A JUSTICE project within Sts Peter and Paul Parish, Bulimba, aims to support the work of the Good Samaritan Sisters in Kiribati, one of the Pacific’s remote and struggling island nations.
Justice in Motion for Kiribati kids is a fundraising project aimed at supporting the Good Sams expand an early childhood education centre for 60 preschool children in the village of Abaokoro.
The young students are taught in a Maneaba, a traditional gathering place open to the elements.
As many activities take place outside under the trees activities are often limited in the frequent tropical rain.
A target of $70,000 has been set to build a classroom, storeroom and office for the centre.
Sr Bernardina Sontrop, who is on the Good Samaritan leadership team, said the Good Sams played a significant pastoral role amongst the people of Kiribati.
“Our aim is to start with children from two-and-a-half years old helping them to socialise and prepare them to begin formal schooling as five-year-olds, ” she said.
The Bulimba parish project is one of the ways to support Good Samaritans activities in Kiribati.
This year, the order marks 25 years of presence and ministry in Kiribati – starting with the arrival of just one sister Veronica McCluskie in 1991.
It began with Kiribati’s Bishop Paul Mea inviting the Good Samaritan Sisters to take up ministry in the island nation to help with the educational and pastoral needs of the people of his diocese.
Today there are two Good Sams communities in Kiribati, engaged in a variety of educational, pastoral and community development ministries.
These include running the early childhood education centre, teaching English at the local primary school, offering pastoral care to patients at a psychiatric hospital and to those in prison, and supporting people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
In Kiribati, a growing group of women have been drawn to the Good Samaritan way of life.
The order has been blessed with vocations and now has two perpetually professed sisters, four temporary professed sisters living and engaged in ministry in Kiribati, and three women who have joined the congregation and are in the novitiate stage of formation.
Sr Sontrop during seven pastoral visits to Kiribati has acquired a deeper understanding of Kiribati, its people, life and culture, and the many challenges they face as they continue to transition from subsistence village culture to becoming a developed nation.
“I first went there in 2013 and I guess you always think of the tropics as being idyllic – the glistening sea, the island life and swaying palm trees,” she said.
“Once you hit the ground you quickly become aware of the people’s struggles in this time of transition.”
Sr Sontrop said the work of the Good Sams would continue in Kiribati, thanks to the generosity of many Australians.
“It gives them a livelihood and allows them to do the work that they do,” she said.
Sr Sontrop said Australian parishes had delivered support in other ways as well.
“There are a range of immersion experiences; some people who come to Kiribati to lend support have simply spent time immersing themselves in the culture and helping in the early childhood centre,” she said.
“Others have helped with maintenance.
“Teachers groups have also come to help, giving young teachers an experience, and deepening their sense of social justice.”
By Mark Bowling