Josephite Action Group (JAG) Training Weekend – November 2020

Saturday (29 November) saw many veteran JAG volunteers and some new volunteers meet at St Joseph’s Spirituality Centre at Baulkham Hills to develop skills to host refugee families on a weekend away at Telford Recreational Centre at The Royal National Park in 2021.

We began with a ‘getting to know you’ session led by our volunteers Mikaela and Violet. Sr Maria then told us stories of her experiences with people who are refugees, thus bringing us to a better understanding of the reasons people flee their birth country and the obstacles they face trying to start a new life in Australia.

Painting titled ‘On the Edge’ by Sr Helen Cooke

Time for personal exploration made use of Sr Helen Cooke’s painting, On the Edge. The volunteers were asked to reflect on where they stand on the issue of people seeking asylum. Are we indifferent, standing on the hill at the back of the group, preferring to remain ignorant? Are we in the boat with the people, wanting to develop a better understanding of their plight and to offer assistance and friendship? Or are we somewhere in-between? And indeed, wherever we are in this artwork, at this time, where would we like to be and why?

Each participant was given a copy of the image, and we were reminded that this was a good image to revisit often so that we could reflect on our understanding, empathy and commitment to a preferential option for the poor.

The remaining sessions focused on the program of events we were planning for our weekend away with refugee families. Ryley and Tom, another expert volunteer pair of leaders, worked collaboratively with the group to design the 2021 program. As we shared our excitement and anticipation, it was clear that the JAG volunteers were really looking forward to enacting this program and hosting the families.

During the past year, the JAGgers have partnered up with the House of Welcome (HoW) and this relationship continues to develop. It is our dream to invite families known to the HoW on our weekend away mid-year 2021. Our young volunteers continue to grow in their leadership capabilities. They are outstanding community of role models.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to the Honourable Tony Burke MP for supporting our application for a grant for volunteer training. Also, a huge thank you to Christine and her team at Baulkham Hills for being our hospitable and supportive hosts this weekend. Finally we are most grateful for the Mary MacKillop Today Grant funding we will receive. This grant will support our partnership with the House of Welcome and our work with refugee families. It will also contribute to our weekend for new arrived asylum seeker and refugee families – a weekend hosted by our JAG volunteers.

Of course, most praise and gratitude should be bestowed on our JAG volunteers. Giving up the weekend to prepare for the refugee family excursion has been but one offering these incredible young people have enacted this year. The twenty young people who committed to the gathering galvanised us with their vision, their commitment to the Josephite charism, their leadership, and their wanting to get involved and make a difference.

We continue to be inspired by the JAG group and we are hopeful that these future leaders are provided with the opportunity to contribute, if not lead, a community centred in compassion and justice. JAG for PM I say!

Karen Oxley
Josephite Justice Network