The first call for those working in social services is to see the need of others through the eyes of God, Lismore Bishop Greg Homeming OCD has told Catholic social service leaders from across the country.
On a day when tributes to the late Fr Leo Donnelly featured prominently, Bishop Homeming issued his challenge – and invitation – at the Catholic Social Services Australia national conference.
This year’s conference is being held in Port Macquarie because of Fr Donnelly’s work over almost 50 years in the New South Wales town, where he helped integrate Catholic ministries to respond to the needs of the community.
The conference theme is “Meeting the Unmet Need”.
Bishop Homeming said “Fr D”, as he was known, was the only example he’s seen of someone who exemplifies the Aristotelian virtue of megalopsuchia, often translated inadequately as “magnanimity”.
“Such people do exist, but they’re very rare. And I met my first and only megalopsuchos in Fr Leo Donnelly,” Bishop Homeming said in the inaugural Fr Leo Donnelly Oration.
“The best way to describe a megalopsuchos is his body is not big enough to contain his soul – someone whose soul, whose capacity for goodness, whose compassion, whose virtue is so great that it just bursts out of them.
“Port Macquarie had such a man for 48 years. We are honouring that man whose soul was too big.”
Bishop Homeming’s oration centred on two often-challenging Scripture passages: “The poor will be with you always” and “Be compassionate, as your heavenly Father is compassionate”.
“Christian charity begins with being able to see God not in the problem, but in the people,” he said.
“We are not solving poverty, we are meeting God in the people and bringing God to those people who seemingly don’t experience God.
“It’s not our job to solve poverty, but I believe it’s my job to find God in the people – because then they are people, and not a problem.
“Because until I can find God, how do I know what God wants me to do? Our work, because it is the Church’s work, is God’s work. We are simply the instruments of God.”
Fr Homeming said that is what he believes Fr Donnelly saw – more than a need.
“He was given the gift to see what God sees.”