28/07/2012 20:18


As it was eight years since I left Papua New Guinea after having ministered there for forty-one years, it was a delight for me to return for a ten day visit.  The purpose was to participate in the celebrations for the 125 years since our first four sisters landed on Yule Island in 1887.  I am grateful that this trip eventuated and during my visit I especially held close to my heart all those sisters who are now members of the Australian Province and had previously been in PNG.  I know they would have enjoyed this time as much as I did and I returned home very enriched by the visit. 

The highlights of the visit for me was to meet up with our sisters in the PNG Province, my friends and ex-students and their families.  There were many hugs and a few tears and each acquaintance I met brought back many memories.  There were also time to catch up with the members of the APA group and to share what had happened since we last met

The hospitality of our PNG sisters was impressive and overwhelming.  They were very caught up with caring for the APA group, organising all that the conference entailed  as well as preparations for the 125 years’ celebrations.  These preparations had commenced many months previously and every detail had been precisely thought out and the results were splendid.

How heart-warming to see that the members of the Province Leadership Team and the Formators are all Papua New Guineans.  That really brought joy to my heart!  For those who know them, I need to make special mention of Srs Agnes Maino and Maria Amon and the sisters who assisted them so professionally and smilingly as they presented delicious food to feed about forty people at most meals.  This meant early rising and evening preparations for the next day. 

I was asked a couple of times if any notable changes struck me in Port Moresby/Papua New Guinea.  What struck me most was that nearly everyone had and used a mobile phone! There were no such things eight years ago but the introduction of the mobile phones at cheap rates has revolutionised daily life.  Communication is easier—even from remote areas.  A sister from Bema in the Papuan mountains rang Boroko convent!  There are some not so good side effects like contact between rascals and, in some cases, they are the means of  breakdowns in relationships.

Port Moresby is a growing city with more high-rise buildings.  There is even a shopping mall like Westfield centres we have in Australia.  The city is expanding with new homes been built on the outskirts of the city. 

I was pleased to visit the new Sacred Heart Teachers’ College at Bomana which provides teacher training for school-leavers from rural areas who will return to isolated village situations in the Southern Region.  A good enterprise.

In the past most marriages were between couples from their own area.  I use to be able to tell

where people came from but now when asked about their “origins”  the reply is something like “Mixed Manus and Goroka”  or “Mixed Central and Kavieng”.

The Eucharistic celebration of the 125 years’ anniversary at St. Joseph’s Parish Church, Boroko, was very inspiring and moving.  Archbishop John Ribat msc was the main celebrant and was assisted by priests from the Archdiocese and Religious Congregations.  The Mass was very well planned and organized and particularly striking were the Prayers of the Faithful with Symbols.  Each symbol was brought up by dancers from various parts of the Milne Bay Province and spoke to us about the Universal Church, Fr Chevalier, Mother Marie Louise Hartzer, the Congregation, the first Daughters to arrive in PNG, the Lay OLSH and the APA countries. 

The “first sisters” arrived in the church by boat.  A young coconut was carried in with the prayer “May we see in this young coconut a symbol of the future of our Congregation in Papua New Guinea”.

We were entertained by dancers from many places as we shared in a meal prepared by the staff and students of Limana Vocational Centre.  Earlier I had been happy to visit the Centre as see the improvements that had been made over the years.

It was a joy to meet sisters from other Congregations:  ADs, FMIs and in particular Sr Elian from the Carmelite Monastery at Bomana.  She joined us because she said the Daughters had been very helpful to the sisters  when they first took up residence at Yule Island.

The pilgrimage to Yule Island was very special.  Bishop Rochus Tatamai msc delivered a very touching homily during the Mass at the Precious Blood Memorial Hill.  During the Mass our first sisters were represented by some little girls came in on a boat with veils on their heads and on the prow was the original statue of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart which, in 1885, with two MSC Brothers, Fr Verius had placed on the boat when he left Thursday Island for Mary to be the guide to Yule Island.

Much has been written about events during this special time in Papua New Guinea.  I am most grateful to have been a part of these days and to have seen in our PNG sisters the fruits of the first sisters’ generosity and bravery and to experience the appreciation of the people for all the sisters have done as they lived and worked with them over these years.

Therese McNamara fdnsc