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Thursday Island joins Socktober drive When in Rome The dark side of Assam tea School backs Ride and Stride duo

Sport and spirituality team up

Photo: Simone Medri

PO Box 1668 North Sydney NSW 2059 T: 02 9919 7800 E: admin@catholicmission.org.au

Freecall: 1800 257 296 catholicmission.org.au


Editor: Matthew Poynting Contributors: Silje Lea, Bridget Barber Design: Smarta By Design Printed by: Horizon Print Management

Cover image: Two students from Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School in the Torres Strait Islands with Catholic Mission’s iconic “sockball”. (See story on page 6. Photo: Simone Medri)

Catholic Mission acknowledges the traditional owners of the land on which we live and work.

This image: A mother runs the canteen at St Luke Health Centre in Bujuni, Uganda

M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e

In this issue... A message from the National Director

page 4

First graduates for PSIE

page 12

Our Extraordinary October

page 5

When in Rome: Zacarias’ journey continues

page 14

Island spirituality makes for special Socktober

page 6

Not your ordinary trip

page 16

The dark side of Assam tea

page 8

Lurline Bell: A humble life of mission and prayer page 18

Your special edition poster

page 10

Blue Mountains school backs Ride and Stride duo page 19

M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e


A message from the National Director Celebrating the extraordinary in the ordinary As I write this, we’ve just emerged from a busy month of quite extraordinary activity. October 2019 was designated an ‘Extraordinary Missionary Month’ by Pope Francis, with a focus on celebrating works of mission around the world. A clear example of the global nature of this celebration has been the success of the #MyMission campaign. Personally, I was pleased to see so many people take up the challenge and share what it is they feel is their call to mission. Want to get involved? Let us know what your mission is by posting your story on Facebook or Instagram and using the hashtag #MyMission.

As in every issue, this edition of Mission Today celebrates the successes of our organisation, the people we support and those who support us. Throughout, you can read stories of the extraordinary in the ordinary, how modest gifts can change lives, and I hope you’ll find this inspiring as we enter a new year of exciting challenges and opportunities. Thank you for your prayers and support this past year.

Fr Brian Lucas National Director

I’m delighted to say, once again, our staff have been involved in engaging young Australians at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF), in Perth in December 2019. As the future of our Church, these young people, by attending events like ACYF, will be empowered to be missionary disciples for our world today. 2020 is set to be another busy and exciting year with the culmination of the ongoing Plenary Council process. As the work for the facilitation team and writing groups intensifies, I am proud of the role Catholic Mission has played in leading this important process together with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. It is truly a great service to all people of faith in Australia. Plans for the 2020 pilgrimage of the relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux and her parents, Saints Louis and Zélie Martin, are gathering momentum. From February through May, in partnership with funeral company InvoCare, we will be bringing the relics to seventeen dioceses across Australia. St Thérèse, known as the ‘Little Flower of Jesus’, is the patron saint of mission. She holds a very special place in the heart of Catholic Mission. Those who choose to support our work by leaving a gift in their will have the opportunity to join the Fellowship of the Little Flower. If you would like any more information about this, please contact us for a confidential discussion at any time.


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Our Extraordinary October Ordinarily, October is a month in which the universal Church celebrates the work of missionaries around the world. World Mission Sunday is held annually on the penultimate Sunday in October, and in schools around Australia, fundraising and advocacy activities focus on the missions. In 2019, this ordinary tradition turned to the extraordinary. When Pope Francis declared an “Extraordinary Missionary Month”, he expressed his desire to shake up the way we do mission. ‘This Extraordinary Missionary Month should jolt us and motivate us to be active in doing good,’ he said. ‘Not notaries of faith and guardians of grace, but missionaries.’ The whole world listened and so it became that October 2019 was a month of global collaboration and solidarity in celebrating missionary work to the ends of the earth. It was an opportunity to reflect, pray, and support the efforts of individuals, communities and whole Church across the globe to bring life to the full to those on the margins. World Mission Sunday marked the pinnacle of celebrations, with parishes across Australia coming together to support Catholic Mission’s appeals for Ghana and Nagaland. Anna Jimenez, Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission in Cairns expressed how touched she was by the Nagaland story, which she shared across the weekend. ‘There will be times when the children’s dreams are too far to reach, and they won’t have anyone or anything to hold onto, but they will remember how Fr Rajesh and Fr Raymond stood by their side and they will find a reason to hope.’ In Canberra and Goulburn, Director Cathy Ransom said she was particularly pleased with the uptake of the Mission Rosary, created by late American Archbishop Fulton Sheen, who Pope Francis confirmed will be beatified. ‘Schools are praying the rosary every day throughout the month of October in different ways,’ said Mrs Ransom. Some pray a decade a day for one of the continents, then pray the whole rosary once a week. This Mission Rosary has been extremely popular with students with over 4,000 rosaries distributed across schools within the Archdiocese.’

