In the last couple of months we Columbans have made a big change. Big changes always require some deep thinking. The big change was that now Australia, New Zealand and Fiji are one Region whereas before we were two Regions. My deep thinking has been around some basic questions. What are we Columbans doing here in Oceania? What is our purpose? What is our vision or our mission?
A short answer to these questions is that we Columbans are here, with the Catholic communities in these three countries, doing Church business.
Our mission is to be part of the mission of the Catholic communities in Oceania. So our questions are part of a bigger question. What is the mission of the Catholic Church in Oceania?
Fortunately we do not have to do much research to answer this question. One of the biggest questions addressed by the Bishops at Vatican II was precisely this. What is the purpose of the Church? Answer: To bring the world into a unity in God.
The world is already one in God but we do not realise it. The message of Jesus is to help us wake up to the fact of our oneness in God. This is also the message of the Church, of all of us who are Christians. We work with the Spirit of God to build one world where we live with our brothers and sisters from all cultures, religions and backgrounds. The idea that we would ever have a world full of peace, love and justice seems to be so impossible and unrealistic. However our message to our world is that because God lives in our midst we can hope for a much better world. The Spirit of God continues to hover over the chaos and brings forth form and beauty.
My next bit of thinking went something like this: It is good to have some idea of our mission but what have we got to work with to help God realise this dream of a wonderful world? In Australia there are a lot of good people in the churches but we are getting older. The energy levels are not what they used to be. The new sources of energy are coming from churches in other countries. We are blessed with strong numbers of Catholics from Vietnam, India, the Philippines and other places. Our younger clergy are also from other cultures. The unity of the human race that God desires is on its way to becoming a reality within the multi-cultural Church in Australia and New Zealand.
As readers of The Far East magazine know very well the Columbans and our supporters have been engaged in working with people of other cultures all our lives. It is one of the reasons why God called us into existence as a Society. Our mission is to build bridges across the divisions of culture and language. That way we can cross over to another place and learn what God has done in the midst of those people. We can see and learn that these people, who initially seemed so different from us, are sons and daughters of God too. That really they are one with us in God.
Now that we are closer to our brothers and sisters in Fiji, what do we see? If you go to Mass in Fiji you see bright colours, wonderful tropical flowers, many families, and singing like you would rarely hear in Australia! The communal togetherness of people in Fiji is also a great challenge to our Australian way of life. We could learn more about what God’s desire for unity looks like by being part of the Church of Fiji. Hopefully the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand will be able to share stories of Fiji through our magazine, our website and social media that will inspire and encourage all of us on our journey to one world in God.
Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania