2000 years since St Paul… …50 years of the Paulian Association
In June last year, Pope Benedict XVI declared the beginning of a Pauline Year in the Church. This was to “commemorate the second millennium of the birth” of St Paul.
What does this “Pauline Year” mean for Palms Australia, founded by the Paulian Association?
When making the announcement, alongside patriarchs from various other Christian churches, Pope Benedict highlighted St Paul as committed to unity and harmony and “bringing the Good News to all people”, one who spoke and acted “on the basis of the responsibility of love”. The Pauline year offers an opportunity to reflect on St Paul’s “vigorous spirituality of faith, hope and charity”, follow in his footsteps of visiting many communities and work peacefully across boundaries, whether religious or cultural, for the good of all people.
Does this adequately describe Palms Australia, an organisation founded with St Paul in mind?
Most obviously, as our core work involves sending people to work in many cultures it reflects St Paul’s radical notion of sharing Christ’s message of love widely, not just within his own culture. Palms’ volunteers continue to travel simply and humbly to their host communities, in a spirit of solidarity rather than superiority.
Palms’ philosophy, which does not imply one culture is superior, nor attempt to impose a single culture on all, reflects the ecumenical dimension of the Pauline year. This approach recognises that it is what we share that unites us. It forms the basis for working together in mutual relationship, in which each can learn from the other and neither is obliged to assimilate to the other.
Palms’ volunteers, too, demonstrate a “vigorous spirituality”. While individual expressions of spirituality amongst volunteers can vary widely (and wildly), each shares three elements. Firstly they share a “faith” in a better world as articulated in Palms’ vision – “more just, sustainable, interdependent and peaceful”. Secondly, they share the notion of “charity”, in its original context – love for others, and our obligation to walk in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in the human family. They are personally involved and remain dedicated, “despite problems and persecutions”. Thirdly, they have “faith” that through sharing these differences in belief and culture, they, the church and the world can all benefit.
It is appropriate then, that the 50th anniversary of the Paulian Association was celebrated during this jubilee year. It is not enough, however, that this anniversary be the primary expression of the Pauline element of the church in Australia. We must continue to engage people for the mission of working cross-culturally, exchanging with different communities and developing our own communities.
For this reason, Palms Australia is announcing its Paulian appeal, which consists of three calls:
The call to volunteer. There are still so many communities seeking to develop skills in areas such as health, education, trades, administration and community development.
The call to support this work. While willing volunteers are required, so too is the financial support needed to send and support them. A special Pauline financial appeal will be soon sent to every church, school and other Catholic institution in Australia.
The call to invite others. St Paul was not content to keep quiet, knowing the good news for himself. For this reason, we require those who know the good news of Palms to share it with their communities, by organising or being part of recruitment, education and fundraising events.