Director, From the Heart
Having been closely involved in the process that resulted in the historic Uluru Statement From The Heart, Dean continues to advocate for constitutional and structural reform as Director of From the Heart.
Formerly an investment analyst at alternative asset investment firm Tanarra Capital, Dean also has extensive experience in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs.
He has consulted across the public, corporate, not-for-profit and political sectors at national, regional, and local levels. He has advised a range of clients on strategy, engagement and co-design, and has commercial experience both in Australia and the UK.
Dean is from the Quandamooka peoples of Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in Queensland. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and Journalism) from the University of Queensland and a Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of Melbourne. He is a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Fellowship for Social Equity and is an ex-officio member of the Business Council of Australia’s Indigenous Engagement Taskforce.
Dr Elissa Roper is an Australian scholar in the areas of ecclesiology and synodality. She has a passion for renewing the Catholic Church’s understanding of the People of God as baptismal in identity, and missionary in discipleship. Her doctoral thesis topic was “Synodality and Authenticity: Towards a Contemporary Ecclesiology for the Catholic Church.”
Elissa is a sessional academic with the Australian Catholic University and works for the Sisters of Mercy. She manages a Program of Theology in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands; which offers tertiary theological education for women.
Elissa assisted the Drafting Committee of the Plenary Council and has wide experience presenting at conferences and events. She is passionate about creative and effective Catholic communication. She has served in the areas of parish planning and liturgy; understanding clerical abuse and working for healing; and ecumenical and interfaith relations.
Elissa and her husband Philip have four children and live in the beautiful Yarra Valley, 50 kms from the Melbourne CBD.
Bishop of Sandhurst, Vice-President of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia, Delegate to Synod 2023
Bishop Shane Mackinlay was ordained as Bishop of Sandhurst in 2019, after 28 years of ministry as a priest of the Ballarat Diocese. He served in a number of parishes, as well as completing a masters and doctorate in philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.
Before being appointed as bishop, he had taught philosophy for twenty years, and for nearly 10 years was Master of Catholic Theological College in the University of Divinity, Melbourne. He was the Vice-President of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia and will be one of the Australian delegates to the forthcoming Synod 2023.
Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Brisbane
Tim Norton was born in Sydney in 1958 and after graduation completed tertiary studies for a Bachelor of Applied Science in Physiotherapy at Cumberland College of Health Sciences.
Considered a late vocation, he professed as a seminarian for his religious order – commonly known as the Divine Word Missionaries or SVDs – in Mexico in 1986. He was ordained in 1991.
Although much of his seminary formation was conducted in Mexico he spent time as a part time physiotherapist in Pentridge Prison, Melbourne during 1989/90.
Between 1998 and 2004 Tim served as the Order’s prefect for theology students and novice and postulant director, alternately based in Melbourne or Sydney. He then served as leader of the SVD Australian province (which also includes New Zealand & Thailand) from 2005 – 2013.
From 2014 until 2021 Tim was offering ministry in Italy, in particular working full-time with consecrated women and men in the promotion of interculturality, something for which the SVD order are renowned worldwide, including in Australia.
Ordained as Bishop in 2022, Bishop Norton SVD is hopeful he will bring to his ministry in Brisbane “an intense interest in culture, and the mission of God in the world, whatever shape or form that may take”.
Ambassador of Australia to the Holy See
HE Ambassador Chiara Porro is a career diplomat who joined Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in 2009. She has held a range of positions in Canberra, including most recently as Director, Ministerial and Executive Liaison Section, Executive Branch. She was seconded as an Adviser to the International Division of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (2016-17), and has worked in DFAT’s Budget Branch (2015-16) and Africa Branch (2014).
Overseas, Ambassador Porro has served as Deputy Consul-General in Noumea, New Caledonia (2018-2020), on a short term mission to West Africa (2016), and as Second Secretary in New Delhi, India (2011-2014).
Ambassador Porro holds a Master of International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands and a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from the University of York, United Kingdom. She speaks Italian and French. Ambassador Porro presented credentials to His Holiness Pope Francis on 27 August 2020.
