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Saturday, June 22, 2024
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The Catholic difference: Donum ministries

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Tomasz at the inaugural dinner for Donum Ministries. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi.

“The Holy Spirit unites,” a dear friend of mine often reminds me.

If he is right—and I’m sure that he is—then the Holy Spirit is working overtime in the sphere of lay apostolates that provide solid, Catholic formation.

Last week, I was privileged to attend the inaugural fundraising dinner for Donum Ministries, an initiative founded by Tomasz and Sarah Juszczak, a beautiful young couple known to many in the Archdiocese of Sydney and beyond. Donum means ‘gift’ and Tomasz and Sarah’s mission is to share the message of the joy and fulfilment that can be found in self-giving with as many people as possible, particularly young people in our schools. US speaker Jason Evert gave the keynote address for the evening.

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The thing that struck me most about the evening was not Evert’s talk, great as it was, nor Sarah’s testimony about being diagnosed with the same type of cancer that claimed the life of her mother just four days after her mother’s funeral, although that was incredibly moving.

No, what struck me was the spirit of unity present in the room and this became clear at one very specific point in the night.

Tomasz and Sarah dedicated a small portion of the evening to highlighting other lay apostolates doing similar work. They listed seven other organisations that are already well-established, with Tomasz thanking them for their example. “Sarah and I stand on the shoulders of giants,” he said. “In the secular world,” Tomasz continued, “these people would be my competitors. But most of them are here tonight, supporting us as we begin.” He went on to ask those gathered to prayerfully consider financially supporting the wonderful work of those apostolates as well.

Keynote speaker, Jason Evert at the Donum Ministries inaugural dinner. Photo: Jazz Chalouhi

In a commercial setting, that type of statement would probably get you fired. Even in the non-faith-based charitable sector, it would be unthinkable. But in that room on that night, it seemed completely natural because it felt a lot like a gathering of family members. Most of the 300+ people in the room were personal friends of Tomasz and Sarah, with most of those friendships being formed and fortified in parishes, youth ministry or other works of evangelisation.

There were at least a dozen priests in the room, many religious too, offering a beautiful example of how co-responsibility for mission in the church can be done well.

It was evident that those present in the evening shared the conviction that the mission of the church does not belong more to one ministry more than any other, nor is one vocation any more important in the pursuit of this mission than any other. The call to proclaim the Gospel belongs to all of us and we should both celebrate and support others who put out into the deep.

Evert’s presence itself at the dinner was also a good reminder of this.

Tomasz spoke about attending a talk given by Jason Evert at World Youth Day, Sydney in 2008. At the end of that talk, Tomasz explained, Evert told those gathered that if they had received something from his talk, they should return the following day to hear Christopher West. Tomasz and Sarah did just that and explained how these talks combined were a key contributing factor for his own life of faith and his desire to share a message of the power of self-gift. More than 15 years later, Evert was speaking at a fundraiser to launch a new ministry that was—at least in part—a fruit of his own work and ministry.

It seems to me that we are seeing more and more of this type of shared mission in the church in Australia at the moment and I think it is wonderful. I expect that the Holy Spirit is preparing us all for the many challenges that lie ahead for people of faith in this country and other western nations and reminding us that we are all in it together.

God speed to Tomasz and Sarah and all others who are working in this particular patch of the vineyard.

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