Art was a vehicle through which some dioceses celebrated the month. A photographic exhibit was on show at Brisbane’s Percolator Gallery. Titled ‘Precious in His Eyes’ and featuring some of Catholic Mission’s most striking and powerful photographs taken in mission countries around the world, the purpose of the exhibit was to express universal mission through a universal medium—imagery. ‘We wanted to bring something extraordinary to Brisbane for this EMM. I’m a storyteller at heart and these photos tell a wonderful story of mission around the world,’ said David McGovern, Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission in Brisbane. Meanwhile, David Menzies, Educator at Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, led an exploration of how mission was conceptualised in select paintings and artworks. One participant, Connie, said she felt equipped to share what she had gleaned from Menzies’ insights. ‘I got a lot out of it and feel a lot more confident to unpack scripture through art with students,’ she wrote to Melbourne Diocesan Director Kevin Meese. ‘Thank you for the opportunity to attend this event, and I look forward to another at NGV.’ Australia joined the #MyMission global initiative, a social media campaign reaching thousands of people young and old and calling on them to find in themselves a greater understanding of the role they play in mission. The movement invites us to ponder our life purpose in a way that we cannot normally articulate, said Catholic Mission’s Digital and Online Manager Simone Medri. People from almost every continent used the hashtag #MyMission on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to share their mission, showing that it is possible for one ‘small’ act to create significant change. • See more


See more

Thursday Island shows the spirituality in sport This ball has been around. It was made from recycled materials by four young Zambian men in a town four hours west of Chennai in southern India. It has since passed through Burmese and Cambodian hands and been kicked by Ghanaian and Filipino feet. It has endured the heat of Brisbane, braced the cold of a Melbourne winter, and found its home in Sydney. In November 2019, the “sockball”, which has become the iconic symbol of Catholic Mission’s annual Socktober schools fundraising initiative, was taken north to Thursday Island, one of at least 274 that make up Australia’s Torres Strait Islands, and into the hands of a second‑grader named Donovan. This was an environment quite unlike any other that this ball has visited. Strong winds rip through the Strait late in the year, catching all three flags—Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Australian—that proudly fly above the ferry terminal and serve both as a welcome and a reminder that this is the land of the First Peoples who are proud to call Australia home. A short walk away is Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a true seaside chapel, complete with a stained‑glass window brought all the way from Issoudun in France by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, who founded the parish. Perched above it on the hill is the parish primary school, where a small cohort fills out kindergarten to year six. The seventeen students at the school’s campus on neighbouring Hammond Island take the total enrolment to just 120— making “Sacred Heart” one of the smallest and most


remote Catholic schools in Australia. But while diminutive in number, the school showed throughout Socktober that it has a giant heart for global mission, raising a remarkable $1,800 for projects in Ghana and around the world. Seven‑year‑old Donovan, a year two student at Sacred Heart, tossed the small and well‑travelled sockball around in his hands as he nervously waited to film a message for children just like him in Ghana. The sun was setting on his school’s Socktober Event Day, where he and his classmates had slotted dozens of penalty goals to raise funds for children’s projects supported by Catholic Mission. Donovan and his friends made sockballs just like this one for the day. They were harder to score with than regular synthetic balls, he concedes. Donovan is the leading fundraiser this year for his school, which is no surprise given his early and keen interest. ‘I am raising money with my school for children in developing countries,’ he wrote on his fundraising page, which he set up with help from mum Jessika. ‘The reason why I am raising money for them is so that kids like me in these countries can have food and clean water.’ It is no mistake that soccer was chosen as the game that would drive Catholic Mission’s schools engagement program. In the most remote parts of the world, you can almost certainly be assured of finding a child wearing an English or Spanish football club jersey. It is one of the few things that links children of all backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities and faiths. This is what Pope Francis had in mind when he launched Sport at the Service of Humanity in 2015, which the Washington Post describes as “a global movement that embraces the unique ability of faith and

