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Monday, 20 August 2012 14:32

Sharing hope in East Timor

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Christian Brother Bill Tynan is “supposed to be looking for a job” but says that task will have to take a back seat until two East Timorese teenagers currently in Brisbane return home.

The youths are recuperating from orthopaedic surgery and come from Railaco Kraic, a mountain community outside of Dili, where Br Bill worked until April this year.

Having known the children for almost 10 years he is keen to be around for their recovery.

“I’ve set aside some time. I’ve told my bosses that for the next six or eight weeks this is what I will be doing,” he said.

Hearing Br Bill talk about his life, work and dedication to the Christian Brothers, it is probably a safe bet to assume those “bosses” will support his decision.

The weeks Br Bill devotes himself to the young patients may also give him time to reacquaint himself with his hometown, having grown up in the Hendra/Clayfield area of Brisbane.

“I’m a past student of St Rita’s, (Clayfield) and St Columban’s (Albion). I used to walk down the road to St Columban’s which is now a retirement home,” he said.

He’s also enjoying the hot showers and flushing toilets that come with being back in Australia.

Coming from a family Bill considered well-off, he paints a humbling picture of life for the East Timorese where the average living income per family is about $500 a year - the equivalent of a low income weekly wage in Australia.

Br Bill said that, for the East Timorese youths currently in Brisbane, Australia would provide new experiences. “They have never seen running water or a flushing toilet, never had a shower or used a bed with a mattress on it so everything would be brand new,” he said.

Br Bill’s family was, in his own words, “a bit unique”, in that three of the four Tynan siblings chose to enter religious life.

“I had a Catholic father who used to be a bookie and a non-Catholic mother who never became a Catholic,” he said.

“And we’ve really tried the lot – priest, brother, nun and one got married.”

Older brother Pat is a diocesan priest, one sister Kathleen is a Presentation Sister, while the other – Roslyn – is the Tynan who married.

As the youngest, Br Bill was still in primary school when Pat entered the seminary, but credits his education for his choice to become a Christian Brother. He said the difference between today’s education and his school years was that all except one of his teachers from Grade 1 to 12 were religious.

“I was mad keen on sport and the Brothers at St Columban’s – Dan Coffey, Darcy Murphy, Billy Busuttin (now Fr Busuttin) – were terrific guys and I just got on well with them and admired them and thought, ‘Yeah, I think I want to follow them and go and do the sort of thing they do’,” Br Bill said.

“My brother became a priest but I said, ‘No, that’s a lonely life. I want a community life.’

“So that’s the difference between the diocesan priest and the religious – you go and live in a community.”

Br Bill said that, after joining the Christian Brothers, he then taught for the next 33 years, first in Canberra followed by posts in Mackay, Yeppoon, and Brisbane.

Br Bill started on the leadership team on his mother’s 90th birthday on June 21, 1999, in what was the start of his association with East Timor.

“In that group of five people I was the person then responsible for the indigenous  ministries and East Timor,” he said.

Br Bill expects to head back to East Timor in September to help the new CER team out when Brisbane schools and an Inverell school arrive for annual immersions. He said it was not just city communities who had helped.

“Inverell Rotary have been fantastic with regard to Communidade Edmund Rice,” he said.

“They’ve contributed well over $100,000 and in conjunction with Warwick parish who have also given well over $100,000 for what we have done over the years.

“You just find these generous country people who do something.”

Meanwhile, co-ordinating the care and accommodation of the two East Timorese orthopaedic patients in Brisbane is no hardship for Br Bill who sees the Timorese community as “family”.

“The highlights (in East Timor) are the friends,” he said.

“Being a Christian Brother I have never had any children but being in East Timor I’ve got hundreds of ‘grandchildren’.”

This article was condensed from the original article by Robin Williams that first appeared in the 5 August 2012 edition of The Catholic Leader.