Mary Aikenhead Ministries’ 2017 conference entitled Our Hearts at the Table was held at the Novotel Sydney Central on 11-12 May. Attended by 180 participants from across the education, health, aged care, research and community service ministries, the occasion opened on Thursday morning with a Welcome to Country and liturgy. This was followed by conference keynote speaker, Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP, who deepened participants’ understanding of how they continue the mission of Jesus within Mary Aikenhead Ministries through his address, ‘The Care for Christ’s Body’. Fr Timothy truly touched the hearts gathered at the conference tables, including through engaging in dialogue with participants in the second session of the conference.
Another theme of the conference related to refugees – thus, the dinner speaker on Thursday evening, Tim O’Connor, currently CEO of the Australian Refugee Council, spoke on Beyond the Asylum: A Sustainable Approach to Refugees. Further, two ministry scenarios presented on Thursday afternoon by Catholic Ladies’ College and St Vincent’s Care Services Eltham, respectively, looked at their initiatives in Melbourne to support the integration of refugees into the community. As an alternative to a mission scenario, Thursday afternoon concluded with a panel of key leaders from across Mary Aikenhead Education Australia who considered mission-inspired leadership in the context of contemporary Catholic schooling. Another highlight of the conference was the launch of the Trustees’ Roundtable resource during the conference dinner.
The second day commenced with the conference Mass at St Peter Julian’s Church in Broadway with chief celebrant Bishop Terry Brady. This was followed by two further ministry scenarios that looked, respectively, at total genome sequencing at the Garvan Institute in Sydney leading to new cures of debilitating diseases, and a program developed by St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne to identify elder abuse and support older people experiencing family violence, recognised by the Victorian Government as best practice.
The conference concluded at lunch time on Friday with the commissioning of pilgrims going to Ireland in the footsteps of Mary Aikenhead and a concluding liturgy. Students from St Vincent’s College and two former Sisters of Charity schools, All Saints College in Liverpool and Bethlehem College in Ashfield, enriched the conference with music and dance.
The conference is the most important formation activity conducted by the Trustees for those in leadership and governance roles across Mary Aikenhead Ministries – feedback indicated that it continues to be highly valued by participants.