Friends, collaborators and staff of the Columban Mission Institute came together in North Sydney on 23 September for the ‘CMI Celebration’ to mark the closing of the Institute in October.
For many years, CMI has contributed to mission in Sydney and beyond – in formation and education for mission, Christian-Muslim relations and interfaith relations in general, and in Peace, Ecology and Justice.
The occasion was an opportunity to remember, give thanks and celebrate the achievements over many years of the CMI and the people who made them possible – benefactors, staff, students, collaborators, supporters, partners in various events, and participants in various programs.
On the day, MC duties were shared by CMI staff members Fr Noel Connelly and Liesje Barratt.
Anne Lanyon, Deputy Director CMI, welcomed the 120 guests gathered at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College. The past five Directors of the CMI were present: Fr Trevor Trotter, Fr Reg Howard, Fr Noel Connolly, Fr Jim Mulroney and Fr Patrick McInerney. Fr Gary Walker, Regional Director of St Columban’s Mission Society, acknowledged the role of CMI in the Region and in the Society.
Throughout the evening, a number of ‘Storytellers’ shared their memories and connections to CMI, from its forerunners, St Columban’s College seminary and the missiology course at the Pacific Mission Institute (PMI), North Turramurra, to the present day mode of Centres focussed on missionary priorities.
Dr Gerard Goldman, CEO of the Broken Bay Institute – The Australian Institute of Theological Education (BBI-TAITE);
Professor Therese D’Orsa, Professor Mission & Culture at BBI-TAITE;
Mr John McGrath, former Assistant Director (Mission) at Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Broken Bay;
Sr Monica Cavanagh RSJ, Congregational Leader of the Sisters of St Joseph;
Associate Professor Mehmet Ozalp, Director of the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy (ISRA); and
Alison Healy, member of The Grail Australia.
A Mass of Thanksgiving was concelebrated by Columban Superior General Fr Kevin O’Neill and CMI Director Fr Patrick McInerney. The choir from St Vincent’s Church, Ashfield, under the direction of Jenny Collins-White, led the singing.
In his homily, Fr Kevin said that over the years CMI had discerned the ‘signs of the times’ and responded, by the promptings of the Holy Spirit, to changing needs.
“As missionary disciples of Jesus sharing the joy of the Gospel, our Gospel understanding of solidarity has, and continues to take us to the periphery of society and into relationship with people and communities which have been unjustly and structurally excluded from the fullness of life.
“Our Gospel understanding of solidarity calls us to care for all creation, and advocate for the necessary changes needed to protect the earth.
“We join our voices with all who have been marginalized, forming companionships of empowerment, as we work for global systematic and structural change.”
In his concluding remarks at the end of the evening, Fr Patrick McInerney said that although the CMI will close on 10 October, this does not mean the end of mission.
“The labours of the past have borne fruit, so that many of our Columban concerns – the Vatican II and subsequent understandings of mission, of justice, of peace, of ecology – have been handed on and are now part of the regular life of the local churches. God’s mission is being carried on by laity, by religious, by activists, in myriad ways, with migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, people of all faiths and none, in parishes, schools, hospitals, chaplaincies and secular organizations, in towns, cities and rural areas across Australia and beyond.”
“As the Columban Mission Institute closes, some of our missionary projects are being handed on to others, the Culture of Peace Formation Program to Catholic Mission, and the Faith Ecology Network to be facilitated by ACU. And Fr Peter O’Neill will bring his experience in Taiwan to his new role as the Columban Peace, Ecology and Justice Coordinator at the Columban Mission Centre in Essendon.”
Fr Patrick also said Columbans in Sydney will continue those other missionary works that do not depend on the Columban Mission Institute.
“For example, Fr Noel Connolly and I offering courses in mission studies at the Catholic Institute of Sydney and at the Broken Bay Institute; Fr Brian Vale and the Josephites facilitating intercultural courses for church personnel coming from overseas or returning from overseas. Fr Noel Connolly is already working part-time with Catholic Mission and for the 2020 Plenary Council.
“Since Christian-Muslim relations continue to be a pressing issue for church and society, here in Australia and around the world, and since Columbans are in a privileged position to build on the friendships we have established over the past 20 years, we will continue the Christian-Muslim apostolate.”
“Other Columbans in Sydney will continue to contribute in various ways – through chaplaincies, service to the Chinese Catholic communities, Mass supplies, attending events, and supporting church and secular organizations that serve the common good.”
Fr Patrick concluded by remembering Abraham and Sarah, and Elizabeth and Zachariah, who, although aged, became parents. He reflected that the Columbans, who celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Society in 2018 and complete 100 years in Australia in 2020, by God’s grace and by faith, will “continue to contribute to the life of the local churches and society.”
To view a gallery of photos from the ‘CMI Celebration’, click here.
To download a copy of A Brief History of the Columban Mission Institute, click here.
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