Because of the early Spiritan tradition of the “evangelization of freed slaves,” Spiritan ministries have flourished and continue to do so in Africa, the Caribbean and South America. As times changed the Spiritans responded in other regions where poverty and marginalization had begun a new form of slavery—such as Pakistan, Philippines, and Papua, New Guinea—over sixty countries around the world.
Australia is one of them. Working with the indigenous people of Australia, the Aborigines, and among the new poor in the cities are the top priorities of the group. Six Spiritans serve five parishes in northwest Australia and on remote Aboriginal reservations and in mining towns across a vast desert landscape.
The Dampier Peninsula Parish, in the remote outback of Australia’s Kimberley Region, covers hundreds of kilometers with a tiny population of Aborigines. Spiritans serve the one thousand people of the parish through two Catholic primary schools each with about one hundred students.
The Aborigines in Australia, like other indigenous peoples who were colonized by people who settled on their land, have suffered the long-term effects from the loss of their land and culture. They have much higher instances of ill health and addiction as well as less employment and fewer high school graduates. Our ministry here in outback Australia is to stand with the people who are the poorest and marginalized of their nation.
“How could we best serve this community? Our first decision was to stay faithful to the work of all the missionaries that had come before us. We continued to celebrate the sacraments for the community even when only one, two, three or sometimes no one would attend. And secondly, we decided to look for new ways to minister to the community, hoping to work more closely with our Catholic schools and provide counseling support for our students.”