|June 14, 2005||Vol. 3, No. 7|
Geraldine Hawkes chairs the Commission for Australian Catholic Women. She also coordinates St Paul's City Ministry, an ecumenical centre that works with business people to bring ethics alive in boardrooms and workplaces across South Australia.
Open Letters to the New Pope:
In the right hands, a garden can flourish
By Geraldine Hawkes
(Editor's Note: Global Perspective is featuring Catholics from across the globe writing open letters to the new pope, Benedict XVI. Today, Geraldine Hawkes writes from Adelaide, Australia.)
Dear Holy Father:
I have been inspired by the great work of dialogue across cultures and faiths, and I so long for the same kind of commitment for dialogue among Catholics. You would know only too well the changes that can happen in dialogue. For myself, I was delighted to read a comment from a representative of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, following a conversation between the Council and the Australian Catholic Bishops' Committee for Ecumenism in May this year. He said that Jewish-Catholic relations "have moved dramatically from a position of suspicion and distrust to one of respect and co-operation, where we can discuss all issues openly and frankly". This is one of the aspects we long for in our church.
The reality for us in Australia is that many people have already walked away -- or been eased out -- having experienced suspicion or distrust when they have lifestyles or insights that don't seem to sit "safely" with some Catholics. And there are others who describe themselves as "just hanging in there," hoping to be able to continue to contribute to the necessary change to become a more Gospel-centered church.
One morning as I took our family dog on his early morning walk, I was reflecting on the new possibilities and imagining what life could be like now that it seemed that this church of ours would be held in safe hands for the foreseeable future.
I found my thoughts on these possibilities interrupted by a raucous noise and a frenzy of activity overhead. Below, the ground was littered with chewed pine cones and fallen needles. It was breakfast time for the cockatoos, as they gathered in the trees at the local cemetery.
To avoid having cones and needles -- or worse -- land on me, I moved along the fence line and in so doing passed close to one of the gardeners. I remarked to him on the vigorous growth of the conifers that had been planted just a few months ago. He replied that he was a volunteer and that the trees were his special responsibility. He went on to describe the other voluntary works he did in the community and how much he enjoyed all these activities as they brought him into contact with a variety of people. His favorite work, however, was gardening because he could take something small, nurture it and watch it grow over time. And when one plant was struggling to keep going, he spent time with it and gave it extra attention and care. Sometimes it worked out and sometimes it didn't. The important thing, he said, was to be there, to be watching and "listening" and to be ready to do what one could, to give them all their best chance of life.
I am grateful, therefore, that our church seems to be in safe hands and will be able to hold people as we explore together how we can each be more faithful to the person of Jesus Christ in ordinary daily life. I congratulate you on being chosen as the chief gardener and I look forward to working with you from my part of the paddock as we journey along as people of faith in this garden of life.
With every best wishes for you and for all those whose lives you touch.
© 2005 The National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115
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