My interest in the asylum seeker debate began in 2001 when John Howard said “we will decide who comes into our country, and the circumstances in which they come”. Then, I was working in an inner city Parish that had many asylum seekers in the pews at Mass on Sundays.My heart ached for these people, and as a Sister of St Joseph, I felt compelled to reach out. As Mary MacKillop said: “seek first the poorest and most neglected of God’s vineyard”.
In 2003, I started volunteering at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. I also began visiting the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation, and continue to visit weekly to provide support to people who are being held in detention.
Hearing people’s stories of persecution and injustice has helped me to see beyond media headlines to the stories of real people. It’s important to me to share these stories with others, especially fellow Catholics. I feel ashamed that our Government still refuses to act on the 1951 United Nation Refugee Convention.
I was delighted to hear our Pope Francis challenging our complacency. In his first pastoral visit outside of Rome, he visited the island of Lampedusa, where thousands of asylum seekers make the treacherous journey to Italy. He prayed: “We beg forgiveness for our indifference to so many of our brothers and sisters. Father, we ask your pardon for those who are complacent and closed amid comforts which have deadened their hearts; we beg your forgiveness for those who by their decisions on the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies. Forgive us, Lord!” 08 July, 2013
– Rita, Victoria