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‘This is the moment when we can restore our faith in Faith, and belief in the values of Sport, as a metaphor for life.’ – Pope Francis sport to promote positive values, unite people for good and celebrate our common humanity, regardless of culture or religious beliefs.” Nowhere is this truer than on Thursday Island, a place steeped in richly diverse culture and a storied history in which which everything is grounded. ‘I always teach my children to listen to elders who have walked the path before them,’ says Harriet Dorante, a teacher aide from Hammond Island, whose daughter Becca rallied her to register. ‘They are the knowledge bank of our culture and tradition. They teach us moral values in life. They deserve to be honoured and respected.’ Majella Lynch‑Harlow, Principal at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, says a unique spirituality flows through the people on Thursday Island. ‘Our community is a very diverse one, we have residents from all around Australia, and from different faith backgrounds, and we have our local Indigenous population as well. Religion and Christianity are really deep and strong here; it’s a very prayerful place. So, when we brought Socktober to this community, it was received very open‑heartedly. ‘As soon as we connect a story with children to our local people, it becomes even stronger, because children are at the heart of this place.’ “Socktober” itself was an initiative launched in 2009, but it was only in 2018 that it took on the distinct flavour of the world game, with the program incorporating the popular penalty shootout concept that 52 Catholic schools in Australia took up in 2019. Students are registered with their school on the Socktober platform, and family and friends sponsor them to kick goals for kids. There is a prize for the highest fundraiser, and during the penalty shootout, students attain points for each goal they kick; one point for the regular synthetic ball, and double for the handmade sockballs. It’s a straightforward program to implement, and while the funds raised benefit children and communities overseas, for Ms Lynch‑Harlow, the impact on her own staff and students was crucial. ‘It’s really exciting seeing all of our

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children coming together and discovering and connecting with other children around the world. It also shows them how lucky we are here in Australia,’ she says. ‘Because we are such a remote school … there is a lot of disadvantage here. So, we weren’t talking too much about fundraising; we were talking about awareness and solidarity. But when people started to hear the stories of what was happening overseas, they really got excited and engaged.’ Catholic Mission’s Community Engagement and Innovation Manager, Sonja Krivacic, says Thursday Island’s example is one that all of Australia can follow in 2020. ‘This is a small school community that has taken on a big challenge in sharing resources and building awareness of mission projects in Ghana,’ she says. ‘We are hugely impressed by the dedication of the students and their parents who registered and the wider community of family and friends who supported them. It’s a call to action for all Catholic schools to get involved and create their own impact.’ Looking back on the efforts of her school, Ms Harlow‑Lynch says it shows that mission, like soccer, can be everyone’s game. ‘The fact that our children here have embraced Socktober so beautifully shows that this is what we are called to do as a Catholic school. We’re all the same right across the world, and I think it says a lot about our school and Catholic education that we are encouraged to reach out to people most in need.’ The symbolism of the worldly sockball in his hands was not lost on Donovan. His class had watched the Catholic Mission school appeal video and seen the children at the Nazareth Home in Ghana, over 15,000 kilometres away, kicking this very ball. Suddenly, Donovan was closer and more connected to them than he ever imagined. When he realised that he was in possession of the same ball that had been held and kicked about by the very children he was supporting, Donovan’s eyes lit up in amazement. With an understanding beyond his seven years, the young boy looked down the camera and clearly and confidently delivered his message to unknown friends: ‘Hi, I’m Donovan, and today I kicked five goals for you.’ You can support the efforts of Donovan and his friends at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Primary School by contributing to their fundraising total. Head to socktober.org.au/OLSHThursdayIsland. •



The dark side of Assam tea Tea from Assam is world famous, but distressingly it is not only tea that is traded on the plantations in the northeast of India. The business of human trafficking flourishes here with traffickers abusing the desperate situation of many of the tea picking families. With Missio Aachen.


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India The local Salesian Sisters, headed by Sister Annie Enchenatil, have taken up the fight against human trafficking. Through socio‑pastoral programs such as theatre, they are enlightening local tea picking families about the dangers of human trafficking. The street performances outside the living quarters at the tea plantation tell the true story of a 16‑year‑old girl who was trafficked to work as a maid, and whose kidney was taken from her without her consent. Following this crime, the girl was brought back home to her family where she collapsed and, soon after, passed away. Due to low education levels of the tea‑picking families, most of whom are from the indigenous Adivasi ethnic group who have faced decades of discrimination, these crimes are never brought to justice. Sadly, Sister Annie knows many stories like this. Highly aware of the precarious situation of plantation workers, human traffickers specifically target families with many children and lure them by promising that their daughter or son will receive good work and can send money back home. Sometimes they are even paid the fee of 1,000 rupees (approximately A$20) upfront, which is a lot of money for these poor families. The children are brought to big cities like New Delhi or Mumbai, where girls often become house maids while boys work in hotels. Initially, the parents receive small funds and believe everything worked out, but after a few months or a year, the agents stop the payments. Following that, the children often disappear without a trace.

