Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Palm Island celebrates beautifully

This blog is longer than normal because today the Cross and Icon visited Palm Island. This was the first time that the Journey of the Cross and Icon in Australia spent the whole day in an Indigenous community. It was a first for me too; I had never before been inside an Indigenous community. For these reasons and many more the day was very special so hence, the long blog.

Let me begin by stating that today was fantastic!
We spent the whole day on Palm Island or traveling to and from it. The trip across passed quickly and pleasantly. The students from St Patrick’s and Ignatius Park were friendly, excited and very interested in the Cross. Some of the girls were so keen to see and touch the Cross that they were embracing its’ box before we opened it!

The sun shone down on the ferry as we drew closer to the wharf at Palm Island. With some skillful lifting the Cross was lifted to the top floor of the ferry so that it was clearly visible from the shore. The first thing I noticed as we approached the wharf was the number of people who had gathered to meet the Cross and Icon. The wharf was decorated with palms branches and balloons and lined with young people, some of them holding banners. As the Cross and Icon were processed along the wharf and past a group of primary school children they threw petals into the air. As I stood at the end of the jetty watching the procession take place I felt really goose-bumpy as the people of Palm joyfully welcomed the Cross, Icon and us to their Island home.

After an official welcome we processed to the PCYC club. Bouquets of flowers were placed at the foot of the Cross and Icon by some young people to express their deep and sincere welcome to the symbols. A group of primary school kids performed some traditional dances. They danced with a mixture of pride in their culture and shy embarrassment. They invited some of the male visitors including Bishop Michael to join them in dance with hilarious results – no one in the hall could keep from laughing!

The young people were very very friendly, keen for a laugh and excited to have the Cross and Icon on their Island for a whole day. It truly was a privilege to meet those of you that I did and I thank you for the beautiful hospitality you gave me and the other visitors.

After lunch a healing liturgy took place. One of the elders shared in an honest and raw fashion about the pain in her heart she has felt for her people through the immense struggles they have faced and continue to face. She spoke of Jesus being her only hope, the only hope for forgiveness and fresh starts. She appealed to the young generation to “Come back to the Lord, for he is the only one who will give you peace”. The whole community then had the opportunity to venerate the Cross and Icon and receive prayer for healing. It was an honour to present at this liturgy as the spirit of God was felt by many as they made the initial step towards the healing of old wounds.

The Cross and Icon were then processed through the streets up to the parish Church. As we walked I was struck by the contrast on the Townsville students in their school uniforms and the local kids, mucking around, riding bikes and contributing to the procession in their own way. A smoking ceremony was held out the front of the Church before the Cross and Icon were placed at the front of the Church. A small Cross and Icon are to remain in the Church as a reminder of the day. These were blessed as part of the liturgy at the Church. The Cross was then put on the back of a truck and held secure by some young men. The truck then led the procession back to the PCYC club.

All too soon the truck to led the group back to the jetty to catch the boat back to the mainland. It seemed very appropriate that there was a beautiful sun set as our day drew to a close. The people of Palm helped us to load the Cross and Icon back onto the boat then bid us a sad goodbye.

Until we landed on Palm Island this morning all I knew of it were sad news stories. I had partly expected to meet a bitter and melancholy group of people. From the moment the jetty came into view this morning until it beca

me a dot on the horizon this evening the people of Palm were joyous, faithful, generous and hopeful of a better future.

Cheers, Jess

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