Yesterday, all participants of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council assembly devoted a day to contributing their voice and story to the Plenary Council. The NATSICC leaders have done an amazing job of bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to explore their story of “Strong Faith – Strong Youth – Strong Future”, the theme for the assembly.
The day of yarning circles was an experience of sharing deeply, speaking boldly and listening with open and humble hearts. The voice of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic people in the Plenary Council process is essential and yesterday was a strong beginning. When everyone goes home, the yarning circles will continue with those who weren’t able to attend the assembly, and NATSICC developed a booklet to guide this process. It’s available here for all to use.
On Tuesday night, under the stars, NATSICC participants and I walked the prayerful pilgrimage of the labyrinth in an Aboriginal way. Upon entering, we stopped and prayed and were blessed with water from local rivers. As our footsteps were placed one in front of the other, we were encouraged to listen for God’s voice and pray for healing and reconciliation.
At the heart of the labyrinth, we offered our prayer – from our heart to God, and spent a few moments still and connected body, mind and soul with all of creation. The pathway out of the labyrinth was the reverse of the journey taken inwards and along the way as we passed one another, the gentle gesture of a hand on one’s shoulder was a beautiful accompaniment – a reminder that we are united by faith.
This very powerful experience of Indigenous spirituality and prayer demonstrated that amidst our differences, the mess of sorrowful hurt and inter-generational suffering as Catholic people, we have great hope and we are one people together, for the Kingdom of God.
It is the first time I have attended the NATSICC assembly and it is the largest gathering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic people I have ever experienced. I have traveled and spent time with a number of communities across the country, but this national assembly has been an overwhelming experience of deeply faithful, proudly Catholic people with great wisdom to offer not only our Church, but the wider Australian society.
I am deeply grateful for the warmth, welcome and strength that I have received by being a part of this year’s NATSICC assembly. Thank you for the invitation and making me feel so at home.
Peace be with you all,
Contribute to the Plenary Council by visiting: http://plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au/resources/have-your-say/
With thanks to the ACBC.