Today, Barnabas goes to college. He wants to become a teacher, and says, ‘I wish to prevent as many poor children as possible from dropping out of school. That is my dream.’ The program also has impact for the Adivasi women. ‘My fellow sisters recently asked mothers whether they could send their children to us so they can help with some work,’ Sister Annie recalls. ‘The women replied, “But Sisters, you told us that we shouldn’t send our children away because it is dangerous”. ‘My fellow sisters and I really liked that,’ she adds with a smile. Thank you for supporting life‑saving work like this in India and around the world. •

‘It cleared up a lot of things for me. It brought me closer to my religion and fortified my faith, also the faith in myself, and I discovered what I want to do with my life.’ Opposite and below: The Salesian Sisters are taking up the fight to protect children against human trafficking, prevalent in tea plantations in Assam. (Hartmut Schwarzbach, Argus Foto)

In addition to providing education and awareness of the dangers of human trafficking, Sister Annie and her team are working to rescue human trafficking victims. In the last year they have successfully rescued fifteen children. ‘We found adolescents in Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi,’ she says. ‘They told us about their situation. They must work all day and are treated like slaves.’ Through an outreach program, which focuses on socio‑pastoral work in 34 centres in northeast India, the Sisters aim to sensitise 30 vulnerable village communities, so human traffickers won’t stand a chance. Programs include catechist formation, house visits, education for girls and women, self‑help groups for women, and child parliaments. In addition, the Sisters founded a civilian committee against human trafficking, which maintains contact with the police if needed, while also informing locals about safe forms of migration and job hunting. Sister Annie particularly sets her hope on the Adivasi youth. ‘We want to support teenagers, nurture their self‑confidence and turn them into leaders in their church community,’ she explains. Twenty‑three‑year‑old Barnabas Kongadi is one of the actors in the street performance about human trafficking. His mother works as a tea picker on the plantation, and his four younger sisters all go to school. Barnabas participated in the outreach program run by the Salesian Sisters. ‘It cleared up a lot of things for me,’ he explains. ‘It brought me closer to my religion and fortified my faith, also the faith in myself, and I discovered what I want to do with my life.’

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In Khuzama, Nagaland, one of India’s northeastern states, young Vitsizole does some landscaping with Sister Avila (background) at the Eden Gardens Children’s Home. Helping with jobs like this around the Home is an important part of the children’s holistic development. (Photo: Simone Medri)


Students engaging in class at PSIE (Photo: Stephen Reinhardt)

First graduates for PSIE diploma program See more


Last year we invited our faithful Catholic Mission supporters to help heal the people of Myanmar through education by enhancing opportunities for children in a country where, for decades, conflict and unrest has limited them. A real and urgent need for teacher training in child‑centred education, as well as construction and renovation of schools to enable children in remote areas to have better access to quality education, were identified.

