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VERBUM DEI ARTICLE

WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THE MISSION IN AUSTRALIA?

Australia has a population of approximately 22 million people. It is a vast country
geographically but notin terms of population. The initial population of Australia was
made up of Aborigines, who inhabited the land forover 40,000 yearsuntilAustralia
was colonised by the British in 1788. Culturally British colonisation has affected
the style of government, the business and industrial set up (especially agriculture)
and many typical entertainment activities and sports such as cricket and rugby. It
has also resulted in English being the predominant spoken language. Significant
for the church in Australia is the Irish influence, as many Irish people settled in the
country                                 after                            colonisation.

After World War II there was heavy migration from Europe, especially from
Greece, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Turkey. This
was in response to the Australian policy of proactively trying to attract immigrants
to boost the population and work force. In the last forty years, Australia has
liberalised its immigration policy and opened its borders to South East Asia, which
has contributed to Mandarin becoming the second most spoken language after
English. In the past twenty years there has been much more immigration from the
Middle East and Africa, which further adds to its multicultural identity. This has
caused a real shift in self-perception as Australians begin to re-define themselves
as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society rather than the old homogenous, white,
Anglo- Saxon, Protestant nation.

Australia is a western country, significantly influenced by the United States of
America in terms of TV, music and film. There is also a culture of materialism and
secularism and a sexualisation of the human body. It tends to be a very
individualistic society with people very concerned with their wants and needs as an
individual rather than the common good. More and more there is a prevalence of
people coming from broken backgrounds and coming from dysfunctional families
where there has been abuse whether it be emotional, physical, sexual or
psychological. There is a high incidence of depression within society as well as
high suicide rates.

RELIGION

At the latest census, Catholics made up the largest denomination in Australia,
followed by people who do not profess a religion. Of the people who identify
themselves as Catholic, less than 20% are regularly practising. Many would
support practices contrary to church teaching such as same sex marriage,
abortion, euthanasia, divorce, contraception and IVF.

In general, there is little societal pressure to practice one’s faith. However, many
people send their children to Catholic schools, even non-Catholics, because of the


                                          1
perception that they offer a better quality of education, especially in the area of
morals and values.

In the multi-faith context, there is a growing need to find ways of building bridges
between different faiths and as a resultinterfaith dialogue is avidly encouraged.

SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality in Australia is seen to be a private affair, and not to affect the public
sphere. There is an unspoken assumption that religion is not talked about, for fear
of causing offense or division among workmates, family and friends and there is
much diversity around beliefs and values. This can make it challenging to talk
about faith and religion.

However, people are searching for a greater meaning in life whether they are
aware of it or not and this is evidenced in people looking for love or attention but in
the wrong waysand manifests in addiction, unhealthy relationships or patterns of
behaviour.



HOW IS THE VERBUM DEI MISSION INCARNATED INTO THIS CULTURE?

The Verbum Dei Charism comes alive and responds to this context in the following
ways:

SCHOOLS OF THE WORD

Our Schools of the Word are held regularly in different places: in Sydney,
Wollongong, at the university campus where Verbum Dei hold the Catholic
chaplaincy and in various workplaces around Sydney during lunch breaks. In this
way people are introduced to prayer with the Word of God and experience how to
apply it to their lives. People start to change as they pray and experience the Word
in a very practical and concrete way in their life.

Once every three weeks, we hold a School especially for couples, complete with a
children’s program. The children’s program is integral to allowing both members of
the couple to attend the meeting. A program is prepared for the children so that
while their parents are being nourished, they too are receiving valuable spiritual
nourishment and a foundation for their faith and their relationship with Jesus.

SCHOOL OF APOSTLES

A School of Apostles is held every Saturday in Sydney where formation is give to
disciples and lay consecrated missionaries. This formation consists of: aspects of
Verbum Dei Spirituality, formation on mission, learning how to give the talks from
the Temario, and human development. The School is usually followed by a
communal lunch which is important for fostering a sense of community.

