by Gordon Nary
Gordon: What universities and colleges did you attend and what were your primary studies, degrees, and certificates?
David: My tertiary education came out of a bigger journey to learn more about my Catholic faith and how best I was to respond. I first trained as a Pharmacist at Otago University but later was drawn to studying theology in the hope it would answer my faith questions. My undergraduate theology was done at the New Zealand national seminary and through the University of Otago. A few years later I focused on missiology (the theology and practice of Christian mission) through the Sydney College of Divinity.
This was based on the Columban Fathers in North Turramurra. Years later I wrote a doctoral thesis in missiology through the University of South Africa in Pretoria. There I focused on what contributes to conversion to justice. This question was my own question and my own journeying.
Gordon: What were your primary responsibilities when you served as Justice and Peace Educator at Auckland Catholic Diocese?
David: My role in Auckland as Justice and Peace educator followed completing my master's in Missiology in Sydney. The role sought to find opportunities to raise awareness, to educate, and to advocate for a wide range of social and ecological justice issues. My experiences doing theology enabled me to unpack the faith basis for the justice stances I took and I often wrote faith reflections that were focused on justice and justice issues.
Gordon: What work did you do when you were in Winterveldt?
David: This was an interesting and surprising part of my life. I was staying with the Stigmatine Fathers while I was studying in Pretoria. One day the superior asked me if I would help them as their rural aged care facility was having huge trouble with Government health and social development compliance issues. I went out as a volunteer to work with the Sisters of St Paul initially but after 18 months I was asked to take on the role of manager. I was involved in writing and implementing a range of policies, overseeing the care and activities of the 60 residents, managing the finances, overseeing the shopping, and assisting residents to get to hospital and clinic appointments.
Gordon: What is your favorite memory when you served at St John the Baptist old age home?
David: St John the Baptist old age home is in a rural area over one-hour drive northwest of Pretoria North, There were five different language groups amongst the residents and I tried to learn who spoke each language and what greetings were appropriate. The smiles on residents' faces at my attempts are a favorite memory.
Gordon: What are your primary responsibilities as Executive Officer of Social Justice Commission Catholic Diocese of Toowoomba?
David: The primary function of the Executive Offer’s role is to support the work of the Social Justice Commission by resourcing them on a range of issues and carrying out any particular projects they require. The ongoing job description involves awareness-raising, education, and advocacy around issues concerning First Nations Peoples, migrants and refugees, and care of the earth. The job enables me to contribute to the deepening of faith and awareness of issues in the Diocese of Toowoomba.
Gordon: What are some of the challenges that you face in your work and how do you address them?
David: Catholic Social Teaching has been repeatedly named the church’s best-kept secret. For whatever reason, very few Catholics know about the depth of social and ecological teaching of the Catholic Church. We are very good at the charity responses but very few have a sense that social, economic, cultural, and even religious institutions and structures need questioning and challenging. I attempt to link faith and life, Catholic teaching, and structural injustice issues in everything I do.
Gordon: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had upon your work?
David: So much of what I do is about human face-to-face meetings and connections. Covid-19 reduced this and many groups did not meet for about two years. The struggle is now to reconnect and revitalize these groups and help give the members a sense of direction and purpose in the meeting.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.