Ambassador Porro is married and has two children.
Assistant Director for Pastoral Life and Mission, Archdiocese of Adelaide
Peter Bierer is the Assistant Director for Pastoral Life and Mission in the Archdiocese of Adelaide. Originally from Minnesota, Peter has been a lay pastoral minister for over 20 years serving in parishes, dioceses, schools, universities, and with national organisations in the US and Australia with a focus on youth and young adult ministry, faith formation, music ministry and pastoral leadership. Peter is a member of the Advisory Council to the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry. Peter holds a Masters of Arts in Pastoral Ministry from St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN and a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Peter is married to Lauren, they have four children.
Director of Mission and Pastoral Life, Diocese of Sandhurst
Dr Chris Cotter is Director of Mission and Pastoral Life in the Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst. In this role Chris leads the Mission and Pastoral Life Team at the Chancery and supports the deaneries and parishes of the Diocese. He has experience as a teacher, leader and administrator in Catholic schools and system offices in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, most recently as Director of Religious Education at Catholic Education Western Australia. Chris has academic qualifications in education, religious education and theology, including the research degree of Doctor of Theology. He is particularly interested in the contribution practical theology can make to the integration of faith, life and culture for the mission and identity of Catholic organisations. Chris lives in Bendigo, is married to Julie and has two adult daughters and a whippet named ‘Scully’.
Quandamooka woman, NATSICC Queensland Representative
Evelyn is a Quandamooka woman of Moreton Bay Queensland. She is very passionate about spirituality, identity and relationship with the Holy Trinity and its people of this ancient land, Australia.
Evelyn’s journey as an Aboriginal Christian is a continuing life story with God and how he made himself known from the time she was a little girl growing up in her community called ‘One Mile’. Over the time Evelyn listened to her country’s Elders and Ancestors, spent time researching in the Western way and studying in the many areas of Aboriginal Culture and Christianity while gaining a Masters of Theology at Banyo University Queensland in 2006. Evelyn went on to teach Contextual Theology to mature aged students at ‘Wontulp-Bi-Buya College in Cairns.
Evelyn is married to Alan and together they have four children and six grandchildren. She participates in her community and enjoys being on the Board of the Minjerribah/Stradbroke Island Museum. Evelyn is the Queensland Representative with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC).
The Alice Springs Community Catechist program is a powerful alliance between the local parish and elders, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) and Catholic Mission (pictured here at a gathering in Alice Springs). Leaders from this group will attend the conference and share using their artworks, their faith and spirituality and why this leadership program is important to their communities.
Integral Ecology Animator and Mission Ministry Resource coordinator, ISMAPNG
Sally is the Integral Ecology Animator and Mission Ministry Resource coordinator for the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG). Her role involves assisting with the Institute’s commitment to the Laudato Si’ 7 goals and coordinating the Mercy Integral Ecology Emerging Leaders Fellowship program.
Sr Noelene Simmons is a Marist Sister. She has a background in secondary teaching with twenty four years experience in secondary schools in New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand. She has held various administrative roles within her congregation and in secondary colleges. Noelene has been a member of ACRATH since 2010. Her work with ACRATH includes giving presentations to raise awareness about human trafficking and slavery, advocating on behalf of those affected by this crime, managing the ACRATH website and social media platforms and networking with other Australian NGO’s working in this field. She was the Oceania Representative on the Talitha Kum International Coordination Committee from 2016 to 2017. From February 2017-February 2020 Noelene held the position of President of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans). Currently, as well as continuing her work with ACRATH, Noelene is General Bursar for the Marist Sisters and a board member of UNANIMA International.
Ordained a priest in 1995, Gerard has served in pastoral ministry for 17 years, and as assistant novice director (USA) for five years. He is currently coming to the end of a six year assignment as Provincial Minister for the Capuchins in Australia. Gerard holds a Bachelor of Theology and Graduate Diploma in Theology from the Sydney College of Divinity. Gerard is also a musician.
