Monday, 5 November 2007

Wilcannia and Broken Hill; Historic Towns Host the Cross Of Our History and Message Stick For Our Future

This morning a class of around 20 Wilcannia students processed the Cross into their community. There we were welcomed to the country, and an elder received the Message Stick, which was then read by Aunty Nicola. Nicola and her fellow teacher Clare had joined us previously on the Great Crossing Ghan Pilgrimage. The students opened the liturgy by singing three songs, including "We Are From Wilcannia", and the Aboriginal Our Father. Before venerating the Cross and Icon of Our Lady, all at the liturgy were asked to first walk through the smoke to cleanse us.

The students at the local school speak both their local indigenous language and English. After the official proceedings, some of the students and I spent time sharing what we knew about the Cross and Icon of Our Lady, World Youth Day, names for all the sorts of wildlife that can be seen in the area, and the local dreaming from the Wilcannia region. I was also very privileged to have Tray share his reading skills with me, by reading the Prayer for the Journey of the Cross and Icon.

It was re-freshing to see Nicola and Clare again, and the participation of their students clearly shows the impact that has flowed on from their experience with the Cross and Icon from Darwin to Port Augusta. On a personal level, it also helps cement the realness of the friendships we made on that journey with the other 52 pilgrims. It can be hard putting alot into new friendships yet never see these people again, so to have the opportunity to continue the friendship in the home town of these two was a great blessing.

During the time of the paddle steamers, Wilcannia was once a thriving town due to the river trade. Beautiful old sandstone buildings remain, evident of a era gone by that is so distinctly Australian . Wilcannia is once more distinctly Australian, with a majority of the population now made up of local Indigenous Australians again. The children can recount the dreaming of the Rainbow Serpent, and looked out for 'Nugee' as we crossed the river with the cross. Nugee are a part of another dreaming story that is very important to the community.

We finished the day at Broken Hill, with a large procession from the town centre to Sturt park. In its hey day during the early 1900’s, large processions were very common in broken hill due to the large union movement within the town. After sharing a meal and entertainment from the Baptist rock group, the procession continued up the hill by candlelight for a vigil in the Wilcannia-Forbes Cathedral.

The Sacred Heart Primary School choir sang with beautiful voices as we walked through the main streets, stopping at each intersection for a prayer. With great stamina the students also enthusiastically carried the Cross and Icon of Our Lady for a large proportion of the pilgrimage. With the Icon of Our Lady now weighing 44-47 kilos, this was a courageous effort by the youth of Broken Hill determined to do their part for the Church.

Local High School student Micah accepted the Message Stick, and proudly read the message at the town centre. Micah then allowed his friend Peter to carry the Message Stick for the procession to the cathedral. Once Peter had learned the actual message is one of hope and encouragement for his people, he held the stick up as high as possible with very strong pride. To see a young person like Peter realise the church accepts him exactly as he is was a special moment to witness. It is so important we continue to live Pope John Paul II's message to the Indigenous Australian's and continue to celebrate and welcome our brothers and sisters contribution to the church.

Jacs :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was a reunion in Sydney last night for many of those pilgrims who did the Great Crossing Ghan pilgrimage and reading this blog about Aunty Nicola and Clare, fellow Ghan pilgrims, who had their own little reunion with the JCI Team in Wilcannia, and are doing so much to share their experience in their community, is really heartening - this is what WYD08 is truly about, right? ...building new relationships and sharing the life of faith.

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