Catholic social teaching in the real world

A message from the Campus Dean (Ballarat), Professor Bridget Aitchison:

These are strange times we live in. Just when we thought we were getting back to normality, we discover it was an illusion. State borders close, cutting family members off from one another; businesses close, leaving students without jobs; we prepare for Semester 2, only to discover that our Victorian campuses are subject to different public health orders than elsewhere.

The past six months have been trying for everyone. Here in Ballarat, we seem to have had it better than other cities – only 11 confirmed cases and zero deaths with no cases since May. 

But many of our students lost jobs when the retail and hospitality industries closed. Some were cut off from family and support systems and had to figure out how to pay rent, buy food, and keep going with no source of income. Many of them, especially our international students, were not eligible for government support payments. Here, like every other campus of ACU, we had students experiencing genuine hardship.

This is where the Catholic ethos of ACU shines through – we came together and did not let our students struggle.

Our staff stepped up and put into practice the very ideals of Catholic social teaching that we teach in our classrooms. Our Community Engagement and Campus Ministry staff worked together to rally support among the staff and teamed up with St Vincent’s, the City of Ballarat, and even Federation University to create a large-scale food pantry with a downtown location. Students in need could come and, without being asked any questions, help themselves to whatever they needed and as much as they needed.

In this way, their human dignity was maintained while their needs were being met. This is just one small example of what ACU is – a place where we show our students by our actions what we are trying to teach them with our words.

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