Alice works for Catholic Earthcare Australia supporting parishes, schools and families to engage with the Laudato Si’ goals and the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. Her previous work as a teacher allows her to give insight on curriculum matters. In 2021 Alice completed a Master’s in Theology with a focus in eco-theoloy and is currently a working member supporting the Laudato Si’ action platform in its development and implementation. Alice’s journey in the area of integral ecology started when she went zero-waste for Lent, which led to her own ‘ecological conversion’ as Pope Francis would call it.
Lawrie is Executive Officer of the AMPJP, Chair of Southern Cross Care (NSW & ACT) and Chair of the Society of Jesus in Australia Ltd, Care for our Common Home Committee. He has experience and qualifications in theology, management and social work.
Mercy Partners is a multi-charism, multi ministry PJP operating from Brisbane. Caroline has a background in secondary education and adult faith formation. In her work for Mercy Partners, Caroline facilitates workshops for the leaders (directors. executive and senior staff) of the aged care ministries of Mercy Partners, as well as producing resources, conducting retreats and pilgrimages and supporting leaders in creating nurturing communities within the aged care sector. Caroline’s doctorate focused on faith leadership.
Joshua is Executive Director of Catholic Social Services Victoria, a peak body working with 42 organisations and the Bishops of Victoria to build a more just and compassionate society. He has a strong interest in being a part of a positive change in the situation, discourse and government treatment of people involved in forced migration, and a part of participatory responses to social issues, thinking and policy directions. He sits on the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project Board and is a Director of the Arena Foundation. He is a member of the Australian Services Union and St Vincent de Paul Society.
Stancea Vichie is a Missionary Sister of Service, an Australian congregation founded by Father John Wallis in 1944. She has worked in urban, rural, and outback parts of Australia and some short times overseas, a life and mission which has included pastoral work, Congregational leadership, adult faith formation, advocacy with asylum seekers, and people who are survivors of human trafficking.
Catherine Towiro developed, coordinates, and facilitates the Interfaith Encounters inter-school program at Catholic Mission. A program that is currently being funded by Multicultural NSW. As part of the COMPACT Alliance, Catherine is building partnerships with a range of organisations to increase impact and achieve outcomes for more peaceful and socially cohesive communities.
Catherine has lived and worked both here in Australia and in Cambodia and Malaysia in fields of research, training and development, organisational development, and strategic planning for both large organisations and small grassroots start-ups.
She is passionate about finding creative and experiential ways to build greater intercultural understanding, break down barriers that divide us and working collaboratively to bring people together in celebration of our shared humanity.
Jo Kenny is the Assistant Director – Catholic Life, Education and Mission Services (CLEM) within Catholic Education in the Diocese of Wollongong. She has significant background in education as a teacher, a school leader, system team leader and now as a service area leader and part of the leadership team for the system of schools. Since 2015 her work involved leading a more contemporary understanding of mission in everyday life and particularly in Catholic education through the influence of the “Educating with a Mission Lens” programme in schools and system teams. During 2018 Jo worked for Catholic Mission in the role of Mission Formation Educator and she has facilitated retreat and formation opportunities for RECs and school staff in Wollongong diocese, Wagga diocese and Parramatta diocese as well as with clergy groups and other Catholic community groups in Brisbane and Sydney. In 2020 Jo returned to a leadership role in Catholic Education, Diocese of Wollongong and in 2021 began in the role of Assistant Director, CLEM.
David is a Catholic educator with over 30 years experience, here and abroad, in both Catholic and state schools.
He is the Education Officer – Social Justice (Secondary) in the Catholic Life, Education and Mission team in Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong (CEDoW). His role supports school communities and leads school improvement through the quality pedagogy that embeds Catholic Social Teaching into the missionary mandate of the schools guided by the diocesan call to be Bearers of Christ’s Love.
David has a deep conviction that the clear mission of a Catholic education provides our community with an alternative formation for our youth, integrating learning, wellbeing and faith as a framework to develop thriving young people equipped to love and serve in their communities.
Sister Mary-Louise Petro is a Sister of Mercy of the Parramatta Congregation which she entered in 1973. Before entry Mary-Louise graduated from the Catholic Teachers ’ College and taught in both primary and secondary Mercy schools and was Deputy Principal at both OLMC Parramatta and Epping.