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Myanmar The response has been overwhelming and October this year marked a momentous achievement for Pyinya Sanyae Institute of Education (PSIE) in Yangon as it saw the very first batch of students graduating from the Diploma of Early Childhood Education program run in collaboration with HELP University, Malaysia. While PSIE has been operating for over ten years and has trained more than 140 teachers who are now working in rural and remote Myanmar, the diploma program is the first to offer students a recognised, accredited qualification. Through the two‑and‑a‑half‑year diploma program which covers 27 subjects at primary and middle school level and includes extra‑curricular formation in anti‑trafficking, child protection, art for healing, creative development, environmental education and physical education, the 24 graduates have been equipped with the skills and knowledge to use a child‑centred teaching pedagogy rather than the rote learning method which is common across Myanmar. Alongside academic studies, the graduates have also participated in weekly spiritual formation, leadership opportunities and regular volunteering. For graduate Hawng Lwan, the time at PSIE has helped him grow personally while preparing him for his work as a teacher. ‘As a young boy I grew up under authoritative guardians, and I did not have the courage to speak a word in front of the class,’ he says. ‘But here, teachers gave me opportunities to improve my self‑confidence through encouraging us to give speeches, present slide shows, perform dramas and social outreach. ‘I was elected to be student council leader to lead and to serve my friends, and I had the chance to attend a leadership course to improve my personal and professional leadership. I believe teachers who have received quality education can pass on quality education to the next generation.’ The graduates worked diligently and strived for excellence in their studies, with many persevering through personal struggles such as language issues, being away from home for long periods of time, learning to live in harmony with fellow students from different parts of the country and overcoming academic struggles related to their own primary and secondary education. As graduate Naw Than Myint shares, ‘It was a great chance to be in this HELP diploma course at Pyinya Sanyae. The time was not as long as I thought it would be, and the two and half years passed very quickly. Sometimes I was stressed, sometimes I was very busy and suffered not having enough sleep, or I struggled to finish my assignments and homework; but with God, I could overcome them all,’ she says. ‘From those pains, I gained a lot of knowledge of what teachers really need. All the course modules were valuable and helped me step out of the box and to view education and the role of a professional teacher from a much wider perspective.’ The 24 graduates will now be posted in schools across four dioceses in Myanmar where they will provide education to approximately 900 children from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds. In addition to traditional

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school settings, some of the graduates will be sent to disadvantaged schools, orphanages and remand centres to help upskill and support the local teaching staff. Other graduates will work in the summer camps run by PSIE for children in five remote communities across Myanmar, as well as in Yangon. These camps focus on teaching English and moral and environmental lessons in a child‑centred manner. All the graduates are excited to embark on this next stage of their teaching journey and to be able to provide quality education for the next generation. As Nant Thandar Lin shares, ‘I realise that most of the social issues in Myanmar are the result of our poor system of education. Most of us came to school with lack of knowledge, lack of confidence, lack of motivation, lack of moral values, lack of knowing what we don’t know, lack of questioning skills. Education in our country is bitter because it is expensive; not everyone has access to it, some at a very young age have to take care of the younger siblings, or work to support their families. I am eager to contribute towards the positive change needed in education in Myanmar.’ Another graduate, Hein Thuzar Naing, shares, ‘Along my journey at Pyinya Sanyae I have been posted to different places such as Tamwe, Shwe Pyi Thar, Bago, Yamae Thin, Myeik, and Myaung Mya. If I didn’t join Pyinya Sanyae, I might not have been to these places or experienced the life of different children. I realise that I am teaching not just the subject but a child – his temperament, his academic capability, his health, his home background and anything that may be hindering him from doing his best. I have found my passion among such disadvantaged children. With them I release all my tiredness. I don’t feel like I am labouring that hard. Therefore, I would say, “my vocation now becomes my vacation”.’ Your support through Catholic Mission has and will continue to contribute to a range of project activities at PSIE, including funding the salaries of the onshore native and foreign teaching staff and salaries of the support staff, the lease of the PSIE building, and the travel, board and lodging of visiting lecturers from Kuala Lumpur. Sister Grace Chia, Supervisor at PSIE, expressed her gratitude. ‘Grateful thanks to God who is our “All in All”. God has made the “impossible” possible through your contribution and participation. To name some means to leave out others. May God who sees bless you a hundred‑fold for your contribution. This comes with our deepest gratitude. Je Zu Thi Ma De!’ •

‘If I didn’t join Pyinya Sanyae, I might not have been to these places or experienced the life of different children. I realise that I am teaching not just the subject but a child...’ 13


When in Rome: Zacarias’ journey continues Back in 2016 we shared the story of Timorese seminarian Zacarias Exposto, a young man deeply impacted by the horrendous unrest and violence imposed on Timor‑Leste and its people following the referendum which freed the country from Indonesian occupation 20 years ago.

Clockwise from main: Zacarias with friends at the Seminary of St Peter and St Paul in Dili; in the chapel; and now studying in Rome. Photos: Stephen Reinhardt, supplied.


