Snapshots: ACMRO Conference

Missionary Clergy and Religious in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities

“There are different layers to orientation and acculturation – social, cultural, legal and ecclesial, and all are vital for a smooth transition of the missionary to the new context. “

– Fr Aniedi Okure OP (“That Is Not How We Do It” – Engaging the Culture of the Other)

“We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society, a more perfect democracy, a more united country, a more fraternal world and a more open and evangelical Christian community.”

– Fr Fabio Baggio CS Contemporary Migration: The Opportunities Beyond the Challenges.

Around 130 clergy, religious and laity gathered at Rydges Southbank in Brisbane on 6 and 7 August for the 6th ACMRO National Conference.

Focusing on the theme Missionary Clergy and Religious in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities, the conference put together speakers who shared information and experience in areas relating to the welcome, orientation and integration of clergy and religious ministering in Australia from overseas.

Day one delved on the following topics/titles:

  • That Is Not How We Do It” – Engaging the Culture of the Other (Keynote – Fr Aniedi Okure OP, co-author of International Priests in America: Challenges and Opportunities
  • Multiculturalism in the Catholic Church in Australia (statistical data) – Dr Trudy Dantis, Director of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s National Centre for Pastoral Research
  • Missiology and the Sense of Mission among Missionary Priests and Religious – Dr Meave Louise Heaney VDMF, Director of Australian Catholic University’s Xavier Centre for Theological Formation
  • Culture, Identity and Missionary Clergy and Religious: Your Contribution in Building a Multicultural Australian Church – Fr Noel Connolly SSC

Following the same structure as Day 1, Day 2 addressed the following topics:

  • Contemporary Migration: The Opportunities Beyond the Challenges (Keynote – Fr  Fabio Baggio CS, Co Under-secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development’s Migrants and Refugees Section
  • Mental Health and Loneliness among Missionaries (Anthony Crook, psychologist and currently chaplain with the Royal Australian Navy (HMAS Kuttabul)
  • Parish and Intercultural Mission: Opportunities and Challenges (Fr Valentin Mendoza-Morales CS and team, St Therese Parish, Mascot NSW)

On both days, all speakers addressed questions from the floor. Both days also allowed for more in-depth smaller group discussions in the afternoon which produced action statements for input in the Listening & Dialogue phase of  Plenary Council 2020 process.

Overall, it is hoped that the conference’s collective wisdom will lead to practical actions as to what can be done further in Australia and also prompt further research/studies to be undertaken by national church bodies including the ACBC’s National Centre for Pastoral Research.

The Bishop Joe  Grech Memorial Colloquium on Ethics and Migration held on Monday, 5 August preceded the 2-day conference.  The colloquium had as guests, Bishop Long Van Nguyen addressed the theme Those Who Build Walls End Up Being Prisoners of these Walls.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge was a familiar presence during the two days and at the colloquium.  At the closing session, Archbishop Mark thanked all those involved in the conference — participants and organisers, whom he called as gifts. “That mutual sharing of the gifts lies in the heart of the communion of the church”, the Archbishop said.

Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) Director, Fr Maurizio Pettena cs assured participants that all reflections from the conference will be taken back to the Australian Catholic Bishops Commission (ACBC) where a program on welcoming and enabling clergy and religious ministering and Australia is being finalised.

For a copy of conference speeches, visit

See also What’s Up? September 2019 newsletter (pp 4-5)

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