News: President’s Report

Making possibilities with others

“Someone with vision conceived the idea of portable computers, food banks, democracy and the right for women to vote and be elected. And why did they work? Because so many others already shared the same vision. What vision do we share now for the working poor, refugees, the elderly, the hungry of this world?”

The passage quoted above is one among many taken from a chapter on “vision” in a wonderful book of quotes by Joan Chittister titled “Seeing with our souls”. As I read through the many wise quotes on vision I became aware of how quickly words can lose their energy and meaning and are then less able to inspire people to imagine. I have especially experienced this as I sat through many meetings and lectures where the word “vision” was discussed as a measure of progress rather than as possibilities being inspired by others as Jesus was by the marginalised.

Reading the quotes caused me to reflect on the work of PALMS, its vision and how this vision has endeavoured to make possibilities in solidarity with others. So why has the work of PALMS endured across nearly five decades of social and cultural change? I believe that the answer lies within the quotation above:

“And why did they work? Because so many others already shared the same vision.”

I am constantly in awe of the people who continue to support and walk the vision with courage, care, wisdom, love, service and imagination.

In the introduction to the chapter on “Vision”, Joan Chittister describes how her Benedictine community bought 140 acres in 1906 for $10,000 and how it took them years to pay it off. This piece of ground was never used until 1930, the year that the community opened a children’s camp as a response to the Great Depression. Today that property is the site of a centre that offers award-winning ecological programs, retreat programs and a place where the poor, the handicapped and marginal can spend time. Joan calls the action of purchasing the property a “determining act”. An act that was vision. And in Joan’s words:

“Vision is not the ability to predict the future, it is a commitment to pursue possibility. Vision asks questions no one else even seems to know exist. Vision is the grace to evaluate the present and then to ask, “Why not?” of the future.”

This year has brought challenges for the PALMS vision. The loss in funding from Ausaid was one of those challenges to some of the practical operations of the organisation but it did not diminish the PALMS spirit and that “determining act” which began the organisation in the 1950’s. Presently there are seeds being planted by those who continue to share in the vision and it appears PALMS could have a new and unique evangelizing activity in the everyday marketplace of Australian culture. This activity can work because there are many waiting for it to be born who already share the same vision.

I want to personally thank all those who continue to walk with and support the organisation. Because we share faith in the vision, we know that the wisdom and courage of a loving God will give us what we need to make possibilities with others.

Stephen Robards
President

A subscription to Joan Chittister’s weekly column can be arranged by emailing FromWhereIStand@natcath.org

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The end of extreme poverty is at hand, within our generation, but only if we grasp the historic opportunity in front of us. - Jeffrey Sachs