125th Anniversary of the Arrival of Daughters of OLSH Sisters on Yule Island
(1 Cor 1:3-9; Col. 3:12–17; Lk 10:17-21)
PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE – with Mary at the Cross Road:
How else could we introduce this great day of celebration of the 125 Anniversary of the arrival of the Daughters of OLSH to Yule Island other then allow St Paul’s greetings in his first letter to the Corinthians be a reality and profound experience for each and everyone of us here present and those whose concerns and intentions we bear in our minds and hearts today.” May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace. Each one of us can say in assurance to each other that “I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ. I thank God that each of you have been enriched in so many ways,” especially over the last 125 years since your first arrival and continual presence till today, and you are still here and going strong. We’ll never stop thanking God for the beautiful gift of Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and her Daughters for their missionary witness among us throughout these 125 years.
In the first instance I would like to extend our warmest greetings and open welcome to you all our friends and visitors, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, especially the participants of the Australia Pacific Asia Conference for Leaders and Formators. I extend this greetings and welcome on behalf of the clergy, Religious men and women, children, youth and Parents and all the faithful representing all the tribes comprising our diocese: those of the Roros, Mekeos, Gabadis and Naras down the coastline, the Kuni tribe that bridges the coast and the mountains, and off course our shouts of jubilation from the mountain-tops and across the deep valleys and rugged plains of the Fuyughes and Chirimes, crossing over to the Tauades and Kunipas, giving myself the permission to be this voice in the name of all our past generations since the dawn of evangelisation until the present moment as we gather at this altar on the Precious Blood Memorial Hill here at Yule Island. We say welcome to you all and please feel at home on this our sacramental Calvary and feel your proper place beside Our Lady of Sacred Heart as we are present at the representation of the crucifixion and piercing of the Sacred Heart; for on this very hill was spilt by an accident, or rather poured out sacramentally the precious blood on this hill on the occasion of the first Mass celebrated by Henry Verius MSC on the 4th of July 1885… 127 years ago. So here we invite you to share that experience, where your feet are standing, you are truly on “holy ground” as Moses before the Burning Bush. At this meeting point is the past recalled, the present celebrates and the future invites to move on. Here on this hill we stand together with Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart as on that historical Calvary under the cross-road where heaven meets earth on the vertical and horizontal axis, there hangs the pierced heart, flowing with divine love for all humanity.
In welcoming you all I also on our behalf as a diocese would like to express our hearty congratulation to you all our Dear Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart on the occasion of the 125th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart here at Yule Island on the 1st of August 1887. Our fondest memories go to Sisters Liguori, Clare, Madeline and Martha, courageous heroines, brave women, daring girls, faithful Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart who left the comfort and securities of their homes and families in Europe and followed the call of the Lord, echoing in the bright twilight of the Southern Cross calling them to “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men and women, teachers and formators of the little and simple ones, healers of the wounded and the weak, inspiration and motivation for the youth, women and girls, evangelisers of all generations in all ages.”
The Gospel text of St. Luke 10: 17 – 21, captures the spirit and sentiments of our gathering in this celebration today in the present. We are here in the presence of the Lord 125 years on with excitement and sense of wonder and awe, overflowing with the spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving, like the seventy, or in another reference, the seventy-two who returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” In other words, we are invited to “Remember, Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the great things the Lord had done for you,” the Lord had done in and through you. Lord, even the cultures had been evangelized in your name, the people been taught and enlightened by your truth, baptized into your mystical body, healed and redeemed in your paschal mystery, reconciled by your blood, united as one in your name.”
Earlier in this Gospel text (Lk 10:1-12) the seven two were appointed by the Lord and send on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where Jesus himself was to go. Jesus the first Missionary of his own Sacred Heart, made no secret about the acute and urgent need for more disciples and missionaries in addition to and even beyond the twelve apostles. “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.” The harvest is the Lord’s and we are mere labourers, thus we have no mission as such rather we are only sharing in His mission.
The commissioning of the disciples by Jesus was oriented towards an opened-broad ended and far reaching mission field that evokes a deep sense and reference to missionary activity that is here in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia of Oceania, over there in Europe, Africa, America, Australia, Pacific, Asia, everywhere, anytime, in every age. Such open ended, far reaching and inclusive mission approach highlights the New Evangelisation with the missionary impetus as understood by the Venerable Father Founder, Fr Jules Chevalier who best sums it up with our beautiful motto “May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere – forever,” a mission which is inclusive, meaning; reaching back into the past with the source and Origin in Jesus Christ and his missionary command, being relevant and grounded in the present daily realities through us the modern day disciples and open and forward-looking into the future as regards the transmission of this faith and missionary vision – as it was in the beginning, now and for eternity!
In response to the disciples’ joyful sense of achievement that “the demons are subject to them in Jesus’ own name,” Jesus alerts them saying “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” It seems that, despite, Jesus’ alarming revelation of Satan’s fall with lightening and brimstone, to create spectacular fireworks in all forms of confusions, distractions and diversions, denials and deceptions, frustrations, disappointments and obstacles that one can ever imagine; in the face of all these negative challenges, Jesus gave an authoritative utterance conveying his assurance “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.”
