Tony Cranney: Don’t just have faith, grow and share it

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Life-long mates Tony Cranney and Phil Lesmond packing hampers at St Joseph’s Como.

Anyone here seen the movie City Slickers? Well for those unfamiliar with the movie, a group of city slickers (staring Billy Crystal) go to a ranch to experience a cattle drive, and of course, meet up with a rough, tough, no-nonsense cowboy who they all find very intimidating.

Anyway, Billy Crystal ends up building a relationship with the cowboy and hopes to get some life advice from him. The scene is all set when the cowboy is about to tell Billy everything he needs to know to have a great life.  This is unbelievable, Billy Crystal thinks, and the cowboy says there is just one thing in life that matters.

He pauses … Billy waits like an excited kid.  The cowboy takes a long drag of his cigarette, Billy almost bursting out of his skin waiting for this one thing that will change his life forever. And the cowboy dies … That’s right, before he is able to share the secret of a good life he dies.

Personally, I believe I know that one thing. I have heard it at the end of Mass for years now. Now I don’t know that it’s this magical thing that will fix or change everything in life. But, personally, it never fails for me.

Archbishop Fisher with Vinnies represenatives Sydney President Mr Tony Cranney (left) and NSW President Mr Peter MaccNamara (right) PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

That ‘One’ thing: “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord”.

Our St Vincent de Paul work and mission gives us such a wonderful platform upon which to live out our Christian faith in not only a prayerful way but in a very practical way. By giving some of our time and talents we give help. By exercising our faith we give hope. By showing concern and compassion we build relationships.

By loving, “truly loving,” we bear witness to our love of Christ and offer not only a hand up to our less fortunate brothers and sisters who call upon us in their hour of need, we also reinforce our commitment to accompany our dear companions on their journey, confirming no matter how rocky it becomes, they will not be alone or left behind.

I sadly have very few answers to the problems … What I do however recommend is … not only have faith, grow your faith, share your faith and show your faith.”

We pray for Christ for strength, courage, wisdom and energy to serve him well. This year, 2020, has been described as a year from hell. Drought, bushfires, more drought, some floods, more bushfires, and then a pandemic – as if that wasn’t enough. Cutbacks, job losses, bankruptcies and evictions. Have I missed anything?

Oh yes –throw in a restructure on the top of our normal work load and what seemed like an extraordinary level of illness and death, and this year has produced a level of suffering, need and sadness many of us have not witnessed before. To the great credit of so many staff, volunteers and of course members, did we pack it in?  Did we give up?  Run?  Hide?

No, No, No. At this time in history so many called upon us:

  • Those who lost their jobs (many for the first time)
  • Lost their business
  • Those at risk of becoming homeless
  • Were sick, scared or isolated
  • Those who felt alone or left behind
  • At some point people especially the elderly or vulnerable, couldn’t even go up the road to purchase basic food items.
Cake stalls were one of the many fundraising initiatives held by Sydney Catholic schools in support of the Vinnies CEo Sleepout. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
Cake stalls were one of the many fundraising initiatives held by Sydney Catholic schools in support of the Vinnies CEO Sleepout in 2019. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

As an organisation, The Society of St Vincent De Paul, whilst remaining humble, should be very proud of its achievements in rising to the challenges we found ourselves facing in this past year.

Did we get it all right? No. Can we do better? Yes. Is there more to be done?  Of course. How do we know this? Because our founder Blessed Frédéric Ozanam told us charity must never look behind but always look ahead:

  • Because the number of her past deeds is always small, whereas the present and future miseries she must relieve are without number.
  • While the world we live in seems to continue to become more complex, the pace quicker, the gap between the haves and the have-nots bigger.
  • While the line between right and wrong becomes blurry to some.

Freedom of religion – the environment, the colour of skin, sexuality, refugees, social and affordable housing, homelessness, unemployment and social justice of all descriptions are the agenda items. They are still on the table and together constitute the challenges we must continue to face. I sadly have very few answers to the problems.

Like many, I become saddened, disappointed and disillusioned – imagine someone without faith? What I do however recommend is … not only have faith, but grow your faith, share your faith and show your faith. God has a plan for each of us, be open to hearing from God. You don’t know when or how He might share his plan for you.

It might be through an old cowboy, a work colleague, a neighbour, a fellow Vincentian or even a companion we are assisting.  It may come from prayerful reflection.  I only ask that you listen carefully and be open to God’s calling.

Now, you didn’t know what my opening line was going to be, but I bet you can guess what my closing line is going to be. Go in peace to love and service the Lord.

Tony Cranney is the Sydney Central president for the St Vincent de Paul Society.