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Timor‑Leste categorical groups and students, have helped him gain critical skills and knowledge, which serve at the base of being a disciple of Christ. Four months ago, Zacarias embarked on the next part of his journey to priesthood as he commenced his theology studies at the St John Paul II Metropolitan Seminary in Salerno, a province in the south of Italy. While Zacarias finds that the Italian language and culture can be challenging, he is very much enjoying his time in Italy. ‘I can meet and experience the new life, new culture and new people,’ he says. ‘These all will enrich my vision and my mission about the diversity and unity of the Church.’ He also believes it will make him a better priest. ‘I observe what is happening, I learn what is good here and then I will share and live it with my own principle and my vocation.’ He says he is encouraged to keep studying hard by God’s grace. Zacarias will study in Italy for the next three to four years, following which he will await the advice of his bishop, whether that is to continue his studies or return to Timor‑Leste to serve the Church and people there. When asked what kind of priest he wants to become, he says, ‘I want to be a good priest. It means a priest that lives his life in charity, poverty and obedience.’

While many were fleeing for their lives, Zacarias’ father decided to stay behind with his young family. Having been a part of Timor‑Leste’s independence movement, and with so much pride and confidence in his newly freed homeland, he refused to give up on the dreams he held for the future of his beloved country. Zacarias, who was just seven years old at the time, has never forgotten the fear he felt as he hugged his two baby sisters tightly, wiping their tears as they watched their neighbours leave for the border. This memory still inspires him to be with and comfort people during troubling times and is a constant reminder of his calling to become a priest and help his country be strong and proud. Today, Zacarias still believes that many of the challenges of the people of Timor‑Leste are related to the country’s past. As he says, ‘The major challenge that Timorese people are facing now is in politics. There is no common sense and understanding between the parties, which causes social injustice and leads to the conflict of the vulnerable peoples.’

Seminarians like Zacarias, who often come from poor and disadvantaged communities, are only able to follow their calling to the priesthood thanks to the generous support of Catholic Mission donors. Zacarias is extremely grateful for the support he has received through Catholic Mission’s work with Church leaders. ‘I want to thank all of those who have supported me directly or indirectly by material, moral or spiritual support,’ he says. ‘May God always bless all of us to bring His name and His Kingdom to the world. Greetings, love and prayer!’ •

‘We can be the mediator gathering them all by the conference, dialogues or other pastoral activities relating to the Christian teaching about faith, peace and justice.’

He feels the Church and future Church leaders like himself have an important part to play, ‘In this case the mission of the Church is to promote the education of peace, of justice and of the faith, and be the mother to welcome or receive those who have fallen,’ he says. ‘We can be the mediator gathering them all by the conference, dialogues or other pastoral activities relating to the Christian teaching about faith, peace and justice.’ Zacarias, who is now 27 years old, has recently completed his four years of philosophy studies at St Peter and St Paul Major Seminary in Dili, Timor‑Leste. He believes his studies so far, together with outreach work which has seen him engaged with leading the choir group in Easter and Christmas Day celebrations, catechism, and formation for

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Scenes from MacKillop Catholic College Hobart’s Timor‑Leste immersion in July 2019. (Photos: Cameron Stocks)

Not your ordinary trip A Catholic Mission immersion is not your ordinary travel experience. In fact, so deliberate is the planning and execution of a Catholic Mission immersion that it is easier to say what it isn’t than what it is. And it most certainly isn’t a holiday. Patrick Fox, Catholic Mission’s Education Manager for the Immersion Program, says each immersion is delivered in three phases to ensure participants are prepared and can properly reflect on the impact of their individual and shared experience. ‘It is really a challenging experience of personal growth,’ he says. ‘It is not a lengthy experience, but it is deeply immersive and intended to open participants’ minds to new perspectives on mission in the world.’ Phase one of the immersion program involves preparation, where participants are given some context of the destination country, as well as a cross‑cultural briefing. They are encouraged to share what they expect to take away from the experience, and a connection is made between the goals of the immersion and the school’s understanding of mission.


Phase two is the trip itself—ten to twelve days with a small group of up to fifteen participants who live as the local people live. Mr Fox says the most interesting perspectives and learnings often emerge in phase three, during the debrief. ‘I often ask students if the experience has changed their minds about career options, as I know it has done for others,’ he said. It was during this final phase, with an immersion group from MacKillop Catholic College Hobart who had returned from a ten‑day trip to Timor‑Leste, that one student gave the kind of reflection the Catholic Mission Immersions team looks for. ‘He said, “The immersion hasn’t so much changed my career choice, but it has definitely changed my mindset in whatever career I choose”,’ recalls Mr Fox. ‘That kind of humility and openness means we’re doing something right.’ When Mr Fox invited the student to elaborate, the whole group was able to answer together. ‘Well I understand now that happiness doesn’t come from what you have, but from how many other people ‘see you’ in the community and how much you feel you belong,’ said one.

