International CiM Day: A Call to Companionship

The International Day of Companions in Mission (CiMs) is celebrated accross the FCJ Society on 21 September, birthday of our foundress Marie Madeleine d’Houët. CiMs and FCJ Sisters from Melbourne met at FCJ Genazzano College to mark the day. FCJ Companion in Mission Pat Fitzgerald writes about the day. Pat is the coordinator of one of the CiM groups in Australia. 

Maeve Elrington, guest speaker

It was a fortuitous coincidence that the 108th Day of Migrants and Refugees fell on the very day that we had chosen to celebrate International CiM Day in Melbourne. With no recommitments due this year, we invited a speaker, Maeve Elrington, from Jesuit Social Services and the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA) to speak about her work with and for people seeking asylum.

Maeve’s passion for her work and for the theme of the year – Building the future with migrants and refugees – growing together as a society – was evident and she offered us six Points of Reflection – three which focus on negative impacts of current practices and policies and three on positive behaviours we could embrace.

  • Australia’s policies in the last decade were not designed with any idea of growth for the future; they’ve been cruel and dehumanising;
  • Xenophobic media coverage does not assist people’s views on those seeking asylum. Terms such as ‘job stealing’, ‘queue jumping’, ‘terrorist’ create an atmosphere of fear.  Indeed even the words ‘asylum seekers’ have become pejorative. Much better to recognise that they are people first and foremost who happen to be seeking asylum.
  • There has been no focus on what a refugee can offer; rather it’s been on what we give them. This shows a lack of responsibility on our behalf. If only we had considered what might have been had our policies reflected what these people bring to us and our society.

On the other hand there are a number of ways we can work to improve the current situation:

  • always have the opportunity to work together with a shared vision and goals;
  • We can always act individually; ONE person CAN make a change and this contributes to a larger change;
  • Growth and journeying together as a society must include people with lived experiences of being a refugee or of seeking asylum.

Political change is slow but we can build a society starting in our living rooms, our streets, our groups.  We need to TAKE ACTION.  We have the resources –Hearts, Time, Skills, Connections and Finances.  By using these resources, we can take action and make a change.

FCJ Sisters and Companions shared pleasant conversation and refreshments after listening to Maeve. It was uplifting to be together; now we need to consider how we can best respond to this cry of “I thirst”.