Creating a Space for Engagement and Leadership in Central Australia

Key to the missionary spirit is to spend time with people, to get to know them by listening with an open mind and heart, and by creating space for engagement. This has been a particular challenge for missionary priests working with Aboriginal communities in remote parts of the Northern Territory.

The Divine Word Missionaries are accustomed to regularly driving hundreds of kilometers to visit Aboriginal communities in Central Australia, but they would often find they spend more time on the road than with the parishioners.

To turn this around, they decided to reach out to a group of donors and partners in mission, including Catholic Mission, to purchase a campervan, which would allow them to stay with outlying communities for longer periods of time. The new vehicle will enable them to spend more time supporting communities pastorally, preparing them for sacraments, and mentoring faith leaders.

Also known as Community Catechists, the leadership program for faith leaders is developed in partnership with Catholic Mission with the aim to be implemented throughout Australia.

“Catholic Mission saw the campervan as a straightforward solution to support the Divine Word Missionaries in accessing remote communities,” highlighted Jenny Collins-White, Associate Director of Mission Formation at Catholic Mission. “The importance of building and maintaining relationships can never be underestimated in this work, so the vehicle is a means to facilitating connection and engagement with communities at a deeper level. We’re also mindful that the work of mentoring faith leaders requires regular support, and the campervan is a perfect way to do this.”

The Community Catechist program is a partnership with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), local elders, the local parish and diocese, and Catholic Mission. The program aims to establish catechists in local communities as authorised recently by Pope Francis.