M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e

“I can redefine poverty and success. We are the poor ones, even though we have so many material resources. We are really poor because we don’t smile and greet each other, we don’t trust or accept each other, we judge by appearances, and we’re not happy.” – Student reflection, MacKillop Catholic College Hobart ‘Trust is important; trusting others and welcoming them and beginning from an attitude of trust,’ said another. Others spoke of acknowledging a need to be more compassionate and understanding towards others, and the happiness that comes from that. ‘When I was listening to these responses, I was blown away by the level of understanding that this experience had unlocked in the hearts and minds of the students,’ said Mr Fox. ‘That’s what’s so important about this process. The compassion and empathy are already there for the participants. The immersion experience just gives them access to a different perspective that brings out those characteristics in a whole new way.’ It was MacKillop Catholic College’s fifth immersion trip with Catholic Mission, with a sixth confirmed for 2020. The school considers the program so integral to their charism and faith formation that the participants are grouped in one religious education class from the start of the year, and begin in‑class preparation months in advance, as well as running fundraising events sometimes a year out. The college has been building their relationship with Timor‑Leste since 2013. They support MacKillop Today in Dili

and spent a day there during their July immersion, learning how the Josephite foundation is supporting the teaching effort across a nation that is not quite twenty years old by producing materials in Tetun, the native language, and running teacher training programs. The visiting group was hosted mainly by Fr Julio and the Maumeta parish on Atauro Island, a two‑hour boat trip off the coast of Dili. While staying in Maumeta the group visited the local primary and junior secondary schools and did day trips to two very remote villages, Makilli and Makardi. The schoolchildren in Makardi had never received a visit from children from another country (except for foreign UN officials). During the visits, the Australian students helped teach conversational English, participated in sports and games, Mass and even cultural dancing. When they are back on Australian soil, the participants continue to unpack the learning from the experience, reflecting on how it has shaped their worldview. It is an essential process for the Immersion program to achieve its goals, and one which forms part of the students’ final religious education assessment. Of the “goldfield of learning” that Mr Fox discovered when he travelled to Hobart to lead the phase three debrief session with the students, one student offered a particularly sizable nugget of wisdom about how the experience had changed her. ‘I can redefine poverty and success,’ she said. ‘We are the poor ones, even though we have so many material resources. We are really poor because we don’t smile and greet each other, we don’t trust or accept each other, we judge by appearances, and we’re not happy.’ There’s nothing “ordinary” about this travel experience. Far from it. •

M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e


Lurline Bell (left) with family at Assumption School Bathurst’s Grandparents’ Day in 2016. (Photo: Chris Seabrook/Western Advocate)

A Humble Life of Mission and Prayer Vale Lurline Bell (Born 2 January 1929; entered into eternal life 5 May 2019)

Everyone is called to a life of mission. During his homily on World Mission Sunday 2019, Pope Francis said our lives are a “precious mission”, and this call is “not a burden to be borne, but a gift to offer.” Lurline Bell offered this gift throughout all 90 years of a very special life. Originally from Rockley, just over 30 kilometres from Bathurst, Lurline’s small but significant acts of mission began when she was just eight years old. She would fill her money box with savings from helping her father at the market garden, donating it to Catholic Mission’s work with children, a partnership Lurline would maintain in different forms for the next 82 years of her life. Sister Helen Sullivan RSJ, a Josephite Sister and Bathurst local, knew Lurline in later life, but says it was in death that she learnt just how extraordinary her neighbour’s seemingly ordinary life was. ‘It was only after Lurline’s passing that I started to put things together and discovered that her life was founded on her faith: a life of prayer and mission’. While Lurline carried her passions for family, the farm, cooking and gardening into her later years, Sister Helen says her friend’s early life was very busy, interesting, and involved plenty of hard work. ‘At the age of 14, Lurline would rise at 4am on Sunday morning to walk the eight miles to attend Mass at the little Rockley Church. Those were the days of fasting from midnight and the weather would have been freezing!’ Lurline’s dedication to Mass throughout her life was driven by her love of Our Lady and the Rosary. ‘I think she said all four Mysteries each day,’ Sister Helen recalls. It was this devotion that made the decision to move from her home into a Catholic retirement village slightly easier. 18

