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Sisters of St Joseph Clare Ahern and Anne Boland joined the Aboriginal community at Yaruman (Ringer Soak) on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia, in 1984. How could they relate, in a real way, ideas in the Gospel that depended on an understanding of a foreign, middle-eastern culture? After reflection and prayer, the following became the central message, Mark 1:15; This is the word, Jesus gave to everyone. He called it Good News. God is going to change things. A good time is coming close-up for everyone. Be sorry for the bad things you do. Keep thinking good things in your heart. Do these good things. Believe the good word, I tell you that a good time is coming up for everyone. Do you have a belief in the Rights of others and the passion, commitment and dedication to help make these Rights a reality? Then this book is an exceptional read! I urge you to read, enjoy and advocate, to make our world a better place for everyone. Dr Alitya Rigney Dip. T., P.S.M.
Launch of God's Good Times
Thank you Maria for that kind introduction.
Good afternoon everyone,
Firstly I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered the Dharug people and to thank Leanne for her welcome to country. I would also like to particularly acknowledge the Elders and Indigenous people from this community and from other communities.
I would also like to acknowledge Her Excellency, the Governor Geneal, the Sisters of St Joseph, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends.
I am delighted to here today to help launch God's Good Times written by Sr Mary Cresp. Thank you to the Sisters for inviting me to share this special event.
I am a Gooreng Gooreng woman by birth and grew up in Bundaberg, Queensland where I received most of my education through the Sisters of Mercy. But it was not until I read Sister Mary's book that I realised that my educational journey actually started with the Sisters of St. Joseph. I started school in the early 1960s at St Josephs in Mt Isa when my father was working in the mines. My older siblings also attended school there. We were very poor and times were tough.
In Sister Mary's book she talks about those days and the lack of human rights for Indigenous Australians. It was only through the work of the religious orders that Aboriginal people like myself were given the opportunity to receive an education which has made a huge impact on our lives, and those of our families and communities. But the nuns not only cared for our educational needs. They provided food, clothing and often transport and shelter when needed and through their example we developed a deeper love of God. They also gave us hope at a time when racism was entrenched and the future looked bleak.
This book so beautifully written contains many of the stories of the Sisters. It gives historical accounts of the early experiences in setting up schools and working in harsh conditions with limited resources. But shining through is a love story. The journey of love that the Sisters of St Joseph have taken with Aboriginal people. It is full of honesty. There are no excuses made for the lack of understanding and for the breaches of cultural protocols, but it is also a story of learning from one another.
On Page 81, Sister Mary says that "the pedagogy of Paulo Friere, a pedagogy of hope involving dialogue, respect, knowledge and working together to transform situations that needed transformation informed the Sisters in their approach to the 'mission'".
Similarly, my good friend and Elder Aunty Joan Hendriks who is with us today talks about the 3 Rs of Aboriginal culture – that being Respect, Relationships and Reciprocity. As I read this book I could not help but nod and smile and think "yes this is really what it is about", being agents of God's Good time, building partnerships based on God's love, mutual respect and understanding, giving and receiving unconditionally.
It therefore gives me great pleasure to launch this inspiring book. I know that all who read it will not fail to be touched by the love and commitment of the Sisters of St Joseph. May God continue to bless them as they work with and walk alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Congratulations to Sister Mary Cresp for helping to create another milestone on the road to Reconciliation.