On 31 May 2022 Catalyst for Renewal hosted a forum in Sydney with Joan Chittister osb.
For over 30 years Sister Joan has been a passionate advocate for social justice and an outspoken proponent of personal faith and fulfilment. Author of dozens of books on spirituality, this beloved Benedictine nun visited Sydney as part of a speaking tour of Australia.
The Catalyst Forum, held at Monte Sant’ Angelo Mercy College, North Sydney, attracted 850 participants drawn from across NSW and the ACT. Sister Joan charmed us with her warm and open disposition and inspired us with her address.
The evening was introduced by distinguished ABC journalist and presenter Geraldine Doogue AO. Sister Joan then spoke on the topic ‘The Time is Now: a call to uncommon courage’, the title of her recent book. She emphasised the role of prophets throughout history and encouraged our activism as, or in support of, today’s prophets in their ongoing quest to speak truth to power in modern times. A theme of her address was that Christ was both healer and prophet. Followers today should be motivated across the breadth of Christ’s mission. Joan urged us: “It’s time for prophetic voices everywhere to get into the conversation, study the issues, stay with the problem, to speak out. The question now is whether there’ll be prophets enough among you, here, in this group, in this generation to help the world and the church sort and sift ideas that others want to suppress. Prophets of real faith must go on raising their cries!”
Whilst in Australia, Sr Joan also spoke in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane and provided an online forum for Garratt Publishing. She appeared briefly on ABC’s The Drum and provided an extended interview to Meredith Lake for ABC’s Soul Search program. In an article written for National Catholic Reporter, journalist Peter Kirkwood set Joan’s address to us in the context of the Australian Plenary Council and the calls for church reform that have accompanied it. Gail Freyne has explored the reasons for our response to Joan, in an article for Pearls and Irritations.
We are grateful to the Sisters of Mercy, North Sydney and the Principal and staff of Monte College for their encouragement and practical assistance in providing this event. College staff were outstanding in their support of our preparations and we thank them.
Catalyst is also grateful for the support of our large audience. On the night, we experienced winter’s first icy blast, but people were not deterred. We thank all who attended and acknowledge those who made financial donations in addition to the ticket price. We are able to report a modest surplus on this event, which with other contributions from our generous supporters, will enable us to bring further high profile to speakers to Sydney in coming years. Catalyst has been doing this for over a quarter of a century. Our church, sadly, is as polarised as the society to which it contributes in so many ways. At this time of rapid change, we believe that conversation, involving mutual respect and deep listening, is as vital now as it has ever been. We are supporters of Pope Francis’ call for synodality. We will continue to provide forums where the prophets of today can continue to speak their truth, as our church discerns its evolving response to Jesus’ call to love, justice and faith.