9 November 2011
St Patrick’s Parish, Paraparaumu and Our Lady of Fatima Waikanae have again succeeded in raising a large sum from their annual gala for the Presentation Sisters. The gala on September 24 in the Paraparaumu Memorial hall raised more than $17 000 for the Sisters’ projects in Papua New Guinea and in South America.
Visiting the region at the time of the gala, Sr Fran, the first indigenous woman to take the vows as a Presentation Sister in Papua New Guinea, was able to thank supporters in Kapiti and tell them about the work their money was supporting.
The links with Papua New Guinea began in 1986 when Sisters Breda and Teresa, both trained nurses, answered the call to Ningil, PNG joining their Australian sisters in community health work. A major achievement of this time was the establishment of a clinic which continues to serve this community.
A drive to educate
Sr Fran teaches children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school. Education is highly prized in the rural areas of Papua New Guinea where school fees are high and children must walk for hours through the bush every day to get to school.
Children start school at age eight when they are old enough to manage the journey.
Often the children who come to Sr Fran’s school are girls who are the first to be taken out of school if money is short. Girls are less economically useful in Papua New Guinea society because they are expected to marry and raise a family.
The congregation has educated and trained young women who come to the Sisters once they leave school in Grade 10. The Sisters regard this training of girls and young women as among the most important in terms of the future viability of the country.
Rural development lagging
In large areas of the country there is no work and people just sit around but the women often grow vegetables and other produce for their families, and sometimes for local markets. Sr Fran is concerned that the country is going backwards in terms of development for people in the rural areas.
As well as teaching, the Sisters also nurse and otherwise care for the sick and undertake other pastoral work.
To illustrate the isolation and frustration the people often face there, an 18-year-old woman has just died because her family were unable to get her to the capital, Port Moresby, for the treatment she needed for a heart condition. She had to be carried through the bush and then driven by road to Aitape from where she was put on a plane to the city. The travel took a week but she had been sick for a fortnight before her family decided to seek help.
Sr Fran’s congregation based in the coastal village of Aitape now numbers 30 including three older Australian Sisters.
Pilgrimage for 60
Closer to home the Presentation Sisters are celebrating 60 years in New Zealand by going on pilgrimage visiting all the places where they have ministered. They came first to Taita in 1951 and Paraparaumu and Dunedin the following year.
Image: Srs Breda, Fran and Regina who is congregational leader in New Zealand.