Learning literacy by parent/grandparent.

If one was to try to summarise the spirit of Mary MacKillop, we could possibly say that it is a spirit that is compassionate, one that uses education to “heal, include, untether, set right and serve”, one that loves not only those being ministered to, but also those who work beside us, and one that automatically acts on seen needs. This spirit is alive and pumping in Mary MacKillop Today (MMT), especially in the Timor-Leste region.

Last year, one of the staff members at MMT in Timor-Leste was diagnosed with breast cancer. The staff rallied behind her with visits and support. On her last day, many staff visited her, a visit she really appreciated. She had always wanted to come back to work after she was diagnosed or visit the office, so during the funeral procession, MMT organised that the hearse should stop at the MMT office on the way to the cemetery, the back door was opened and we all prayed together for our dearly loved staff member – “be compassionate and love not only those ministered to, with but also those who ministered beside us”.

When the Livelihood Project Team realised that the vanilla farming was facing difficulties because of the drying up of their water supply, they immediately looked for solutions, and invited another group who did much work on water conservation and farming to enhance water conservation. Technical and practical training sessions were set up. Many little groups prospered by this and were able to prolong the use of their spring water.

When these same groups were setting up small business loan systems, again MMT engaged with a group that was successful and professional in this area, and ran a meeting for exchange of information, skills etc. A valuable link was made for future help. In preparing to finish their work with these people, the team helped set up corporations and obtained government support for them – “include, heal, untether, set right and serve”.

A Parent Training program was established helping parents to give educational support to their children at home, when it was clear that many of the adults were illiterate. This program set about providing sessions to give parents the chance to improve their literacy. When moving on, the team did not leave them adrift, but left them with resources to enhance their ability to support their children’s education – “act on seen needs”.

Sanitation bins built by the community for rubbish collection.

Literacy and Health Training teams working on improving teachers’ skills became very aware of the poor facilities for sanitation, rubbish collection and library access. The solution was to obtain small grants where the community named their need, owned it and then worked as a community with the grant they were given to improve their toilet facilities or other areas of needs – “compassionate acting on seen needs”.

Part of each team’s training is to engender awareness of inclusion of all genders, disabled people in the community, and environmental subsistence, and to foster zero tolerance for abuse of any person. Following this agenda, the Inclusive Early Education team included Braille in some of their training and the Livelihood team had hands-on practice in finding the best ways of improving their farming methods to suit their local geographical situation – “heal, include, untether, set right and serve”.

Each day the MMT team in Timor-Leste sets about living out the values and spirit of Mary MacKillop. Each year they set aside a few days to ponder Mary MacKillop’s spirit and how they live it out in their projects. Her spirit is truly recognised, alive and active in Timor-Leste.

Sr Nola Goodwin


Images provided by Mary MacKillop Today in Timor-Leste. Used with permission.