MEN and women religious in Queensland are embracing a new body to represent their orders, congregations and institutes following the closure of Catholic Religious Australia Queensland.
More than 150 religious priests, sisters and brothers who have ministered in Queensland marked the official closure of CRAqld on June 6.
The Ritual of Closure marked the end of nearly 55 years of support, friendship and ministry within the state body.
A new national body will be formally established on June 26 at the national assembly for Catholic Religious Australia.
The decision follows a resolve at the 2016 meeting to restructure CRA and the state bodies into one single national entity.
Outgoing CRAqld president Marist Brother John Thompson said the ritual touched all Queensland men and women religious present at the closure.
“There was a general consensus that it was an appropriate ritual that did touch people because of their engagement with the organisation over the period of time but done in such a positive way, with an eye for the future,” Br Thompson said.
“They were not in any way lamenting this new step forward, but it is basically a step forward.
“People were very much, touched by the simplicity of the ritual itself.”
Br Thompson said the legacy of religious congregations and institutes in Queensland could still be felt, and the closure of its state body would not diminish their important ministry.
“Had it not been for the religious, the Catholic schools system and all that spun off from that would not have happened,” he said.
“It was the availability of sisters and brothers to go to the small places all throughout the country.
“That’s where it basically started.”
Special guest Archbishop Mark Coleridge was invited to say grace at the closure but prefaced his blessing with a vote of thanks for the organisation.
“I speak for the bishops of Queensland, past and present, in expressing an immense debt of gratitude to CRAqld,” the Archbishop said.
“We’re not farewelling the religious from this state, thank God for that, but there is a farewell to CRAqld.
“It makes me at least, and I think the other bishops too, intensely aware of the unique and extraordinary contribution the religious have made and still make to the life of the Church and the life of this state in Queensland.
“In many ways you were and still are the prime evangelisers and that can never be forgotten.
“You have been a wonderful blessing and that will continue but not in the form of CRAqld.”
CRA will represent more than 150 member religious congregations, which make up most of the congregations in Australia.
After being formally established, CRA will focus on leadership and providing support to religious institute leadership.
The new body will also respect the diverse charisms of religious groups in a way that maintains their unique identities within the life of the Church.
The peak body will be the first point of contact for issues and services of common interest to congregations, such as schools, hospitals, aged care and care for the vulnerable.
CRA national executive director Anne Walker said religious “have always been the hands and feet of Christ in responding to the needs of the vulnerable”.
“CRA has set up new committees to support leaders but also to influence Church and society, recognising the call of religious to lift their prophetic voice, naming the signs of the times,” Ms Walker said.
She said CRA was grateful to the state bodies for their service to religious over several decades.
“Each conference has served its members with care and energy over many years,” Ms Walker said. “The good work will not be lost; the groups won’t disappear.”
Ms Walker said the national assembly to be held on June 26 would be a time of reflection, and a chance to discuss the new peak body and issues regarding professional standards, the national redress scheme and the 2020 Plenary Council.
A new president will also be elected to replace outgoing president Ursuline Sister Ruth Durick.
Toowoomba Bishop Robert McGuckin will preside at the assembly’s official Mass.