2018 Ozanam Conversation

INTRODUCTION BY SUE CATTERMOLE, CEO, ST VINCENT DE PAUL SOCIETY VICTORIA

The Ozanam Conversation, previously called the Ozanam Lecture, is an annual event in honour of the young founder of the Society Blessed Frederic Ozanam  who started the Society on his 20th birthday 185 years ago last Monday . This conversation in his name, invites us to reflect upon how relevant the founding mission is in today’s world.

In 1833 Frederic Ozanam started the St Vincent de Paul Society in response to a call from his university debating team for the Catholics to stop being ’all talk’ and do something for the poor:  he gathered young men of faith to be of service to those most in need and to heed his call to do something about the cause of need. Twenty one years later the first St Vincent de Paul Society Conference was set up in the St Francis’s Church in Lonsdale street Melbourne to deal directly with the abandoned children from the gold rush. We now have 270 conferences plus assistance centres, 110 shops, and various other forms of assistance.

The social and political conditions of 1850 may be different but the consequences of poverty and inequality are very much the same today. Something that we are all acutely aware of.  The challenge we need to rise to is continue to address these inequalities and provide services in the name of our religious founders and continue the mission of Christ with a public perception of lack of trust in seemingly, all things Catholic?

This will be a challenging conversation for most faith based organisations, but especially Catholic ones, who must remain relevant in a changing world. The demand for the Society’s services alone has increased over the last three years by 40% – 70% depending on the area. We must ask how this can be sustained in all sorts of ways – members, money and dedication to a mission based on the Catholic Church teachings and the Gospel in a world where the meaning of the word Catholic is not the same.

The Ozanam Conversation provides an opportunity for all Catholic agencies to consider our challenges, opportunities and honest understanding of how best to be mission based and credible today. What is non-negotiable and what may need to change.

When we decided on this topic, for me the two questions were:

  • What is the role of Catholic organisations in rebuilding trust in the Catholic brand?
  • How, should or even can the bishops and church leaders help us do that?

To begin this timely conversation I am delighted, honoured and very pleased that Bishop Long and Geraldine Doogue agreed to unpack these timely and confronting questions.

Bishop of Parramatta, and a former Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne Bishop Long,  has said in many a forum that this time of the Royal Commission was a timely wake up call for the church hierarchy and it,  needs to move towards a more collegiate and inclusive model of church. I wonder if tonight he might enlighten us on how he and other leaders of the church can lead us and help us to be visible and proud of being Catholic organisations.

Geraldine is well known for her enthusiastic, well researched and loving curiousity of all topics but as a practicing Catholic she is committed to seeing her church survive and thrive.

Please join me in welcoming Bishop Vincent and Geraldine as they explore the Ozanam Conversation entitled:

'What it means to be a Catholic Organisation in a post-Royal Commission World’.