By Paul Dobbyn
AUSTRALIAN Catholics have good reason to be interested in outcomes from Darwin’s recent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) Assembly.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics, numbering over 120,000, are the youngest and fastest-growing group within the Catholic Church in Australia,” Centacare Murri Ministry co-ordinator Ravina Waldren said.
“When I attended the assembly, I particularly looked at what was working to engage young indigenous people in those areas of Australia where this growth has been occurring.
“One big factor is getting young people into Catholic schools.
“There’s always been a push for this from the Elders in the Church in Brisbane archdiocese.
“It’s also been a major focus for me since I joined Murri Ministry in 1993 and in my time with Catholic education before that.”
The NATSICC Assembly, with its theme The Heart of Jesus Beats Within Us All, ran from July 2 to 6.
More than 300 Indigenous Catholics from dioceses across Australia were also able to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday together at a Mass on July 5.
Traditionally such Masses launch NAIDOC Week across Australia.
The Mass, celebrated by Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse, was held at Kormilda College, the venue for the assembly.
Darwin Bishop Eugene Hurley and Brisbane Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Oudeman concelebrated.
A group of 12 from Brisbane archdiocese attended the assembly including part-time Murri Ministry chaplain Fr Gerry Hefferan; other Murri Ministry members; Stradbroke Island Elder Aunty Evelyn Parkyn; Marlon Riley, from Brisbane Catholic Education’s ATSI Cultural Studies Centre; and the Australian Catholic University’s Aunty Joan Hendriks; Jane Ceolin and Kate Wragge.
Fr Hefferan said an assembly highlight was the screening of film of the Aboriginal liturgy from Melbourne’s International Eucharistic Congress in 1973.
“Sister Carmel (Pilcher), a Josephite, located the film in ABC archives,” he said.
“There was great rejoicing it had been located as many saw relatives who had taken part in the liturgy, and the great respect of the wider Catholic community for the faith of the Aboriginal people.”
Keynote speaker was Charlie King, award-winning Northern Territory sports broadcaster with the ABC and founder of the No More Campaign, encouraging men to take a stronger stand against family violence and child abuse.
Cairns diocese’s Deacon Ralph Madigan was among other speakers, talking on “Liturgical Inculturation” and sharing stories of Indigenous culture and the Church.
NATSICC’s national secretary Craig Arthur said he was particularly pleased at the number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics who registered for the assembly.
This year’s NAIDOC Mass at St Stephen’s Cathedral will be held today (July 12) at 12 noon.