Such an authoritative assertion had prompted men and women in every age and generation to leave their familiar shores and launched out into the deep, in many cases, launching out into far and foreign lands and different cultures and other worldviews, with many risks and uncertainties, yet trusting in his loving divine heart.
“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you;” Jesus continues,”but rejoice, that your names are written in heaven.” The real cause and source of your rejoicing is in the joyful realization that your names are imprinted for eternal life. You are numbered among the angels and the saints, the martyrs and apostles in heaven,
THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF THE SACRED HEART
Our first missionaries, pioneers of evangelisation to all our missionary lands, and including the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and all Religious men and women of our Chevalier family are no exception. They knew from the outset that they needed to be men and women of deep faith and all trusting in divine providence. Having heard in faith the authoritative words of Jesus, “behold I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, power over the enemy and nothing shall hurt you’” the missionaries took the challenge with generosity and a spirit of self sacrifice and dedication.
As soon as the first M.S.Cs, Henry Verius and his companions arrived in Yule Island in 1885, they urgently requested the co-operation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. Likewise this posted an enormous challenge for the new Congregation back home in France, which at that time had very few professed members. However, with trust in God, Mother Marie-Louise Hartzer sent five sisters for the Papuan Mission.
On August 1, 1887, Sisters Liguori, Clare, Madeline and Martha arrived at Port Leon, the modern day Yule Island. Since they were the Sister Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, they first began caring and supporting the Missionaries, followed by instructing the children and looking after the sick, an act of compassion they had not stop doing since. In fact today the OLSH are still making that remarkable and worthwhile contribution in Education, Health and Pastoral Care and ministries, many times in very remote and isolated places.
Within a few years of the arrival of the sisters, the Missionaries at Yule Island were faced with starvation. The Daughters of OLSH were presented with two possibilities as options: to turn back and returning to Australia or to continue going forward and cross over to the mainland and live and work among the Roro and the Mekeo peoples.
Thanks to the Sisters that they all chose the “no turning back option, no backing off option” so one may accurately use the phrase, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going and moving forward’ they preferred the “Go forward and Go for it approach” and soon several mainland stations were opened such as Inawi, Mou, Inawaia, Waima, and Rarai. Sadly and unfortunately many Sisters as well as the Fathers and Brothers died young and some within a few months of their arrival in the mission. Despite this sad reality, if anything, such was motivational and inspirational that more Sisters came from Europe and Australia. It is with great humility that we acknowledge today that everywhere that was under the Yule Island mission the Daughters shared the M.S.Cs apostolate and notably shared the people's poverty and their lot. The insurmountable challenge these Daughters and Missionaries left with us is wherever they worked they learned the local languages and tried to provide education and health services.
Gradually the M.S.Cs managed to penetrate the interior into the Kuni, Goilala and Fuyughe territories, again the Daughters were there showing special interest and concern for the wellbeing and formation of the women and girls. Let us not forget that for the Sisters and the Missionaries, all forms of transportation were indispensible. From canoes and foot, to horse backs and caravans, any means and ways that will make one move from point A to B was good enough and better that nothing at all.
After the WWII things changed rapidly so the Daughters seized the opportunity and adapted to the changes, others may see as progress, since then the Daughters took charge of Primary Schools; started High Schools in the Diocese; and were involved in Teacher Training. The education and formation of youth, women and girls was in fact necessary for the transformation of an emerging young nation.
Throughout the diocese Aid Posts were established as well as health Centres and these were well looked after and managed by the Sisters. They used all their resources and employed all their benefactors and network to generate the necessary funding and material and human resources to accomplish such an enormous venture in the name of evangelisation of peoples and their cultures.
What can we say of the pioneer Daughters of OLSH? I would include them with all our local people who were their collaborators and partners in evangelisation as they were the beneficiaries of all these activities and sacrifices. All the Missionaries, Religious men and women in the Chevalier Family… Dear Srs. Ligouri, Clare, Madeline and Martha, you are God’s chosen race, his saints…you put your faith in God’ love for you in his Son Jesus and you came to bear witness to that with your lives, your talents, your gifts. With gratitude in our hearts we sing psalms and hymns and inspired song to God, always and in every age and generation seeking to do anything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Remember, Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, the great things the Lord had done for you individually and as a group of religious women over 125 years here in PNG, including Australia, the Pacific and Asia. He chose you especially to be daughter of his mother, as daughter of his Mother he wanted you close to his cross, be deeply immersed in all the realities and toils of his dear people. He wanted you to bear witness to his light in your pastoral and religious witness; he gives you a share in his glory especially through the trials and challenges of our modern times. Since you are the daughter of his beloved mother he will listen to your prayer. We trust you to offer him the prayers of praise and thanksgiving of all our people; expose the dark shadows of our cultures into the bright spot-light of her Son, evangelize the realities and challenges of all our situations.
Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart lead all others, lead everyone, your brothers and sisters to your mother so she can lead us all to the loving and pierced heart of her Son, Jesus, him who invites all to come to him and will find rest for ever. Yes, we rejoice “that your names are written in heaven.”(Lk10:20c)