Faith: The Enduring Theme

For a growing number of people drawing closer to SSM, an openness to a different form of religious life is as welcome today as it was for the many who encountered it more than a century ago.

Commenting on Society of the Sacred Mission (SSM) founder Father Herbert Hamilton Kelly, Australian Provincial Father Christopher Myers says Kelly spoke of religious life in organic evolutionary terms.

‘Kelly eschewed a narrow frame of reference, referring instead to SSM as an idea or an atmosphere where faith was primary and religion secondary.

For Kelly, the traditional framework for religion was as a fortress: strong and self-contained. Kelly, an old soldier, abhorred fortresses.

‘Kelly looked instead to the concept of the real work being done by “a free-moving field army, intent on victory rather than on the defence and safety of its own position”.

‘Thus SSM members have inherited a broad vision of religious life, one that seeks to realise fully the potential of each individual, in whatever the context, so as to maximise enthusiasm and devotion in the doing of God’s will’, says Christopher.

Father Kelly was a leading theologian of his time and author of The Gospel of God. He established SSM in England in the early 1890s as a training ground for ‘ordinary’ young men for the priesthood. Over the years, SSM trained more than 3500 priests, and today SSM priests work in England, Australia and Southern Africa.

A century on, and at a time when the systems underpinning religious life have become outmoded and thus ineffective, SSM Australia has been wrestling with the complexities of reimagining Kelly’s vision.

And it has made a beginning.

With faith the central pillar, members have been exploring new forms of religious expression and religious life, with this theological work reflected in recent changes to the constitution.

‘If we can find the energy and enthusiasm to discover anew and afresh the vision of our founder from those very early days in the life of the Society, then we might also by God’s grace discern that we have travelled full circle and rediscovered our purpose’, says Christopher.

‘Kelly looked instead to the concept of the real work being done by “a free-moving field army, intent on victory rather than on the defence and safety of its own position”.

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