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Monday, 16 May 2016 20:58

Kiribati commitment

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kiribati port pirieThe Catholic Education Office of the Diocese of Port Pirie and the Good Sams have established a partnership agreement enabling staff from diocesan schools to engage in a two-way outreach experience in Kiribati, reports The Witness.

An invitation has been extended for a staff member from each school across the Diocese of Port Pirie to participate in the first of our Social Justice Outreach Experiences to the village of Abaokoro in the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced Kir-ee-bas) in July 2016.

Kiribati is situated on the Equator and consists of three main groups of islands thousands of kilometers from each other. South Tarawa, the capital and seat of government, has 50% of the population, about 50,000 people. South Tarawa is about 25 kilometers long and consists of thin strips of land (400-900 meters wide) connected by causeways. It is like a necklace of islands. Villages run one into the other along the main road which is like a spine running the length of the island. Tarawa is an atoll with a big fish-filled lagoon. The village of Abaokoro is an approximate one and a half to two hour ski canoe ride across the lagoon to other side of atoll.

In May 2015 as part of the 125 years celebrations of the Good Sams in the diocese, Catholic Education of the Diocese of Port Pirie and the Sisters of the Good Samaritan of the Order of St Benedict established a partnership agreement enabling staff from diocesan schools to engage in a two-way outreach experience in Kiribati.

Abaokoro is our destination where the I-Kiribati Sisters of the Good Samaritan provide an Early Learning Centre for the children of Abaokoro. A small government primary school, junior secondary school and a medical clinic are located close to the Good Samaritan Early Learning Centre. The inaugural 2016 outreach program will take place over the term 2 holiday period.

Brenda Keenan, Director of Catholic Education in the Diocese of Port Pirie will be leading the Kiribati Outreach experience in July. Father Brian Mathews, Parish Priest of Coober Pedy (Inland Mission) will co-lead as chaplain of ‘Team Kiribati’. Father Brian has a well-established relationship with the Sisters of the Good Samaritan in Kiribati. He and a number of parishioners from St Mary of the Angels Parish in Port Lincoln have visited Abaokoro, Kiribati for the purposes of supporting the ongoing ministry of the Good Samaritan Sisters; e.g. installing solar power (panels and batteries) to provide a consistent power source for the Good Samaritan Centre in Abaokoro, providing new wire screens for the Good Samaritan residence, designing and constructing a covered walkway between buildings, digging and laying water pipes for a new drainage system. The significant work undertaken (including teaching at the Early Learning Centre and nearby Primary School) and the relationships established has been nothing short of outstanding.

There are many factors that compete for attention in our schools and the daily reality of school life and the energy which it calls forth from staff, some of whom experience the added challenge of working in isolation in smaller schools, is ever increasing.

The vision of this outreach experience is threefold;

- To provide opportunities for school staff to connect with, and be moved by, the human face of global inequality and injustice and to deepen our understanding of our Catholic Identity and the mission of our Catholic schools.

- To develop a sense of community among staff across Catholic schools in the Diocese of Port Pirie and to assist them in the task of establishing supportive, collegial networks. The outreach experience will introduce staff and enable them to form networks and clusters, assisting them to feel part of a larger diocesan community and foster a greater sense of connectedness and belonging. We aim to have fun.

- To provide participants with additional formation pertaining to principles of Catholic Social Teaching, including Social Justice and Ecological Awareness - reflecting on and developing our understanding of global issues as they affect our own school communities and our Pacific neighbours.

This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of The Witness, the official magazine of the Diocese of Port Pirie.