RETREATS
                                          2
Weekend Retreats

We hold retreats about once every two or three months. They are ecclesial in
nature and based on the Temario. We advertise these widely through word of
mouth, and in the local parishes, bulletins, newsletters and on our website. On
average about 60 to 70 people attend these weekends. Some are held as silent
retreats and some as Life and Love weekends, where people have a chance to
share in small groups after their prayer.

Day Retreats

During the year we also offer day retreats for singles and couples who may not be
able to attend a full weekend retreat. These are very popular as people are often
very busy and find it easier to commit to a day retreat rather than a full weekend.

“Just for Men”/ “Just for Women”

Once a year, we offer a retreat “just for men”and “just for women”. Having just men
together means that men can talk freely about men’s topics. Currently there are no
male missionaries in Australia, so male missionaries come from Philippines to lead
these retreats. Women’s retreats also allow women to speak freely and openly
about topics which affect women and help women to understand their femininity
from a faith perspective, and that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and not
an object of pleasure.

Easter Encounter

At Easter, we hold an Easter Encounter, which follows the liturgical celebrations of
Easter from Holy Thursday to Easter Saturday Vigil.The Easter encounter consists
of: personal prayer and sharing, dynamic rosaries based on the Word of God,
dramas, and the opportunity to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

A dramatisation of the Stations of the Cross is performed in the parish by
retreatants and members of the parish and provides a focal point for prayer during
Good Friday of the retreat.

Disciples Retreats

Once a year we hold a disciples retreat where people renew their commitment to
Jesus and the Verbum Dei Family, of daily prayer and participation in the
preparation of Verbum Dei activities and retreats.




Children’s Liturgy


                                         3
To reach out to younger children, a Children’s Liturgy is held during Sunday Mass
each week, where a sketch, puppet show or dynamic are used to bring out the
theme of that Sunday’s Gospel, followed by a discussion with the children before
returning to Mass. The aim is to help the children apply the Gospel in a practical
way in their life and to experience Jesus as someone who is real for them, that
Jesus can change their lives and that He is not just a theory.

Teenager’s Group

A teenager’s group is held every first Sunday of the month with predominantly the
children from the parish who have outgrown the children’s liturgy. We talk about
issues that are relevant to them as teenagers and things they might be struggling
with or are affected by. Some of the topics that have been covered this year
include: self esteem, meaning of life, friendship, relationships and how to deal with
bullying.The aim is for the children to have a strong foundation in Jesus so that
their faith can be practical and they can overcome challenges such as peer
pressure, drug and alcohol use as well as being able to live chastely.

MUSIC MINISTRY

Verbum Dei Australia also produces its own music, based on the Word of God,
with the view to evangelising people through music. In this way we can respond to
people who already have faith but also reach out to people who in many cases are
from other faiths or no faith background at all.



WHAT IS THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE VERBUM DEI MISSION IN THIS
CONCRETE CONTEXT?

Verbum Dei’s contribution is invaluable and is concretised in this cultural context.

Through the Schools of the Word and Retreats we introduce people to the very
core of their existence: that they are a child of God and that here is more to life
than just consumerism, materialism and the “success” that is shown to us by the
world. People experience the power of God’s unconditional love and this helps
them heal from backgrounds of abuse, dysfunction or lack of love. We have
witnessed countless people’s lives change as a result of prayer and their
relationship with Jesus: people who didn’t want to live, whose hope has been
restored as a result of prayer and now they are committed members of the
Verbum Dei Family, sharing the word and spreading the Jesus’ message to
others.

Through the Children’s and Teenager’s programs we try and facilitate the children
to have a strong foundation in Jesus so they can live a life of faith and as a result
to have healthy self esteem, knowing that they are a child of God and that they are
loved. We aim to restore children’s hope and help them to see the meaning and
purpose of their lives so that they can treasure them as being a gift from God, and

                                          4
have values and morals that reflect those of Jesus. In this way loss of hope and
meaning can be avoided and hopefully lead to a reduction of children and
teenagers who experience depression or have lost their desire to live.

