Catholic Social Services Victoria hosted a virtual book launch for the book Serving communities with courage and compassion.

Containing a wealth of wisdom about the state of social services in Australia, the book, published by Conner Court, is a collection of pieces inspired by the sessions from this year’s CSSV conference where over 280 participants gathered from across Australia and New Zealand.

Executive Director of CSSV Joshua Lourensz explained, ‘this book is about extending the larger conversation that began at the conference, taking the themes and engaging with it in the context of a difficult time for Australia and the world.’

With over fifty people involved in its creation, it is the fourth book to emerge from recent Catholic social services conferences.

The book was formally launched by Archbishop Peter A. Comensoli, and featured an address by Dr Ursula Stephens, CEO of CSSA, and was moderated by Joshua Lourensz.

Gabrielle McMullen AM, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Australian Catholic University, is one of the book’s editors and reminded attendees of the social context during which the conference took place back in February: severe drought, devastating bushfires, summer floods and their economic and social consequences, and the ongoing challenges of the sexual abuse crisis. 'There was already a hint of the emerging new coronavirus.'

Gabrielle recalled a delegate from the conference remarking she ‘had never been to a conference that was so right for the times’. In the same way, she added, the aim in creating the book was to 'provide a volume that was right for the times.’

According to Gabrielle, it’s a book to bring the inspiration and the momentum of the conference to the challenges of social services. It aims to capture the lessons and ‘the sense of hope that emerged from examples of service recounted at the conference,’ while exploring the richness of Catholic social teaching.

‘Conference books can often be dry technical volumes, but this one is different,' she said. 'This one is about people. People whose stories make mission a reality. Those needing homes, people coping with bushfires, families needing childcare. And it’s also about those in the sector who respond to the need.’

Before officially launching the book, Archbishop Peter referred to Pope Francis’ most recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti, which outlined the need for social friendship, as part of the rationale behind Catholic social services.

‘Social services is the what. Social justice is the how, and social friendship is the why. We might also look at it as the hands, the head, and the heart,’ he said.

The Archbishop referred to a chapter in the book, the Macarata on healing the wounds of the past, referring to a First Nations’ word on the restoration of peace after a dispute. He stressed the importance of passing along stories like those listed in the book as a function of healing and restoring peace.

'To walk that path of friendship is to go on a pilgrimage together,' he said.

The archbishop shared hopes that people might read, reflect and grow with the volume.

'As people in social services, we are driven by Catholic social teaching on injustice. May we be people who, in faith and hope and love, work with social friendship together.'

Joshua Lourensz recommended the book for anyone in governance roles in social services, but added there are lessons for health, education, and business sectors.

‘This book is a valuable resource for anyone working in mission-inspired social service organisations, but there are also numerous lessons for parish and school communities, education and health-care settings,’ said Josh.

‘With 350 pages, the book covers many aspects of mission and service. It’s a great example of social services working together with the broader community to put something out that will be useful to everyone.’

Copies of Serving communities with courage and compassion are available for purchase online from Connor Court publishing.