Creating community – celebrating, forgiving and blessing
Anne Jordan of Presentation Sisters Lismore has spent over 30 years working with volunteers in Sydney to care for people who are chronically homeless, recently incarcerated or suffering from addiction.
Cana Communities has been built on the model of creating a community that values creation, expresses celebration and cares for people with limited options.
The Opus Prize is the world’s most prestigious faith-based humanitarian award and the 2016 finalists attended a ceremony hosted by Creighton University at the Holland Center in Omaha, Nebraska USA, on November 17, 2016.
Anne Jordan’s speech as a Finalist for 2016 Opus Prize Award
“My life journey for more than 30 years has been tied up with the people of Cana Communities. I continue to be led to people whose journey is very different from mine and to others who will share the journey with me. I stand here to represent the community but you all know there are many people who have worked with me to create this community. Julie and Andrew are here with me tonight representing so many others.
For many of us we find ourselves at Cana when there is some change happening in our lives. For me it was going back to university to upgrade my qualifications, and make the change from being a teacher to becoming a school counsellor. Unexpectedly at a prayer meeting I met a group of people whose lives were so different from mine that my journey changed direction and my whole life was transformed.
Christiana, Harry, David, Jeff, Verona, Hughy and many others came into my life that day and I am different. What happens and how it happens isn’t easily understood or explained but I know that in letting these people into my heart I have less answers and more trust in the journey. I see how hope and solutions don’t necessarily live in the same space.
I have cried with a Mum who can’t let her son live at home with her. ‘He’s too strong for me Anne, I’m frightened when he has an episode’ she said. Pete has severe schizophrenia and often times had psychotic episodes where he was quite out of control. He was also a delightful, open man with a great sense of humour and lived the whole range of religious beliefs.
On one occasion when I had to ask him to take a few days away because of some challenging behaviour he stood on the footpath outside the house and screamed back: ‘Jesus Christ couldn’t get a **** bed here!’ I was left wondering what on earth I was doing.
Years later when I was living at another house in the community, Mel, a girl of 17, died on the footpath from an overdose. She’d been living rough or in a car for two years having left home with an older man. Luke and I shared our birthdays. When I was with Mel’s mum I could share her pain and anger about Luke; when I was with Luke I knew the pain and grief of losing someone he’d loved passionately. Mel’s first drug use was a home long before she met Luke. At her funeral there were many of her classmates. They were still completing their final year of secondary schooling.
Life journeys are often not simple or straightforward.
Our response is to work towards creating COMMUNITY. Cana Communities. Jesus revealed the trinity to us: the community of God. The incarnation is very real at Cana.
Community is a place of hope because it lets us come to a HOME space, a HEART space, a PEOPLE space where we can hold our deepest hopes, pain, fears and longings safely and without judgement. The Opus logo expresses it beautifully as
Restoring hope, lighting the way home.
At Cana we focus on Celebration and Forgiveness as the qualities of God we want to make present in our world. The Cana story reminds us that when we recognise that we have nothing, we can look for and expect miracles.
They had no wine. Then there was wine in abundance. The party could go on!!
Cana Communities goes on because of the hundreds of volunteers and community members who manage each day to just get on with it and keep ‘lighting the way home!’
I’m grateful to the many people who have shared with me on life’s journey – my family and Presentation Sisters and friends as well as people from Cana. The Opus Prize experience is a particular cause of gratitude. Our hearts and lives have been expanded through each encounter with you – the team who came to visit, the extravagance of welcome and acknowledgement of each of us this week at Creighton. We have truly been celebrated and our ministries acknowledged. I want to pay tribute to the wonderful experience of community you have given us. We are truly blessed in the way you have cared for us and reminded us in so many ways that we are worth celebrating.
I’d like to finish with part of ‘A Blessing’ written by David Marsh, a mystical man who lives with severe chronic mental health issues. He wrote this in the early ’90’s and we often use it at Cana. Just last month David blessed us with these words as we celebrated his 60th birthday.”
May you know in your heart what is real.
May living waters cleanse your soul.
….because of you may others live.
Because of you many others love.
That you may know within your heart
A paradise, a work of art.
by David Marsh