The Christmas and New Year period has been defined by significant trauma and devastation from bushfires burning in many areas of the country. Fires have significantly impacted large areas of our diocese, especially in the parishes of St Mary Star of the Sea Milton (including the church communities of Ulladulla and Sussex Inlet), St Michael’s Nowra (including the church communities of Vincentia, Culburra Beach, Bombaderry, Berry and Kangaroo Valley), St Paul’s Parish Moss Vale (including the church communities of Bundanoon, Berrima, Burrawang and Sutton Forest), St Anthony’s Picton (including the church communities of Tahmoor and Menangle) and St Aloysius Parish The Oaks (including the church community of Oakdale).
We have created this page as a central hub for the diocese’s response to the bushfires to provide information and updates for those affected and those looking to help.
Diocese's response to the bushfire crisis
Bishop Brian Mascord has also announced a number of initial actions as part of the diocese’s response to the bushfires in conjunction with CatholicCare Wollongong and Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong:
In solidarity with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s (ACBC) national response to the bushfires, there will be a special collection at Masses on the Australia Day weekend with all funds to be donated to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal NSW.
On the same weekend, the ACBC will be facilitate a national network service connecting people affected with the bushfires with others who can help with tasks such as continued meal preparation, clearing of property, rebuilding etc. More information to follow in the coming weeks.
Over the next couple of weeks, Bishop Brian will continue to visit affected parishes/school communities and meet with parishioners, clergy and principals, and representatives from CatholicCare, Catholic Education, Office of the Bishop and local Vinnies to listen to their stories, pray together and get an understanding of how, together, we can meet immediate and projected needs.
Catholic Education has already been working with principals in our schools that have been affected by bushfires since late November responding to the specific needs of staff and families who have been impacted. This work will now continue as part of the broader coordination of the diocesan response.
The diocese will work closely with the St Vincent de Paul Society at state, diocesan and local conference levels to ensure there is a clear process in relation to how money donated to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal is made available to those who need it in our diocese.
The bushfire crisis will have significant and lasting emotional and psychological effects on so many of our people. CatholicCare in our diocese are committed to providing the necessary trauma counsellingand wellbeing support via Community Connect morning teas to those in need.
Bishop Brian also wants to ensure that the spiritual needs of our affected people are met. The bishop will work in collaboration with clergy and religious communities in the diocese to provide continued spiritual support to everyone during this time.
Most importantly, the bishop has asked that we continue to pray for all in our diocese as we all care for, and stand by, each other in this particular time of need. We also remember those who continue to fight fires and, may again, face extraordinary weather conditions over the next few weeks. We place our circumstances in the hands of our loving God through the intercession of our Australian saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop: pray for us and our parched country. May God pour on us the rain we need.
St Vincent de Paul help for those affected
The St Vincent de Paul Society (SVDP) will provide an immediate “emergency” payment of $1,000 (within 24 hours of making the request) to people who have experienced property loss and require immediate financial and other material support. They have released a PDF document outlining the assessment process and answering some FAQs. They have also made available a PDF of the assessment form to complete. You can download both documents the following links:
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) represents the general insurance industry in Australia. Following a disaster, the ICA’s Risk and Disaster team are on the ground in disaster areas, assisting with the industry’s response. They have released an informative flyer outlining the steps to recovery from an insurance perspective if your home or business been impacted by a disaster, as well as a number of contact details for assistance.
In solidarity with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference’s national response to the bushfires, there will be a special collection at Masses on the Australia Day weekend with all funds to be donated to the Vinnies Bushfire Appeal.
All bushfire funds donated to Vinnies are held centrally and then used where the greatest need is based on requests received from individuals either through their local SVDP conference, via self-nomination or through community forums. This process ensures that the individuals and communities most impacted (as identified and confirmed by the Office of Emergency Management ) will be receiving the majority share of the resources (funds) and will have funds made available to respond to the bushfire crisis in their community.
However, there is nothing stopping you from giving today online at the following link:
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have released a number of prayer resources (e.g. general intercessions and slides) for parish, school and community use that can be downloaded at the below link.
The link also includes access to media releases by various national Catholic organisations that might be of interest to you, including the ACBC, National Catholic Education Commission, Caritas Australia, Catholic Religious Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society and Catholic Social Services Australia.
Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.