01/10/2013 08:28

Religious women: prophets at work!

20 SEPT 2013

By Sr. Helen Warman OLSH
Secretary, Catholic Religious Women - Port Moresby

Dear Editor,

I feel strongly that the statement made by Fr. Victor Roche, SVD in the July issue of Catholic Reporter (and below on 1, 13 and 26 July, ndr.) calls for a response.  Father asks “Do the Religious (women) live up to the prophetic role of their charism”?  I would ask what survey was made, what questions were asked of Religious women to obtain the apparent negative response Father Roche infers?

The voice of religious women was heard at the public Haus Krai for violence against women. A representative spoke on the occasion and her words were cheered and clapped by the many women present. In the testimony given by women who had suffered domestic violence religious congregations were mentioned as those who had helped along the way.  Women religious are involved in the “Street Kid” apostolate (in Moresby). During this year of Faith the Religious women have organized a weekly talk on faith on Radio Maria.  This began in March and will continue right through to December. How many Religious Education Lessons are given by religious women each week in the Government Schools throughout the City and as afield as Sogeri? Then Sunday school classes are most regularly given. Morning and evening Prayer of the Church are broadcast over Radio Maria on a regular basis by a Congregation of women.  Sisters involved in the University of Papua New Guinea support students in all their activities for justice and peace and give support by their presence. Religious women also regularly visit patients in the Port Moresby General Hospital and the Bomana Corrective Institute. Others are involved in the teaching of basic skills in cooking and sewing in several centres throughout the city.

How many women are assisted by the Religious involved in the “Susu Mama” apostolate?  How many lapsed Catholics are brought back to the practice of the Faith by those in Administration work who visit Government Offices for various reasons and stay on to give advice and counsel?  Is time spent in Marriage Preparation Courses releasing the voice of the prophet?

Is the voice of the prophet heard when the hungers at our doors are fed every day and breakfast programmes organized in Settlements and our Catholic Secondary Schools, the “naked” clothed,  medical bills paid and  the destitute, whose house has been burnt down, assisted ?  Is the prophet’s voice only heard through words?  What of the many works of charity that Religious women, silently and unseen, do every day?

Do the sick and aged hear the voice of the prophet when Religious women take time to be Eucharistic ministers taking the Sacrament to homes and hospital?

Does Father’s mentioning of “Health and Education” include the amazing work done in the area of HIV/AIDS and the many extra curriculum activities, especially in our Boarding Schools? These include YACA (Youth Against Corruption Association), Junior Legion of Mary, breakfast stations for those who come to school hungry and love, comfort and counselling given to students who come from violent, abusive, breaking or broken homes, in our Secondary Schools.

That is more but enough now to answer Fr. Victor Roche’s question: “Do Religious women live up to the Prophetic character of their Charism”? It may not be shouting from the house tops but it is a cry lifted in defence of the poor and marginalized of the community.

Yes, I agree with Fr. Victor, there is still much to be done especially when we see the level of violence, unemployment, destructive development and poverty in our country PNG.  But what real encouragement or leadership are the Religious being shown or given by our Church Leaders?

In so many countries Soup Kitchens and night time distribution of food to the poor is organized. Is anything like this needed in the cities of PNG?

Where have we a hostel or House of safety for women afflicted by domestic violence?

Would a public day of prayer (and fasting) for asylum seekers be the prophet speaking?

Would an organized Archdiocesan/Diocesan celebration of the Eucharist against violence make the prophet heard?

Would a public gathering of our Catholic School students for a Eucharistic celebration show a prophetic stand against some (named) national problem?

Yes much has to be done but if you listen you will hear the voice of the prophet speaking gently, but persistently, where it is needed - among the poor and marginalized of our country.  We need help to move into the wider arena.