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Words with meaning

Opinion

Faith, hope and joy. Three simple, somewhat over-used words, especially at Christmas time.

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But these are the words that keep coming to me as I think of the stories we are privileged to share with you in The Southern Cross.

The faith that inspired Ruth Kobylanski and Monica Schneider to help so many others throughout their remarkable lives; the faith that has given us the blessing of Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ after a sorrowful beginning to his 50 years of priesthood; the faith that has sustained the East Timorese workers living thousands of kilometres away from their families.

The hope that is beginning to emerge from the tragic story of orphaned children Bhava and Palvith thanks to the support of their faith community, their school and their relatives; the hope offered to refugees through a new integration program which coincides with hopes for a more compassionate attitude from politicians; and the window of hope being given to people at risk of homelessness by the Vinnies’ Open Door program.

The sheer joy on the face of Eli Muscat when she beat the odds and received the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation; the joy and excitement of Christmas reflected in the hundreds of Archbishop’s Christmas card entries; the joy of musicians using their gifts to express their faith, and the joy of our multicultural communities with their rich and vibrant traditions.

There’s another word we use a lot at Christmas – peace. Sadly, for some people that’s not in their vocabulary at the moment. The people of Ukraine and other parts of the world experiencing conflict need all the support and prayers we can give them this Christmas. Mindful of the challenges being faced by the Ukrainian people as winter sets in, special collections were taken in parishes during Advent at the request of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Australia. In addition, Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, is providing funds through Caritas Ukraine to displaced people needing access to safe shelter, emergency food, water, hygiene kits, medication and psychosocial support.

This humanitarian crisis comes while millions of refugees from the Middle East and Africa languish in camps as they await resettlement. Organisations like Caritas Australia provide a glimmer of hope to people in these dire circumstances.

Not that long ago, we were also praying and showing solidarity for the hundreds of thousands of Christians forced to flee ISIS-held towns in Iraq. The restoration of the St Behnam and St Sarah Church in Qaraqosh after its liberation in 2016 is a symbol of hope rising from the ashes. As the local parish priest said, it is also a visible sign of the larger struggle to keep the Christian faith alive in Iraq.When Bishop Francis Murphy came to Adelaide in 1844 he had plenty of challenges to overcome. There was no Catholic church or school and only one priest to assist him.

A staunch defender of the Catholic faith, in just over a decade he established 12 churches and six chapels, built the Bishop’s House on West Terrace and commenced work on St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral.

Today we have the privilege of being able to celebrate the birth of Jesus in one of the 175 churches in the Catholic dioceses of Adelaide and Port Pirie. Let’s not take that for granted this Christmas. After all, we all need a little faith, hope and joy in our lives!

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