In May this year, members of the Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and the Justice and Peace Commission joined with the Aboriginal Catholic community of Stradbroke Island to remember the establishment of the first Catholic Aboriginal mission in Australia and to renew the commitment of the Church of Brisbane to a deep and lasting bond with the first peoples of this land.
At that special celebration, Archbishop Coleridge told us that the desire for a deep bond of communion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples did not die with the failure of the mission on Stradbroke Island. This desire remains strong within the Church today.
He also told us that the Church is committed to honouring the dignity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by seeking to empower them to shape their own future.
The Archdiocesan Murri Ministry Team and Justice and Peace Commission embrace the Archbishop’s words with great passion and joy and urge parishes, schools and agencies around the Archdiocese to also embrace his words wholeheartedly and turn them into action.
At the 2011 Census, there were 12,935 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. There are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics living in every parish. In some, there is only a handful. In many, there are dozens and even hundreds. Yet, we know that very few come to parishes for the celebration of the Eucharist each Sunday.
We acknowledge the many efforts in parishes, schools and agencies over many years to reach out to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We encourage these efforts to continue and to grow.
We encourage every parish, school and agency to not only strive to be a community of welcome and hospitality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but to also go out into the community to meet and dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples where they live.
We also encourage parishes, schools and agencies to make efforts to develop a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and spirituality. More opportunities for cross-cultural training and education are needed to enable this to happen.
On this International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, we also urge parishes, schools and agencies to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their struggle for dignity and empowerment. In this regard, we especially recommend that efforts be made to learn about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A commitment to understand their relationship with the land and the sea, their experience of racism and their struggle against disadvantage and inequity will strengthen and deepen the bonds of communion to which the God of love constantly invites us.
This commitment requires more than an annual celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday. It needs a concerted effort every day of every year. Building trust with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is not easy. Years of humiliation and hurt have created significant barriers between us. Nevertheless, this is a task which is part and parcel of the mission of the Church in our place and time. We invite all Catholics to embrace this task, not as a burden, but as a wonderful gift from God.
This statement is issued by the Commission with the support of the Murri Ministry Team. For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.