In 1983 she obtained a qualification in Youth Work and led the Mercy Youth Team in the parishes of St Clair and St Marys in Sydney’s Outer West. From this ministry came the request from parents to find ways to assist young people who were unemployed in a time of extremely high youth unemployment. In response Mary-Louise, with the support of the Sisters of Mercy, founded in 1985, The Mamre Project at St Marys. This ministry was a sponsored work of the Parramatta Sisters of Mercy and assisted the unemployed, people with a disability, youth at risk and refugees. Mary-Louise served as CEO in this community based ministry for thirty years.
Roles within the Sisters of Mercy have included formation of younger sisters and four terms on the Leadership Team. Mary-Louise is currently the Congregation Leader for her order.
Her passion is to bring Mercy – the loving kindness of the heart of our God – alive in our world through works that meet the needs of the most vulnerable.
Background in education both in primary school education and adult education; was a school principal for seven years and later moved into pastoral ministry becoming a parish pastoral associate. During that time, I also did part-time tutoring in scripture, and theology at the Australian Catholic University, Sydney followed by four years ministering at the Catholic Adult Education Office, Sydney Archdiocese as a program coordinator for Certificate 1V in Parish Ministry. After completing studies in Healthcare Ethics overseas, I ministered as a Chaplain at the Children’s Hospital Westmead from 2006 to 2015. In 2016 I was elected as a Council Member on to our Congregation Leadership Team and re-elected in this year, 2023 for a further four years. A significant part of my ministry is in Safeguarding, which has been a great privilege albeit challenging.
Benjamin Oh is the Chair of Rainbow Catholics interAgency for Ministry. The national umbrella body that brings together LGBTIQA+ affirming Catholic agencies, organizations, groups and ministries around Australia working to build a more just and pastoral church with LGBTIQA+ Catholics and their loved ones. Benjamin is also co-Chair of Equal Voices, the national ecumenical movement for LGBTIQA+ affirming Christians and co-Chair of the Asia-Pacific Rainbow Catholics Network. Benjamin works and teaches in areas intersecting cross-cultural education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue, human rights, racial justice, international aid development, LGBTIQA+ religious realities, and peace and conflict studies; he is also a professional pastoral supervisor for faith workers both within and beyond the Catholic community.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) is the peak advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics. The Council was founded in 1992 and the Secretariat is based in Adelaide. Each State and Territory nominates a representative via their local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Ministry. The Council meets monthly via teleconference and twice yearly on a face-to-face basis. NATSICC advises the Bishops Commission for relations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics. NATSICC is a not-for-profit organisation that is funded by the Catholic Church and Caritas Australia’s First Nations program. For more information on representatives visit www.natsicc.org.au
Arts HQ is part of the Education and Research directorate of Sydney Catholic Schools and offers support in Arts Curriculum and innovation, skill building and talent development for teachers and students.
Arts HQ projects explicitly target quality Arts Education and excellence as well as connecting the arts in cross curricular programs. Opportunities are available for all students encompassing diverse and cultural learning led by Education specialists and industry professionals to create thriving Catholic communities.
Programs cover Dance, Drama, Music and Visual Arts within the Sydney Archdiocese as well as collaboration beyond our communities.
Arts HQ performance ensembles (formerly known as CaSPA) have performed nationally and internationally and are thrilled to be invited back to collaborate with Catholic Mission and give voice to truth in our performance, “Hear the Colours, Feel the Sounds”.
Engaging Together session presenters
“A great conference with wonderful presenters who helped open the doors to an inclusive church, knitting together many aspects of Pope Francis’ encyclicals, prayer, spirituality, mission and BEING present to the Holy Spirit and to each other.”
2021 Conference Participant
“The conference was great. A wide range of expert speakers whose messages complemented each other really well.”
2021 Conference Participant
“Very formative, engaging and stirring me for new ministries and engaging. It also helps me to see with new eyes, feel with new heart and think as Christ.”
2021 Conference Participant
“A good mix of guest speakers and sharing together.”
2021 Conference Participant
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