I grew up in the bush. Religion was always very simple for me. Prayers with my family and Mass only when a visiting priest came through. We then were fortunate to be provided with Sunday Mass once a month. Being on a family farm with two families working it, it meant that we had to take turns to go to Mass, so for us it was every second month.
The first time I heard the word ‘Mission’ was when a Redemptorist Priest came through and gave us a Mission. I was in grade 3 at primary school and was amazed that there was going to be Mass each evening. I thought people only had Mass once a month. It went for three days and the adults spent a lot of time making us stay quiet and sit still. This was something bush kids had not had much practice at.
This Mission only left the impression of very long sermons and very tired kids.
As an adult I can now recognise that the Bush Missions brought to those so isolated an opportunity to refresh their faith and gave them the renewed energy to grow with the imparted knowledge.
Looking back now I recognise that our ‘Mission’ was always around us. My mother was the local bush nurse and so many times our home was a resting place for sick children, new mothers and babies, and the inevitable accident victims.
My mother dispensed her treatment with calm profession ease ably assisted by my father. He was the official driver if a patient needed to be transported the two hours to the nearest hospital. He also was very apt at soothing fretful babies and reassuring anxious parents.
As we grew older it was only natural that we were included in our mother’s mission. Hers was a voluntary position which she dedicated nearly sixty years to. Her greatest joy was to have her ‘babies’ (those of new mothers) come back and visit with their children and then their grandchildren.
Then there were the ‘poor’. It was never spelt out as such and we just accepted it that if a farmer was struggling you helped out. It was all done very quietly but my mother always seemed to know how to handle it with dignity and kindness.
As I grew older I learnt that my mother’s cousin was a Jesuit Priest in India. India was a place that we had learnt about in school but we now had a connection to. Another of my mother’s cousins was a Sister with Missionaries of the Sacred Heart working in New Guinea. Both my parents had cousins that were Redemptorist Priests and they were always wandering Australia giving Missions. This to us could only be associated with late nights and long sermons so they didn’t rate too highly with us.
It was at boarding school that the meaning of Mission took on another phase. We learnt about the many religious orders working throughout the world easing the pain and suffering of those less fortunate. Until then I thought that it was just my mother’s relatives who took off and did unusual things. The simple mind of a ten year old!
In my adult life I experienced first hand another kind of Mission work. My cousin and her family moved to India. Her husband was appointed to an Australian Aid Mission in Southern India. We visited and as it was our first time out of Australia, struggled to come to terms with real poverty. The sights and the plight of the people will stay with me for ever.
I try in my own small way to contribute to the work being done in the Missions. Since India I have travelled to the Philippines and Korea.
Visiting the Daughters of Divine Zeal and the Rogationist Fathers I have experienced first hand the difference their work makes to those in need. I am in awe of the challenges they face and the dedication they give to their cause.
They need our practical help but they also need our prayers to continue the work they so selflessly give.