Sydney (Photo: Unsplash/Photologic)

Meeting up in Sydney out of gratitude

They called it "Syd Catch up," a kind of mini Meeting, the first public event organized by the small community in the Australian city. Two meetings and an exhibition that have not gone unnoticed.
Filippo Begnini

We use ‘to catch up’ as an informal term that describes a quick meeting between friends, typically over coffee, to tell each other how it's going, to catch up on the latest news. Syd Catch up is the name chosen by the CL community in Sydney, following in the footsteps of the Rimini Meeting and the New York Encounter, for their first public event held in the parish of Saint Thomas of Canterbury.

The first question we asked ourselves was, "Why do we want to do this?" Our community is mainly made up of young families, and free time is not something particularly common for us... In everyone's answer to this question, there was a common factor: gratitude. Each of us has been touched by Fr. Giussani's charism in one way or another, and gratitude for this gift led us to want to share it with everyone, including those here in Sydney.

The Syd Catch up began with a meeting to present Fr. Giussani’s book, The Religious Sense. During the lunch break – an excellent pizza freshly prepared by a food truck – guests were able to visit the exhibition "The Journey to the Truth is an Experience," prepared in 2022 for the New York Encounter. A panel discussion on hospitality followed in the afternoon, starting with another book by Giussani, The Miracle of Hospitality. The day ended with Mass celebrated by Fr. John O'Connor.

One of the meetings at Syd Catch up

Participating in the discussion on the The Religious Sense were Tom Gourlay, lecturer and National Director of Chaplaincy and Faith Formation at the University of Notre Dame, Fr. Dan McCaughan, parish priest of St. Patrick's church in the Sutherland neighborhood, and Federica Ercoli, customer sales manager for a multinational food company in the Greater Sydney area. The guests were asked two questions: "What struck you about this text?" and "How do you feel it is relevant to someone living in Australia in 2023?" Gourlay, author of one of the contributions to the book Christianity as Event. Essays on the Theological Thought of Luigi Giussani, spoke of how he encountered Giussani's thought after reading Cardinal Ratzinger's homily at his funeral: Christianity "is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is an encounter, a love story; it is an event." Two things struck him about the book: the way Giussani talks about reason and his open gaze towards reality.

Fr. Dan received The Religious Sense as a Christmas gift last year. His reflection started from the recognition that every human being has this desire for the infinite and pointed out that a person’s reason reaches its apex when they knock on the door of what is beyond reason itself. "Not only do we have a desire for the infinite, but we desire a communion with the infinite," he said, "We don't just want to know that there is an Infinite, a You, but we want to know it. From our experience and the fact that we desire a You, we desire a personal experience, a relationship with Him." Communion is liberation, he added, "It is in communion with an Other where I discover that I am free."

Ercoli recounted her experience in the sphere of work, how the concept of gratuitousness can be used as a psychological tool to deal with difficulties. "In the corporate world, through so-called work coaches, we are encouraged to spend ten minutes every day to write down the things we are grateful for in our lives. But this is an abstract exercise. Giussani invites us to look at reality and observe the signs it contains, but he does not stop there, as current thinking does. In Giussani, signs serve to refer us to a greater You who loves us and wants our good. Only if we make this transition does gratuitousness acquire meaning and become relevant to life."

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In the afternoon, the meeting on the book The Miracle of Hospitality was led by Maria Cecilia Grandi, marketing director of a large company and mother, alongside Fr. John O'Connor, while Rachelle and Daniel Hopper shared experiences and reflections on the topic of fostering and adoption. After having two children of their own, they adopted two more babies. As other families in the Sydney community are considering foster care, they wanted to share the text at a public event. This is what journalist Adam Wesselinoff, deputy editor of Catholic Weekly, wrote in an article about the meeting, "The speakers presented beautiful stories of their experiences in fostering and adopting children, growing up with foster children or helping to place foster children. Although none of the many difficulties of these stories were left out, what emerged was the true miracle of hospitality that was taking place in their lives. I found the whole presentation deeply moving."