We face many challenges in the task of Evangelising in this beautiful country of
Australia, but we rely on the grace of God to guide the way to reach the hearts of
people with the love of God through our prayer, witness and ministry of the Word.




                                        5

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23 misión en australia 120715

  • 1. VERBUM DEI ARTICLE WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF THE MISSION IN AUSTRALIA? Australia has a population of approximately 22 million people. It is a vast country geographically but notin terms of population. The initial population of Australia was made up of Aborigines, who inhabited the land forover 40,000 yearsuntilAustralia was colonised by the British in 1788. Culturally British colonisation has affected the style of government, the business and industrial set up (especially agriculture) and many typical entertainment activities and sports such as cricket and rugby. It has also resulted in English being the predominant spoken language. Significant for the church in Australia is the Irish influence, as many Irish people settled in the country after colonisation. After World War II there was heavy migration from Europe, especially from Greece, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Turkey. This was in response to the Australian policy of proactively trying to attract immigrants to boost the population and work force. In the last forty years, Australia has liberalised its immigration policy and opened its borders to South East Asia, which has contributed to Mandarin becoming the second most spoken language after English. In the past twenty years there has been much more immigration from the Middle East and Africa, which further adds to its multicultural identity. This has caused a real shift in self-perception as Australians begin to re-define themselves as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society rather than the old homogenous, white, Anglo- Saxon, Protestant nation. Australia is a western country, significantly influenced by the United States of America in terms of TV, music and film. There is also a culture of materialism and secularism and a sexualisation of the human body. It tends to be a very individualistic society with people very concerned with their wants and needs as an individual rather than the common good. More and more there is a prevalence of people coming from broken backgrounds and coming from dysfunctional families where there has been abuse whether it be emotional, physical, sexual or psychological. There is a high incidence of depression within society as well as high suicide rates. RELIGION At the latest census, Catholics made up the largest denomination in Australia, followed by people who do not profess a religion. Of the people who identify themselves as Catholic, less than 20% are regularly practising. Many would support practices contrary to church teaching such as same sex marriage, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, contraception and IVF. In general, there is little societal pressure to practice one’s faith. However, many people send their children to Catholic schools, even non-Catholics, because of the 1
  • 2. perception that they offer a better quality of education, especially in the area of morals and values. In the multi-faith context, there is a growing need to find ways of building bridges between different faiths and as a resultinterfaith dialogue is avidly encouraged. SPIRITUALITY Spirituality in Australia is seen to be a private affair, and not to affect the public sphere. There is an unspoken assumption that religion is not talked about, for fear of causing offense or division among workmates, family and friends and there is much diversity around beliefs and values. This can make it challenging to talk about faith and religion. However, people are searching for a greater meaning in life whether they are aware of it or not and this is evidenced in people looking for love or attention but in the wrong waysand manifests in addiction, unhealthy relationships or patterns of behaviour. HOW IS THE VERBUM DEI MISSION INCARNATED INTO THIS CULTURE? The Verbum Dei Charism comes alive and responds to this context in the following ways: SCHOOLS OF THE WORD Our Schools of the Word are held regularly in different places: in Sydney, Wollongong, at the university campus where Verbum Dei hold the Catholic chaplaincy and in various workplaces around Sydney during lunch breaks. In this way people are introduced to prayer with the Word of God and experience how to apply it to their lives. People start to change as they pray and experience the Word in a very practical and concrete way in their life. Once every three weeks, we hold a School especially for couples, complete with a children’s program. The children’s program is integral to allowing both members of the couple to attend the meeting. A program is prepared for the children so that while their parents are being nourished, they too are receiving valuable spiritual nourishment and a foundation for their faith and their relationship with Jesus. SCHOOL OF APOSTLES A School of Apostles is held every Saturday in Sydney where formation is give to disciples and lay consecrated missionaries. This formation consists of: aspects of Verbum Dei Spirituality, formation on mission, learning how to give the talks from the Temario, and human development. The School is usually followed by a communal lunch which is important for fostering a sense of community. RETREATS 2
