, the good work of the Church is not being recognised, not that this is the reason for the good work! What is important is that the Church is fully involved in the Bushfire Appeal and, at the same time, is ‘seen’ to be proactive and involved in this extraordinary time in Australia. Given the widespread ‘bad’ press the Church has received, the Church should be looking for opportunities to publicise WIDELY all the good that it does. This current crisis in Australia presents an opportunity for the Church to be generous in the community by helping all Australians in these demanding times. As well, it also provides an opportunity to provide and promote ‘good’ press about the Church. PLEASE, do not underestimate the possibilities that are currently presented for the Church to be highly visible in helping and assisting ALL in our community.

    Unfortunately, I do not think this is currently happening!

    2) The Bushfire Appeal on the Australia Day weekend in all Australian Catholic Parishes is excellent and I strongly commend the ACBC for doing this. But, I am recommending that this goes further. Give ALL the money from ALL the collections in ALL Australian Parishes to the Bushfire Appeal. By doing that, it is not just Catholics donating to the Appeal, but it will be the Catholic Church donating out of its own pocket! No doubt that this will cause hardship, but it will be the Church suffering with the people.

    A gesture of this magnitude would be of significant assistance to the Bushfire Appeal and would go a long way in providing a positive reflection of the Church by everyday Australians. The Church needs to regain some credibility and what better way to do this but by helping thousands upon thousands of Australians in need during this crisis?

    Please, be generous to the point of hurting. Help Australia and help the Australian Catholic Church!

    Yours sincerely,

    Peter

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