June 11, 2015

Supporting Our Neighbour

In partnership with the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS),Arrupe Place provides a range of services to refugees and asylum seekers living in Western Sydney including food vouchers, computer use, casework services, general information and referrals, financial assistance and social support activities.

JRS Staff with OLMC Students at Arrupe Place

Arrupe Place, located in Coolock Cottage on the Sisters of Mercy premises in Parramatta, opened in early 2015. Arrupe Place is part of a broader JRS Shelter Project which responds to the needs of the growing number of asylum seekers facing financial destitution and homelessness by providing temporary accommodation, financial support, and casework services.

Our Lady of Mercy College (OLMC) is also situated on the Sisters of Mercy property, thus making Arrupe Place our neighbour. As a part of OLMC’s Mercy Tree Charity Initiative, through our Religious Education ‘Living Simply Unit (Catholic Social Teaching Topic) classes, students were given the opportunity to select a charity, that were in need of financial assistance. Three Year 10 students chose Jesuit Refugee Service to be beneficiaries for 2015/2016 financial year.

This connection provided the opportunity for school students from the Mercy 5 Network in Sydney (OLMC Burraneer, Mont Sant Angelo North Sydney, Catherine McAuley Westmead, Mercy Chatswood and OLMC Parramatta) to connect more meaningfully with JRS. In early February, students heard compelling stories of refugees and asylum seekers from the Executive Director of JRS, Fr Aloysius Mowe.

Many students were moved to action in their respective schools, initiating awareness campaigns. OLMC Parramatta invited Margaret Sheppard rsm in early May to share with students her experiences from Christmas Island. OLMC graduate and Mercy Action Group Network for Young Adults (MAGnet) Sophie Bawden (who currently works as Communications Officer at St Vincent de Paul and Research Officer at NSW Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes) shared:

L-r: OLMC graduate Sophie Bawden,
Margaret Sheppard rsm, OLMC Principal
Stephen Walsh

Up until recently I was volunteering with an asylum seeker support organisation called House of Welcome. At the House of Welcome each week I had the privilege of meeting with asylum seekers and listening to their stories which can often be heartbreaking and tragic. Nearly all of the asylum seekers I met with had left family and loved ones behind in their home country and had harrowing stores of fleeing religious, political and social persecution that most of us could never begin to imagine. Most of the people I knew had also spent a period of time in detention upon their arrival in Australia, some people spending more than 15 months locked up simply for trying to find a safer life….

By taking just a bit of time to understand the situations and listen to the stories of refugees and asylum seekers you are already making a difference helping Australia to become a more welcoming country; by spreading the word about the injustices that asylum seekers face in Australia you are already making a difference; by joining your awesome fellow mercy sisters in groups like Magnet once you finish school or getting more involved in mercy action at OLMC, you are making a difference; and by raising money or donating clothing and fresh food to support organisations helping asylum seekers, you are definitely making a difference.'

Leading up to Refugee Week, especially as we enter into Winter across Western Sydney, Mercy Action Student Leaders are currently coordinating a College collation of a ‘winter warmers box’ for children, women and men on behalf of JRS.

Messages to: Claire Thomas - Director of Mission OLMC Parramatta

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