It was a leap of faith, but the services offered by her new home were a comfort to Lurline. ‘She would have Mass twice a week there and a gathering for Rosary once a week, as well as the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to visit at any time,’ says Sister Helen. ‘Lurline was prepared to forgo all because of her spiritual life.’ In 90 years living west of the Great Dividing Range, Lurline faced many of the challenges that come with living in country Australia. ‘Lurline knew the good times and the not‑so‑good in this drought‑affected land,’ says Mike Deasy, Diocesan Director for Catholic Mission in Bathurst. ‘As a rural woman she experienced, witnessed and understood the phenomenon long before it became popular to do so.’ However, in a life that experienced much change, one constant for Lurline was her generosity to thousands of children she never met, giving to Catholic Mission’s work with children right up until the day she was called to eternal rest. ‘She was a staunch supporter of the works of the missionary Church through Catholic Mission and its Children’s Mission Partners program,’ says Mr Deasy. Mr Deasy said Lurline’s passing in May 2019 was a great loss not only to the Bathurst community but to the world. ‘I was privileged to know Lurline as a resident of the Chifley Retirement Village, and as a good friend to Sister Helen. She is deserving of her place in the Heavenly kingdom. Requiescat in pace.’ Sister Helen says Lurline’s legacy will be one of sacrifice for those less fortunate. ‘Hidden away within Lurline was a humble Missionary, who saved from her very low income throughout her life and placed it all into the “Hand of God” by her deeply prayerful life’. • M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e

Main: Gabe (back left) and Alan Wedesweiler with their young supporters; (below) St Thomas Aquinas Principal Sergio Rosato with keen students

Blue Mountains school backs Ride and Stride duo When Alan and Gabe Wedesweiler are feeling the heat while biking and hiking their way through the heart of Cambodia, they might just think back to their supporters in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

opportunity to explore my faith without the confines of school and be doing good for others while learning about the world,’ he said. ‘I know it is potentially going to be mentally challenging as well as physical, but I’m ready to see what it is actually like in developing countries and how we can help them.’

On a Friday in November 2019, students from St Thomas Aquinas Primary School in Springwood rallied to support two of our 2020 Ride and Stride participants, father and son team: Alan and Gabe Wedesweiler.

Virginia Fortunat, Religious Education Coordinator at St Thomas Aquinas, hopes the event will help achieve a diocesan‑wide goal of helping students reflect more deeply on the impact they can have in the wider community. ‘Today has been a good opportunity for students to understand connections between schools, dioceses and the broader world,’ she said. ‘The kids are becoming more connected in terms of thinking beyond themselves.’

The school held their annual Mission Day in support of Alan and Gabe’s adventure, raising $2,000 for projects in Cambodia. The day consisted of a liturgy, during which Alan and Gabe spoke to the children, and other activities including the students’ own ‘Ride and Stride’ relay. Both Alan and Gabe were in awe of the hard work the students of St Thomas’ put in to support them. The funds raised, all in a day’s work, represent an extraordinary effort, said a stunned and grateful Alan. ‘My initial reaction was “Wow”. They don’t know Gabe, they don’t know me. This is an incredibly generous community. It’s a massive undertaking.’ For Alan, the Religious Education Coordinator at St Canice’s Primary, 30 minutes away in Katoomba, the Ride and Stride is a whole new challenge. ‘This trip is not only an adventure of going to Cambodia, but the opportunity to put our faith into action,’ he says.

The Ride and Stride will run from 10‑21 January 2020. Over the eleven days, participants will be biking and hiking throughout the Cambodian countryside, from Siem Reap, through Battambang, to Phnom Penh, seeing firsthand some of the life‑changing projects Catholic Mission supports in the area. It is experiences like what the Wedesweilers will embark on, says Virginia, that help the children understand how their own mission can impact others. ‘This event has planted the seed for our students. They’ll start reflecting on the grandeur of what we’ve done today and give thanks for it. Hopefully it will open up some wondering about “Where to next? What can I do?” They now know that they can create change and are excited about it.’ •

He wants to bring what he learns in Cambodia back to the students in the Mountains. ‘I aim to take [the students’] understanding beyond Australia and connect with other kids in other countries. I hope to give them an appreciation of what life is like in the wider world.’ Gabe, who completed his HSC last year, is excited about how he will learn and grow from the journey. ‘It’s a great M i s s i o n To d a y – A C a t h o l i c M i s s i o n M a g a z i n e


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Mission Today - Summer/Autumn 2019  

Mission Today - Summer/Autumn 2019