August 10, 2012
A day hardly goes by in Australia without mention of another arrival of a ‘boat’ raising a reality that challenges us all, regardless of our stance on the issue. If only the aboriginal nations had stuck up a sign on the beaches saying, “Stop the boats!” all those years ago!
What springs to mind for me is living in a situation created by Josephite Leadership in 1977, when 36 Vietnamese refugee sisters were welcomed to Baulkham Hills in Sydney to live with us – we were the latest group of young women beginning to discern a call to Josephite Religious Life. We all lived together for two years – both groups encountering huge difference of language, culture, identity and ways of living and making meaning of life. And I learned one of the most important things for me about the Charism of Mary MacKillop, about Australian Culture and about the heart of Josephiteness through immersion in this context. Hospitality.
What amazes me now is the decisive action taken on the part of leadership at that time and the response of those who ‘made room’ in hearts and one of our big homes for difference. In the light of the current political climate what amazes me even more now is the fact that what cleared the way was the Australian Government’s humanitarian decision to welcome the ‘other’ after the fall of Saigon. And what of the current challenge to us now?
What calls us is usually what challenges us and what inspires us to change. “If today you hear the Voice of God, harden not your hearts.” (Hebrews 3:7) This is the job of a Charism!
“Charism should engage us with what is missing – in us, in our communities, our churches, in society and our world – rather than carrying on doing what is already being done well by others. One of the shapes that ‘missingness’ or deep hunger takes today is the hunger for relationship, for connectedness, for an active participation in the creation of just and hospitable community.
The dynamic at the heart of healthy communities is hospitality – once said to be one of the hallmark of Josephite Culture inspired by the lives of Mary MacKillop, Julian Tenison Woods and their early companions. Recall the friendships and partnerships (with the ‘other’) of Mary MacKillop with Joanna Barr Smith (an Anglican Woman) and with Emmanuel Solomon (a Jewish ex-convict). Mary had a big vision that flowed from a big heart. She connected with anyone who was fired with a Vision that could transform the lives of those with few choices (the most vulnerable) in recognition of their dignity as human beings. The most meaningful way that one’s dignity is recognised and celebrated is through hospitality.…and hospitality costs! It costs time, space, effort, and honouring the other as you yourself would like to be honoured…and it creates community.
“Wherever we are, we are called to create Community”, these words are attributed to Mary MacKillop. Communities that do not have a vision bigger than themselves die! Communities that find a place in within the Josephite Spiritual Homeland exist for Mission – God’s Mission – To bring about God’s Passion for 'Shalom'. Wherever we are we are called to bring about God’s Vision for a world in which health, wholeness, healing and liberation are goals to which all our ministries aspire. This is to ‘do the Will of God”.
In the language of the first peoples of Aotearoa NZ the word hospitality is expressed as a compound word, Manaaki. 'Mana' = the Dignity of the human person and 'aki' = action. In the action of honouring the dignity of the ‘other’ we create hospitality, we widen the space of our tent (Isaiah 54). We are called to challenge, with dignity, (as did Mary MacKillop) the structures that deny the human dignity of all within creation. And then, “there where we are we will find God”. (Mary MacKillop – 1871). Within the Josephite Spiritual Homeland may we hear again the Call of our Hospitable God as expressed in the words of the Central Josephites’ 25th General Chapter Mandate:
“Held in God’s hospitable heart
We draw strength
to respond to places of violence, fear and insecurity in our world,
the places of insecurity and limitation in ourselves.
We renew our trust in God’s Providence
to lead us forth in hope.
Called to deep respect and reverence for difference
We enter uncharted territory with trust.
With courageous generosity we listen again for the voice of the poor.
Enlivened by the Cross we can embrace difference,
We reignite our passion for mission
And we walk as one
revealing the hospitable heart of God.”