A Big Weekend in Timor-Leste

31 October 2017
Peter and Margaret Cassidy. Image: Supplied.

A Big Weekend in Timor-Leste

By Margaret and Peter Cassidy, volunteer teachers in Bedois, Dili, Timor-Leste


Last weekend was an extremely busy time for the Bedois Parish; probably the busiest weekend for quite some time. On Friday there was a holiday to commemorate the anniversary of Father Monteiro’s death. At 4:00pm, parishioners and school children lined the road leading into the parish precinct while the Bedois Secondary School Drum Band marched ahead of the Bishop of Dili, Father Virgilio Do Carmo Da Silva SDB, in a procession that ended near a shrouded monument recently built in front of the new school building. A brief unveiling ceremony followed, during which beautiful bronze statues of Father Monteiro and two children standing in a boat were revealed to generous applause and cheers from the large crowd.

The official opening of the new school was also included in the ceremony and, to conclude proceedings, bottles of champagne were opened. Father Alberty shook up one bottle and sprayed it over the crowd; a ritual we have come to expect from Father at big celebrations. During the Mass after the opening celebrations, the Bishop paid tribute, in glowing terms, to the wonderful, selfless and humble service Father Monteiro had given to the Timorese people over sixty years.

On Saturday there were thirty adult Baptisms and fifty weddings in the Bedois Church. Many private parties were held in the Bedois community on Saturday evening and some of the celebrations continued until dawn on Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon the Bishop returned to Bedois for a Confirmation Mass, during which he confirmed 440 candidates. That evening, after Mass, the congregation moved to the new, large, concrete court and stage area on the northern side of the church for an enormous feast and entertainment. The concrete for this area was poured manually, over about eighteen hours, only two days before the feast. Margaret and I felt honoured to be seated with the Bishop and other guests for the feast. A large team of parish ladies were responsible for preparing and serving the meal, which catered for more than 500 guests.

The Bishop had not visited Bedois since Father Monteiro’s Funeral Mass in October 2016. In that time a very attractive and functional secondary school, with a student capacity of 450, was completed, as well as a large outdoor sports and assembly facility and a large parish preschool. The Bishop was clearly impressed with the achievements of Father Alberty and his large team of dedicated workers.

Margaret and I feel very fortunate to have been living onsite to observe Father Alberty’s dream for his parish become a reality. As the final phase of the ambitious work unfolded, it became apparent that an important aim of the project, for him, was to inspire this poor community with realistic hope for a bright and successful future. Father is a very good model of a resilient, dedicated worker and his example has demonstrated that hard work and determination lead to success.

The Bedois Parish community is seeking more volunteers to assist the development of its shools. Do you have what it takes to live and work in another culture like Margaret and Peter?

Come along to Palms’ Info Session on Nov 29. Call 02 9560 5333 or go to www.palms.org.au/volunteer

About the Bedois Parish Community, Timor-Leste

Under the energetic leadership of Fr Alberty Morato, Paroquia St Teresinha do Menino Jesus (St Therese of the Child Jesus Parish) is responsible for two primary schools in the outer Dili suburb of Bedois, Escola Primaria Sabracalaran and Escola Primaria Bedois and recently established a pre-school to cater for the needs of growing families and young students in the community.

Monsignor Jose Nolasco Santimano Meneses e Monteiro was a much adored part of of the Bedois Parish Community until his death last year at the age of 93. Born in Goa, Fr Monteiro arrived in Timor-Leste as misionary in 1954. He was a faithful shepherd and witness to the country’s embrace of Catholicism under Portuguese and Indonesian rule, then through its struggles and acheivemnt of independence.

Bedois Choir. Image: Supplied.

Palms’ strong relationship with the Bedois parish community began in 2014 with the placement of two volunteer teachers in its schools. For two years, Guida Cabrita and Samantha Haddin provided support and mentoring to the local teaching staff across both primary schools.

With this increased capacity Paroquia St Teresinha continues to address the Timorese education gap by providing high quality primary education which is proven by strong student engagement. Its new project of expanding programs, including early education through a Pre-School, is a bold initiative in Timor-Leste where such services are rare.

About The Cassidys

Margaret and Peter Cassidy are Early Childhood and Primary Teachers from Alstonville, both with over 30 years’ experience teaching in schools and TAFE colleges in regional NSW and SA. They have previously volunteered through Palms in support of the Dominican Sisters’ School at Nila, Solomon Islands, in 2004.

Taking up their Bedois placements in January 2017, Margaret is mentoring staff and assisting development of the new Pre-School, while Peter is building capacity of teachers in the Primary schools, both drawing on their experience and cross-cultural abilities.

Traditional dancers and Margaret. Image: Supplied.

Palms is recruiting now to continue the building of local capacity in Bedois. Do you have what it takes to volunteer like Margaret and Peter? Go to www.palms.org.au/volunteer or phone Palms on 02 9560 5333.

About Palms Australia

Since its creation in 1961, Palms has sent over 1500 volunteers to live simply and work in communities in Australia and overseas. In six decades and 39 countries, Palms volunteers have donated time valued at over $200million. Since Timor-Leste regained independence in 2001, over 80 Palms volunteers have worked with local institutions to build the capacity of the poorest of Timor-Leste.

With thanks to Palms Australia.

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