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Thursday, 30 March 2023 12:20

Visitators share insights on AUS Province ministry & community life

Fr Jose Visitator2The official visitators to the SVD Australia Province have given positive and constructive feedback on the ministries being undertaken across the Province, while also encouraging confreres to continually return to their foundation of Trinitarian spirituality.

Fr Jose Antunes da Silva SVD, who is Vice Superior General of the Society of the Divine Word and was previously the provincial superior of Portugal was one of the visitators appointed by the General Council. He was joined by Fr Yosef Masan Toron SVD, who is currently serving as the General Chairperson of the Indonesian Biblical Institute.

The Visitation, which occurs every six years, is an opportunity to share with the Generalate the life and mission of the AUS Province, as well as to receive feedback and identify areas for growth and development.

A Visitation is a formal process, where the Generalate checks in on how a Province is living out the charism and responsibilities as Divine Word Missionaries, especially in light of the resolutions of the last General Chapter.

During their visit to Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, the visitators spent time in each district, observing the ministries, but also talking with confreres and hearing their stories and experiences as missionaries in this part of the world.

Fr Jose visited the Thailand district (which incorporates Myanmar), Alice Springs, Santa Teresa, the Tiwi Islands and Brisbane.

He said that in each place, he found the SVD presence was well-appreciated.

“Our confreres are well-appreciated by the people and the dioceses,” he said.

Challenges included the distance between missionaries and a sense of isolation among confreres, especially those working and living alone in parishes, such as in Thailand.

Fr Jose said that despite the social unrest in Myanmar following last year’s coup, the confreres “are really committed to their mission”.

Visitators 550In regards to the SVD ministry to indigenous communities, Fr Jose was strongly supportive of the Province prioritising such ministry into the future.

“Our confreres are very committed to their mission. I think this is a place where SVDs need to stay,” he said of Central Australia.

“We need to support and strengthen this ministry and we need to select the confreres who will be suited to this ministry and protect them. Please, train and prepare your confreres for this ministry.”

Although the SVD is new to the Tiwi Islands, Fr Jose said it should also form a priority for the Province.

“We have a responsibility to strengthen that mission in the Tiwi Islands, and really study the culture,” he said.

Confreres shouldn’t expect “success” in the eyes of the world, but instead provide a ministry of presence.

“If you go to the Tiwi Islands, be present, love the people, be patient,” he told those attending the Chapter.

“I encourage all confreres to go there for a week – it will change your heart.”

Fr Jose also praised the work being done in multicultural parishes in Brisbane, while noting the distance between confreres in the Queensland district and urging more frequent face-to-face gatherings.

Fr Yosef, meanwhile, visited the Melbourne district, New Zealand, Sydney and Palm Island/Townsville.

“I tried to meet each confrere personally,” he told the Chapter meeting.

He said he found the confreres committed to their spiritual life, including shared prayer and celebration of the eucharist.

“(In the larger communities) there was good brotherhood and fraternity, eating together, praying together,” he said.

“All confreres also acknowledged they were very committed to keeping up with ongoing formation, writing articles, spiritual reflection in daily life and keeping the spirit of good service.”

Fr Yosef Visitator 350He commended the Province for its commitment to Indigenous communities, multicultural parishes, and also the confreres’ ministry to the spiritually isolated, visiting farmers and their families in rural Queensland.

“We are really appreciated for our commitment and for the changes we bring to parishes. They are really appreciative of our presence,” he said.

In New Zealand, Fr Yosef made particular note of the SVD’s cooperation with the diocesan commitment to working with lay partners in ministry.

The Visitators warmly acknowledged the growth of lay partners and urged the Province to support them, including in the area of formation.

Fr Jose urged the confreres across the Province not to neglect their spiritual foundations in carrying out their demanding ministries.

“We SVDs are known all over the world as priests and brothers who are very good at doing things, in action, but … what is the foundation?” he said.

“We have to go back to the Trinitarian spirituality we inherited from our founder. There is ongoing need for discernment, a need for prayer, meditation and Bible sharing.”

He also encouraged confreres not to be afraid to express their “SVD-ness” in the parishes in which they serve and to always be open to renewal.

“We are a community on a mission to renew ourselves, our communities and our mission,” he said.



TOP RIGHT: Fr Jose Antunes da Silva SVD, who is Vice Superior General of the Society of the Divine Word and Visitator to the AUS Province.

MIDDLE: The two Visitators address the Provincial Chapter.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Fr Yosef Masan Toron SVD, Visitator.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, the Society of the Divine Word, Australia Province, acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, sky, and community.

We acknowledge their skin-groups, story-lines, traditions, religiosity and living cultures.

We pay respect to their elders, past, present, and emerging, and extend that respect to all indigenous peoples of New Zealand, Thailand, and Myanmar.

We are committed to building with them, a brighter future together.