Modern Day ‘Samaritan’ Receives 2019 NATSICC Elder Award.

On 14 July 2019 Ms Brenda Lester was presented with a 2019 National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council Awards (NATSICC) Elder Award at St Mark’s Cathedral in Port Pirie. The Sisters of St Joseph of the Centre West Region nominated Brenda for this award after having had the privilege of knowing her and her work in Amata for some years. Brenda Lester deserves this award for her lifelong and passionate commitment to her Aboriginal family and community in Amata on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia.

Ms Jane Lester (Brenda’s sister) and Srs Marianne Zienstra and Kenise Neill travelled to Port Pirie to present the award.  Brenda’s children Naomi, Rachel, Jessie, her son in law Dean and ‘grannies’, Clarabell, Kiki, Keeley, Jaywyn Johnny and Jayarni were very proud as they witnessed their Mother and Grandmother receive her award.

It was a lovely coincidence that the Samaritan Story was the reading on the day when Brenda received the award. Brenda is a remarkable woman who is the compassionate face of God to all and especially people who are vulnerable. Mothers and babies, the elderly, young families and supporting Aboriginal communities have been her focus over many years.

Brenda’s whole life demonstrates the lived reality of Ngapartji Ngapartji, meaning reciprocity and co-operation, and is described as ‘overflowing’ kindness in the Yankunytjatjara language and culture. Brenda’s kind, gentle and wise presence has been and is a gift for many people. Brenda has a passion for social justice and has a profound capacity to forgive even in the most tragic of circumstances.  She is resolute in showing God’s merciful love.

Many Parishioners, Fr Jimmy Pantin and Ms Mary Bartlett (Covenant Josephite) made a huge effort to welcome Brenda, her family and the Sisters to Mark’s Cathedral Parish for the presentation and celebration.  The gracious welcome, preparation of morning tea and the lovely connection parishioners made with Brenda and her family was a blessing for all present. Brenda and her sister, Jane, both said they were overwhelmed with the hospitality shown to them and the warm welcome was a positive experience for Brenda’s children and grandchildren.

Kenise Neill rsj