Carrying on the Legacy

Carrying on the legacy of Australia’s first Saint.

Sister Kathy shares her story with Mary MacKillop Today about working with some of the most vulnerable and remote communities in Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste.

Saint Mary MacKillop believed in the power of education to lift communities out of poverty.

At Mary MacKillop Today, we are inspired by Australia’s first Saint to empower vulnerable people to realise their dignity through education, health and sustainable livelihoods. We work with communities in Australia and overseas, in Timor-Leste, Peru, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

A dedicated member of our team, Sister Kathy, has an inspiring story to tell.  She has spent twenty years living in Papua New Guinea and, more recently, two years in Timor-Leste.

Sister Kathy shared how she made the move between the two developing countries:

The ministry in Timor-Leste needed a Sister to live in the country and be part of the team.  I was asked to go as a mentor for a team of Timorese men and women who were working to improve education through upskilling the local Timorese teachers, enabling parents to ensure their children get to school. The people in Timor-Leste are very materially poor and families live in extremely run-down homes. When I first got there, I remember thinking, I don’t know how they have survived like this.

Sister Kathy is an incredibly resilient person. She wasn’t deterred by the shocking living conditions – she was motivated to get to work and overcome challenges.

One of the hardest things was learning the local language. It wasn’t easy at my age but I was desperate to speak with the locals, so I could build relationships (and understand what is going on at Mass!).

It wasn’t long before Sister Kathy gained the confidence and the local know-how to connect with communities. One of our favourite things to hear her talk about is her outings with our Mobile Learning Centre – a colourful bus that travels to some of the most remote areas of Timor-Leste visiting schools, orphanages and disability centres. It’s filled with creative tools such as puppets and musical instruments to teach kids literacy and numeracy through fun workshops.

As the bus would pull up, people in the village would come running out to greet us. And I’m not just talking children – the parents were just as excited! Some of these communities were so isolated, we were their first visitors.

It is a slow process, taking many visits to the community but at the end of the process the children from this group are ready for “big school” and some dedicated community members have been trained how to continue this “ready for school work”, while the Mobile Learning Centre moves to begin again in another remote community.

Continue reading the article below:

Carrying on the Legacy of Australia's first Saint

Article and photo provided by Mary MacKillop Today. Used with permission.