SJ Around
The Bay

SJ Around the Bay is a network of people engaged in social justice ministry who gather to exchange ideas on activities and interests of the various parish social justice groups.

Summary of Learnings

SJ Around the Bay is a network of people within the Diocese of Broken Bay engaged in social justice ministry who gather four times per year to exchange ideas on activities and interests of the various parish social justice groups.

The group was started about 6 years ago on the suggestion of Anne Lanyon, a member of the Catholic Parish of Frenchs Forest Parish Social Justice Group who suggested that there should be an opportunity for social justice groups to meet and share ideas. The support of Bishop David Walker was essential for the group to get started and has provided both support and encouragement in the group’s establishment.
 

Initially, meetings were held once per year which was a forum for the various parish social justice groups to provide an update on their activities as a way of exchanging ideas. It was decided that the network should be formalised and meetings should occur more frequently.

In addition to groups exchanging ideas and updates on their various parish activities it is also a way for the group to offer practical support and encouragement to each other in their ministries.

As one of the members commented “Social Justice is naturally a team ministry as it requires people power!” As another member commented “SJ Around the Bay as a network inspires each other, it’s an expression of the commandment to love our neighbour. It’s an effort to build the kingdom of God”.

Phil Jones is a member of the Frenchs Forest Parish Social Justice group and is the convenor of the meetings. The meetings are open to anyone who is engaged in social justice ministry in the Diocese.

As a member of SJ Around the Bay said “ the statement “Reaching Out” articulates what we are all about, we sometimes worry about maintaining numbers of people engaged in this ministry, but whenever we ask for support for a campaign we are overwhelmed with how generous people are.”

In addition to the group meeting four times per year, they are in regular email contact sharing information about social justice campaigns. They have had two conferences jointly organised with the Diocesan St Vincent de Paul Society.

While parish groups are involved in raising money for those who are disadvantaged, social justice is more than this (charity) it is also about looking at the reasons that people require such help, the causes of disadvantage and the conditions which prevent people from living their full dignity. It then involves acting in whatever way practicable to improve the situation.

This type of ministry requires the involvement of people beyond those engaged in parish Social Justice Groups. Often the barrier for participation is that people do not understand social justice. When people know and understand an issue, they are prepared to do something even if it’s something small.

Giving people the background, a story makes all the difference.

SJ Around the Bay is supported by Sr Meg Tallafer, the Diocesan Social Justice Coordinator and Diocesan Caritas Director. The group also maintains a link with the Sydney Alliance through Deacon Roberto Corpuz. The Diocese of Broken Bay is a member of this group.

SJ Around the Bay also facilitates its work through the website. It is a “blogging” site and parishioners are welcome to register and post their own messages and comments. It aims to introduce some of the major social justice issues of concern to social justice groups and parishioners.

Some of these social justice issues include Global Development and the Millennium Development Goals, Fair Trade Products, caring for our environment, the Right to Life, Justice for all in Palestine/Israel, Refugees, Homelessness and Affordable Housing and Indigenous Australians.

The website also provides prayer resources, links to sites providing insight into Catholic Social Teaching, Biblical Social Justice references and to like minded Social Justice organisations. Visitors to the website are able to subscribe to posts which update them on events, campaign, forums, film night, conferences etc. as well as providing information on some of the issues of concern.

Parishioners are also able to link up with others in their Parish or within the Diocese to gain support for a social justice issue that concerns them. School social justice groups are warmly invited to link with SJ Around the Bay.

When asked, the members of SJ Around the Bay named the following as the keys to successful Social Justice Ministry:

  • Raising awareness of the issues of social justice, this is one of the important functions of the ministry its not just about raising money
  • Love and hope have to be base the of everything we do. Otherwise the problems can be too big
  • We need achievable goals
  • Communication is essential
  • We have to ask the right questions – which is “what should we do?” not (“what can I do?”)
  • Networking with other groups in the Diocese and having common/shared initiatives
  • To acknowledge that social justice is not just a function of the church or a ministry in the church – it is the church in action
  • Linking social justice to life in simple ways – one of the members mentioned that he prays with the newspaper – he will read an article and then pray for the people that are working in that area of injustice or for the people affected, or when he receives an email he takes a moment to pray about its contents and the people involved
  • Being open and transparent about activities and inviting all to participate/contribute
  • Having dedicated members
  • Having a good age range of members

 

  • Support of Parish Priest is key
  • Listening to the needs and interests of the parish and local community to ensure maximising resources
  • Ensuring co-ordination with other parish ministries that may have the same interests
  • Linking in with and supporting national and international research and advocacy groups such as the Jubilee movement and the Publish What You Pay network
  • Organised advocacy.

The group was also asked to consider the things that are challenging about Social Justice ministry?

  • Connecting social justice to life
  • A sense of powerlessness
  • Not having a recognised strategy
  • Dealing with issues that are confronting and they take us out of our comfort zone
  • Having enough resources to communicate a message and organise a campaign
  • It can be hard to get “air” in the parish for the issues either in the newsletter or at mass, when there are many other activities happening in a parish
  • People are desensitised to the issues – they have seen so much on TV, and there are seemingly so many problems

What are some of the best ways to engage people in Social Justice?

  • Social justice has to be a personal concern, they need to engage with the story
  • We need to enthuse people and grab their attention
  • We need to be relevant
  • We need to have ideas for action that go beyond just donating money, and easy ways for people to act – for example form letters, email, on line petitions, post cards.
  • We need to thank people for their support
  • The capacity to communicate effectively
  • Ensuring links between parish groups
  • Responding to personal initiatives – having a go and getting support

Summary of Learnings

  • The group noted the importance of co-ordination in a parish between ministries to ensure that there is not “competition” for the same resources.
     
  • People are extremely generous and prepared to be involved if campaigns are well thought out and packaged for ease of engagement

 

 

  • People need to be emotionally engaged to be involved in social justice
     
  • The network provides the opportunity for collaboration and sharing resources. The group can also offer each other support and encouragement

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001
news@dbb.org.au

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