Leadership for mission is based on inclusivity, dialogue and encounter and it must be deeply anchored in a trusting relationship with God and a desire to share the joy of the Gospel, a visiting US religious sister told the recent Mission: One heart many voices conference in Sydney.
Dr Carol Zinn ssj, a Sister of St Joseph from Philadelphia and Executive Director of the US Leadership Conference of Women Religious, was a keynote speaker at the conference co-hosted by Catholic Mission and Catholic Religious Australia.
“Leadership for mission is about trust,” she said. “Without having that relationship of trust with God, it is almost impossible to lead mission.
“How do we lead for mission? Well, we can’t get there without getting very good at inclusivity, dialogue and encounter.”
The first part of Dr Zinn’s address focused on living the joy of the Gospel, the focus of Pope Francis’ first apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and a key theme of the conference. Critical to doing so, she said, is choosing love over fear, inclusivity over exclusivity, and mercy over judgement.
‘We have a choice of how we’re going to be and how we’re not going to be, and we have to know the difference,’ she said.
Acknowledging that it is sometimes difficult to do mission in our home context and step out as Jesus did, Dr Zinn encouraged the audience to witness. “We must witness to the Gospel if we are to be prophetic in our response,’ she said. “Practicing the Gospel requires a mutuality response; humility and curiosity are necessary to break down polarisation.”
Bishop Paul Tighe, the Vatican’s Secretary for the Pontifical Council on Culture, spoke of the challenges facing the Church in today’s digital world.
“One of the things I’ve found is that there are great things happening at local levels, and that is the richness of our Church,” he said.
“Among the main challenges we face is the question, what does it mean to be Church in the geography and demography of the digital world?”
The answer comes in authenticity, witness and what we communicate, he said. “When we communicate, we are communicating the person of Jesus. It is a person, not just a message.”
Earlier, the conference opened with a moving acknowledgement of country by representatives from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and a mesmerising performance from the Catholic Schools Performing Arts group, focused on inclusion and multiculturalism.
Other keynote addresses were delivered by Mrs Ravina Waldren, Mr Robert Fitzgerald, Dr Robyn Miller and Archbishop Timothy Costelloe with Mrs Lana Turvey-Collins among others.
The conference, attended by about 400 people, concluded with a sombre prayer of lament, healing and hope, mindful of those hurting because of the Church’s failings, including Indigenous Australians and children and families affected by institutional sexual abuse.
Dr Zinn sent participants on their way with a strong message of encouragement.
‘Beyond 2020 we need to be a people of God, a welcoming people,’ she said, echoing the theme of inclusion that has been a major feature of this year’s conference.
“Inclusivity, dialogue and encounter need to become a way of life. They are the Church in the future.”
PHOTOS, with thanks to Catholic Mission.
TOP RIGHT: Sr Carol Zinn ssj
MIDDLE LEFT: Sr Carol Zinn, Ms Charlene Robson, Mr Phil Glendenning lead a panel discussion.
BOTTOM RIGHT: Dr Robyn Miller speaks at the Conference Breakfast.