  • 3. Weekend Retreats We hold retreats about once every two or three months. They are ecclesial in nature and based on the Temario. We advertise these widely through word of mouth, and in the local parishes, bulletins, newsletters and on our website. On average about 60 to 70 people attend these weekends. Some are held as silent retreats and some as Life and Love weekends, where people have a chance to share in small groups after their prayer. Day Retreats During the year we also offer day retreats for singles and couples who may not be able to attend a full weekend retreat. These are very popular as people are often very busy and find it easier to commit to a day retreat rather than a full weekend. “Just for Men”/ “Just for Women” Once a year, we offer a retreat “just for men”and “just for women”. Having just men together means that men can talk freely about men’s topics. Currently there are no male missionaries in Australia, so male missionaries come from Philippines to lead these retreats. Women’s retreats also allow women to speak freely and openly about topics which affect women and help women to understand their femininity from a faith perspective, and that their body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and not an object of pleasure. Easter Encounter At Easter, we hold an Easter Encounter, which follows the liturgical celebrations of Easter from Holy Thursday to Easter Saturday Vigil.The Easter encounter consists of: personal prayer and sharing, dynamic rosaries based on the Word of God, dramas, and the opportunity to participate in the sacrament of Reconciliation. A dramatisation of the Stations of the Cross is performed in the parish by retreatants and members of the parish and provides a focal point for prayer during Good Friday of the retreat. Disciples Retreats Once a year we hold a disciples retreat where people renew their commitment to Jesus and the Verbum Dei Family, of daily prayer and participation in the preparation of Verbum Dei activities and retreats. Children’s Liturgy 3
  • 4. To reach out to younger children, a Children’s Liturgy is held during Sunday Mass each week, where a sketch, puppet show or dynamic are used to bring out the theme of that Sunday’s Gospel, followed by a discussion with the children before returning to Mass. The aim is to help the children apply the Gospel in a practical way in their life and to experience Jesus as someone who is real for them, that Jesus can change their lives and that He is not just a theory. Teenager’s Group A teenager’s group is held every first Sunday of the month with predominantly the children from the parish who have outgrown the children’s liturgy. We talk about issues that are relevant to them as teenagers and things they might be struggling with or are affected by. Some of the topics that have been covered this year include: self esteem, meaning of life, friendship, relationships and how to deal with bullying.The aim is for the children to have a strong foundation in Jesus so that their faith can be practical and they can overcome challenges such as peer pressure, drug and alcohol use as well as being able to live chastely. MUSIC MINISTRY Verbum Dei Australia also produces its own music, based on the Word of God, with the view to evangelising people through music. In this way we can respond to people who already have faith but also reach out to people who in many cases are from other faiths or no faith background at all. WHAT IS THE CONTRIBUTION OF THE VERBUM DEI MISSION IN THIS CONCRETE CONTEXT? Verbum Dei’s contribution is invaluable and is concretised in this cultural context. Through the Schools of the Word and Retreats we introduce people to the very core of their existence: that they are a child of God and that here is more to life than just consumerism, materialism and the “success” that is shown to us by the world. People experience the power of God’s unconditional love and this helps them heal from backgrounds of abuse, dysfunction or lack of love. We have witnessed countless people’s lives change as a result of prayer and their relationship with Jesus: people who didn’t want to live, whose hope has been restored as a result of prayer and now they are committed members of the Verbum Dei Family, sharing the word and spreading the Jesus’ message to others. Through the Children’s and Teenager’s programs we try and facilitate the children to have a strong foundation in Jesus so they can live a life of faith and as a result to have healthy self esteem, knowing that they are a child of God and that they are loved. We aim to restore children’s hope and help them to see the meaning and purpose of their lives so that they can treasure them as being a gift from God, and 4
  • 5. have values and morals that reflect those of Jesus. In this way loss of hope and meaning can be avoided and hopefully lead to a reduction of children and teenagers who experience depression or have lost their desire to live. We face many challenges in the task of Evangelising in this beautiful country of Australia, but we rely on the grace of God to guide the way to reach the hearts of people with the love of God through our prayer, witness and ministry of the Word. 5