Monday, April 30, 2012

AUSTRALIA : ABORIGINAL ELDER HOSTS CATHOLIC LEADERS

ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY REPORT
Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
27 Apr 2012


With the success of the inaugural
Creation and Reconciliation
pilgrimage Jacqui is now planning
more experiences
Dr Elsie Heiss, well-known Aboriginal Elder and executive officer of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry's Church of Reconciliation at La Perouse hosted 27 Catholic leaders in education and health from across NSW, South Australia, WA and Queensland on the final day of Catholic Earthcare Australia's inaugural Creation and Reconciliation pilgrimage.
Held from 13-19 April, the six day pilgrimage treks through Dhurag country in the Blue Mountains to view ancient Aboriginal cave paintings as well as visits to La Perouse and the Church of Reconciliation.
In addition the 27 participants in the transformative pilgrimage spent three days on site in conversation, contemplation and personal reflection at Winbourne, the Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre at Mulgoa.
This very special pilgrimage gave those taking part not only an intense immersion experience and the chance to deepen their faith and understanding but the opportunity to explore the profound connection between God's creation of the world, and God's call to reconcile with Christ and Nature.
"God's action of creating and reconciliation shows us that creation and salvation are part of the one act," explains Jacqui Remond, Director of Catholic Earthcare Australia which together with the Broken Bay Catholic Schools Office and the Broken Bay Institute designed the program which combined an understanding of Aboriginal culture, ritual, art and history with reflection, contemplation, theology, scripture and the integrity of Creation.

Aboriginal cave art in Blue Mountains dates
back 4000 years
Jacqui says the Creation and Reconciliation program was inspired by the work of Australian Christian Brother, Br Kevin McDonnell, the inaugural director of studies at the South Africa Catholic Bible College who created a series of reconciliation programs centred around Africa's Cradle of Humankind.
On hand to help guide participants on the unique Blue Mountains' pilgrimage were international authority on ecology and systemic theology, Father Denis Edwards from the Archdiocese of Adelaide and renowned archaeologist and researcher into Aboriginal and spirituality in Australia, Father Eugene Stockton from the Parramatta Archdiocese.
"Fr Eugene and Fr Denis inspired us with their deep Catholic faith, personal humility and wide knowledge and over the six days I was away. I came to a much deeper understanding of the place where I live and work and Sydney's rich history which stretches back thousands, even millions of years," says one of the Creation and Reconciliation participants, Chantelle Ogilvie-Ellis from the Archdiocese of Sydney's Justice and Peace Office.

Aboriginal Madonna and Child by
Richard Campbell was especially
moving for participants in the Creation
and Reconciliation pilgrimage
"It was a remarkable and unforgettable experience to discover how science and Catholicism can come together, enriching our understanding of who we are and who we are called to be in the world," she says.
For many of those who took part in the pilgrimage, one of the highlights was the trek through the bush-covered foothills of the Blue Mountains to see 4000-year old Aboriginal rock engravings of kangaroos and other native animals and birds. Another was the time spent with Dr Heiss at the Church of Reconciliation in La Perouse where participants admired Aboriginal Stations of the Cross by Richard Campbell and his distinctive and moving Aboriginal depiction of the Madonna and Child.
"This visit was really transformative for all of us. After an Aboriginal liturgy, many remained sitting quietly in the Church and reflecting on what we had learned, not only from Dr Heiss but throughout the week," Jacqui Remond says.
With the success of its inaugural Creation and Reconciliation pilgrimage, Catholic Earthcare is now planning regular pilgrimages with South Australia's Flinders Ranges and the Kimberley in WA currently being explored as future sites.
Jacquie Remond
"We want to give participants in the Creation and Reconciliation program opportunities to spend time in spectacular country as they explore possibilities that can lead to social change, justice, reconciliation and the integrity of creation," Jacqui says adding that the University of Notre Dame Australia has already expressed its desire to be involved in helping design as well as participate in future pilgrimages.

An initiative of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), on 9 May Catholic Earthcare Australia will celebrate 10 years since its formation with a Mass at Mary MacKillop Chapel, North Sydney celebrated by Bishop Adrian Doyle, Chairman of the ACBC's Commission for Justice, Ecology and Development.
To find out more about Catholic Earthcare Australia log on to www.catholicearthcare.org.au

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