Whakaruruhau mo nga iwi katoa – shelter for all
A call to action on behalf of the homeless has come from Katrina Fabish rsm, Congregation Leader of Ngā Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand.
Her appeal comes in a 13 July letter sent to all leaders and board chairpersons of Mercy’s ministries, inviting them to raise a collective voice in this Year of Mercy on behalf of all who seek shelter. The theme of shelter has also emerged as a topic from groups meeting throughout New Zealand as part of a worldwide Year of Mercy reflection process initiated by the Mercy International Association.
Tuesday 20 September has been earmarked for a pilgrimage to Parliament, preceded by a letter-writing campaign to Members of Parliament. “There is power in numbers and our hope is to have every adult, child, staff member, client, volunteer, friend, board member, parent and family member associated with any of our ministries sign or write a letter into our petition books,” wrote Sister Katrina.
“Pictures and stories of people living on the street, families living in cars, inadequate and poor housing, rising costs of rentals and homes and at-risk elderly bring before us the stark reality of how many within our reach are living.
“I believe that many of us will know of someone who is struggling in this way. The corporal work of mercy, ‘for I was homeless and you gave me shelter’ is as relevant today as it was in Jesus’ time.”
The focus on ‘shelter for all’ has been captured in a poster that bears the inscription ‘Te Whakaruruhau mō ngā iwi katoa’. There is no Māori word for homelessness, since in theory no Māori is without a tūrangawaewae, a place called home. But talk of ‘shelter for all’ raises the issue of housing which is adequate, affordable and secure as a matter of right for all people.
The letter notes that Sisters of Mercy, in New Zealand since 1850, have addressed this work of mercy in myriad ways and continue to do so. “Today we wish to bring before the Government and all political parties our collective concerns, and witness to Mercy as one who stands with those on the margins, calling for justice and mercy for those most marginalised by structures which exclude them.”
The proposal from Katrina Fabish is that letters written over the next few weeks will be presented to Members of Parliament in Wellington as a public witness. “It would be wonderful to have representatives of your organisation come to Wellington if that is possible. We do hope that students from Mercy colleges will be able to witness to Mercy’s call for ‘shelter for all’ on the steps of Parliament.”
September is traditionally kept as Mercy Month, and ceremonies on the theme of “Shelter for All” are expected to be held in most of Mercy’s healthcare, education and community development ministries during this month. As well as signing letters to MPs, groups within Mercy ministries will be encouraged to collect food and bedding to share with needy families.
Quoting Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy, Katrina Fabish concluded her letter by asking that all involved in these ministries work “to make ‘Mercy the business of our lives,’ so that we have a world made better through our care.”
Prepared by Dennis Horton for He Waka Tiaki, the mission team of Tiaki Manatu Sisters of Mercy NZ Ministries Trust.
© Shelter For All Logo Nga Whaea Atawhai o Aotearoa Sisters of Mercy New Zealand