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Monday, 02 August 2021 19:08

SVD launches campervan appeal to help missionaries 'be with' remote communities


Ollie at Mass in Central Australia 550The Divine Word Missionaries are embarking on a fundraising campaign to help secure a small campervan which would allow the missionaries in Central Australia to stay with outlying Aboriginal communities for longer periods.

At the moment, the missionaries drive hundreds of kilometres to be with the people in those communities, but often, after celebrating Mass or other sacraments, they have to turn around and make the long drive back to Alice Springs again.

“We have about 12 Aboriginal communities outside of Alice Springs and they don’t have a place for us to stay, so having the campervan means we could go and really spend time with the people, instead of just coming and going,” says Fr Olivier Noclam SVD, of the Aboriginal Catholic Chaplaincy in Central Australia.

“For us, it is really important to be with the people and spend time with them, getting to know them and their culture and their way of life.

“Even for things like the sacramental program, we need to spend time and prepare them for the sacraments.

“We also find that the main time the people pray together in the community is when the priest is there and so we want to provide those opportunities for them to come together and pray.”

The campervan proposal will also assist a new initiative for Central Australia which is a collaboration with Catholic Mission, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC), the SVD and the Diocese of Darwin, to have a lay prayer leader or catechist in these outlying communities, as authorised recently by Pope Francis.

“The priest will have to stay in the community and provide formation and support for this person, so we will need to have somewhere to stay,” Fr Ollie says.

Parish Priest of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Alice Springs, Fr Prakash Menezes SVD says the campervan would provide a new way of being with the people in the far reaches of the vast parish.

“Our parish covers about 600km in diameter,” he says.

“In the north, we are almost bordering with Tennant Creek; to the south we go to Uluru; almost to the Queensland border in the east, and the WA border in the west.

“The community of Yuendumu is about 300km away and Harts Range is 250km away in the other direction.

“While the SVD has so far been based around Central Australia, the Bishop (of Darwin) is asking us to slowly move further north because there are more and more Catholics in the communities up there who we now visit, together with the Missionaries of Charity Sisters.”

CaptureFr Prakash says the campervan will make a difference not only to the missionaries but to the people they serve.

“It means we can really stay with the people for longer and be with them and minister to them,” he says.

“And it will really help us to support faith and leadership among the community members themselves because they are the ones who are there caring and sharing their faith with others every day.

“Ideally the priest will be able to stay a week or two in the communities, whereas the most we can do at the moment is to stay overnight and then come back. It means a lot of driving.”

Fr Prakash says they are hoping the campervan will allow them to extend their remote outreach even further.

“There are a lot of even smaller communities out there, as well as cattle stations and we hope this will help us to establish a relationship with the people,” he says.

“Most importantly, this initiative is coming from the communities themselves. They want us to go there. This is an invitation from the people and we are eager to respond.”

Donations to the fundraising appeal can be made by direct, secure donation on the SVD AUS Province website by clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ button or via this link https://www.bpoint.com.au/pay/DIVINEWORDMISSIONARIES. Click on 'Campervan Appeal' in the drop-down menu. Alternatively people can donate by sending a cheque to Divine Word Missionaries, Locked Bag 3, Epping, NSW 1710 or by phoning 02 9868 2666 if you have either a Master or Visa Card.

In line with Australian Government regulations regarding donations for Pastoral Works, donations to this fundraising appeal for a Campervan for Central Australia will not be able to be tax deductible, but the SVD can provide an acknowledgement if requested.


TOP RIGHT: Fr Olivier Noclam SVD celebrates Mass at one of the remote communities in Central Australia.

BOTTOM LEFT: The type of campervan the SVD missionaries in Central Australia are hoping to raise the funds to purchase, to allow them to spend longer time with remote communities.