Consider the cause of the poor
KATE CLEARY works with the poor in Canberra and is in the process of setting up a facility for women and children at risk.
For some years now, I have been visiting people on housing complexes in my local area. As I have gotten to know more people I see many new and serious problems emerging in our society that seem to me should be of concern to us as Catholics.
Attention to them seems, if I can put it this way, very much part of our job description as disciples of Christ.
Among the sad things I regularly encounter behind the doors in Canberra are: drug and alcohol addiction, children taken by the state for their protection, domestic violence, assault and murder, habitual theft, premature deaths from drug overdose, alcohol poisoning and suicide, social isolation, estranged families, abortion and its aftermath, prostitution and homelessness.
As I go about my work I see the state and other providers marshalling enormous forces to assist with these emerging problems.
I am in regular contact with child protection workers, the judiciary and the police force, the methadone clinic, mental health workers, the crisis assessment team, hospitals and the extended families of these unhappy people.
Over time these groups have started to ask for my assistance. I now regularly find myself at meetings among providers where my role is ill-defined but I am perceived as useful.
But what exactly is my role? I was surprised when they asked me what help I provided and I told them I catch up for coffee regularly, or I check in on the phone to make sure she/he’s still clean, or I drive them to appointments. It sounds pretty lame to me, but these people would become quite excited by this and say,’ Can you please keep doing this’? Or ‘Can you do this more often’? And then it struck me: what our society could do with is an increase in mothers!
When we hear the phrase the breakdown of the family we forget that that means there’s often now no one to nag (which is something I do regularly); no one to check on the little things. No one to care about the details, the details of the person, their strengths and their weaknesses, their needs and their talents, their histories: no one either to care for them or to keep them accountable. So, like the orphans they are, they grow wild and get into trouble.
Statistics bear out much of what I see on my rounds. As of June 30 2015, there were 43,000 Australian children living in out-of-home care; 2016 figures show 83,000 abortions per annum in Australia (amounting to more than one in three births); 41.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used illicit drugs in their lifetime. On average in Australia, one woman a week is murdered by someone known to her, often a former partner. At the time of writing there have been six such murders in five days.
We scratch our heads at these new and emerging problems. Science and technology do what they can to address them. But in the end, they speak clearly of the fact that we have forgotten God or perhaps we are living as though He did not exist even while we profess faith in Him. The care of these distressed people belongs mainly to us, the Church. It is our job to extend care and assistance to these people – some of the most deprived in history.
My own experience shows me that it is not hard to care for them. You don’t need any particular skill – just the desire to love. It is our job to bind up the wounds of these new Samaritans and to remind them – through our love – that they are loved by God.
It is time for us to see with God’s eyes the sad condition of so many in our country and to act as He would in their regard. As Lumen Gentium reminded us way back in 1964. The Church ‘encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder.’
The Good Shepherd Prayer Group is hosting a day seminar to canvas ways to address these new and emerging needs on November 10 at St Peter Chanel’s Church, Weston St Yarralumla. For more information contact Neda – 0415 266 019; Susanna – 0419 902 293.