1.7 A Catholic community and culture
Organisations, from football clubs to the Australian Army, now recognise that there are cultures that can enhance the lives and work of members or indeed distract and even compromise the mission and ethos. We speak of 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' or 'toxic' cultures.
Culture has been defined in many different ways, each capturing something of its essence. One popular definition over recent years has been, 'Culture is the way we do things around here'. Your orientation and induction can be thought of as an introduction to "the way things are done", the underlying beliefs and values, traditions that find expression in the day to day life of the Curia and the Diocese of Broken Bay.
Stories are one of key ways that we transmit meanings. You will come to know the stories associated with the Diocese and the Curia; stories of its establishment and early years, of memorable leaders and staff, of achievements and difficulties.
You will also hear, in many and various ways, a larger story - the story of God the Creator and His love for all people especially His Chosen People and the love revealed in the Word made flesh - Jesus Christ. This story continues with the history of the Catholic Church in Broken Bay and Australia.
This larger story is the backdrop for the Curia's story and now your own story.
The communal life of the Curia is marked by rituals ranging from familiar human rituals such as the celebration of birthdays to sacred rituals such as the celebration of staff Masses which are the 'source and summit' of our Christian life as Catholics and as a Catholic community. Monday morning prayer is also part of the liturgical rhythm of the Curia, a chance to pray for each other and the needs of the Church and world.
Another definition of culture points to the things that both shape peoples' relationships and commitments and express the underlying beliefs and values of a society or a community. Clifford Geertz (1966, 89) defined culture as a pattern of meanings embodied in symbols by means of which people communicate and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life.
What Catholics believe and value, their attitude towards life, is also expressed in symbols. The Caroline Chisholm Centre is rich in symbols - crucifixes, paintings and statues, the symbols in meeting rooms and the Mary Star of the Sea Chapel on Level 8.
There may be new staff who are not so familiar with these stories, symbols or rituals or who have misunderstandings of them. It's always good to ask especially when you are new. Colleagues will be happy to explain their meaning.
Staff who are not Catholic should always know that respect for their religious freedom is highly valued. Staff of other Christian churches will feel able to participate in liturgies of the Word and the praying of the Our Father for example. With an open mind, all can benefit in some way from the wisdom of the Catholic Christian religious tradition and people who, like them, have struggled, contemplated and discussed all the great questions of life. All staff are expected to model for others a respectful presence at prayer and liturgy.