Director’s Reflection: Preparing to Reach Beyond – at Home and Abroad

Director’s Reflection: Preparing to Reach Beyond – at Home and Abroad

By Roger O’Halloran

Developing humility for intercultural mission is as applicable for engaging diverse communities at home as it is for doing so in a community to which one is invited abroad.  This idea was tested and confirmed at Palms 105th Orientation Course in January.  Six participants from three community support teams in Australian Catholic Dioceses, completed Palms’ inaugural Neighbours Without Borders (NWB) training along with five participants being prepared for Global Mission.

Participants in both programs shared Palms’ premise that communities flourish where diversity is identified, respected and enables mutual growth.  This is not about everyone simply being nice to one another.  Developing the necessary relationships of understanding acceptance and care with people of a culture different to one’s own presents a significant challenge, but the upside is that within such relationships the needs of the marginalized can no longer be obscured.

Back to the Future

In 1956 the Paulian Association (original name of Palms Australia) was set up to assist transformative social action using Cardijn methodology.  It has remained the background framework for Palms engagement of Australians in Global Mission.  For this course we decided to explicitly share a refined version of the process (AAAA) so that course participants could use the tool to help communities tap their diversity and achieve potential for intellectual, emotional, spiritual and cultural growth.

Palms’ genius is our training for intercultural engagement.  It provides the tools that assist to: 1) Ascertain what exactly is happening and what it is doing to people; 2) Analyse the root causes and 3) Act to enable inclusive community participation.  It then guides 4) Assessment or evaluationof what worked and what still needs work.  The five days of training together using the tools that assist to ascertain and analyse cultural structures, enabled valuable cross-fertilization.

Introducing the tools to assist ascertain how personality and culture shape one’s perception of issues, work and opportunities to engage fully in a community was accompanied with much mirth.  This assisted all to sit with the idea that working to include all cultures and sub-cultures in community growth requires suspending what we first see, to pause, so that we might see (or ascertain) more broadly and deeply.  An article shared with me since suggests knowing your essential self and having a therapeutic skepticism towards the world may enable this.

Various frameworks for cultural analysis including Anthony Gittens “Disturbing Ministry of Jesus” and unique insights into an Aboriginal perspective from a proud Wiradjuri woman Jennifer Newman provided a deeper understanding of culture and intercultural engagement.  On the final day ideas for initiating meaningful intercultural relationships were tested and reinforced when course participants accepted the challenge to engage as strangers across three multicultural Sydney communities.

Global Mission participants were provided tools in two further days of online webinars to consider action they would take in their host communities and some processes to assess or evaluate program effectiveness.  The diocesan teams have also been offered assistance with action in the communities for which they are responsible.  

Faith Rewarded

We were delighted when evaluations confirmed that both Global Mission and NWB participants believed the tools provided would be exceptionally valuable in assisting action in their various roles.  I especially want to thank the teams from the Archdiocese of Sydney and the dioceses of Maitland/Newcastle and Toowoomba for the faith they put in Palms to assist their work within diverse communities.  The sharing of your insights will assist Palms to shape the NWB program into the future.  Welcome to the Palms’ family.