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Thursday, 04 August 2011 05:05

Central Australia dreaming

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Bishop Eugene Hurley, Bishop of the Darwin Diocese, Sister Carmel Bennett FMM, Sister Chris Burke IBVM, Brother Julian Casey FMS, Sister Pauline Compton FDNSC, Sister Clare Condon SGS, Sister Bernadette Edgecombe SSpS, Father Maurice Heading SJ, Sister Magali of Jesus LSJ, Father Brian McCoy SJ, Father John Mulrooney MSC and Father Tim Norton SVD met at the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart (OLSH) presbytery in Alice Springs on 16 and 17 March.

Over the two days the provincials and congregational leaders representing Loreto Sisters (IBVM), Jesuits (SJ), Divine Word Missionaries (SVD), Good Samaritan Sisters (SGS), Christian Brothers (FMS), Holy Spirit Sisters (SSpS), Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Sisters (FDNSC), Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) and Little Sisters of Jesus (LSJ) shared their charisms, history and stories of ministry with Indigenous people of Central Australia.

They learnt more about the history of indigenous Australians and Religious in the area, and listened to Indigenous representatives speak about significant issues for their people.  The more than 40 Religious Sisters, Brothers and Priests based in Alice Springs, Santa Teresa and Yuendumu spoke about their ministries with indigenous people in areas of health, education, welfare, advocacy and accompaniment.

There was also much discussion and planning to work towards a common vision of ministry with Indigenous people into the future, and to provide better support for Religious in their work and day-to-day life in the Centre.

Organiser of the forum was Father Tim Norton, Provincial of the Divine Word Missionaries. Divine Word Missionary priests and brothers are based at Alice Springs and Santa Teresa parishes.

Father Tim said one of the key aims of the gathering was to increase the level and efficacy of the collaboration between congregations and with lay and Indigenous people in this important ministry.

He said the gathering was timely as it is a new era in ministry in Central Australia with changes in society, government compliance and participation of Religious.

"It was a privilege (and often a painful privilege) for the leaders to hear the reality as expressed by all who participated. We were profoundly moved by so much of the sharing and were aware of the spirit of God at work."

Father Norton said the leaders are proud of their members and their commitment to addressing the dignity of indigenous Australians in what is an increasingly complex and hostile environment.

Some of the key outcomes of the meeting were commitment to greater collaboration and support between individuals and congregations, organising programs to deepen understandings of Indigenous language and culture, and facilitating programs of welcome and orientation to culture for new Religious to Central Australia.

"Our people have a deep level of commitment to the Indigenous people of Central Australia," Father Tim said. "They want to be there for the long haul.

"We hope that a stronger level of support from their leaders and from Catholic Religious Australia will help them to continue to accompany Indigenous people."