Two Day Immersion Celebrates & Embraces Aboriginal Spirituality

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
21 Apr 2015

Valerie Bryant, Ministry Coordinator with the Archdiocese of Sydney's Aboriginal Catholic Ministry

For two days this week a group of Family Educators from the Archdiocese of Sydney's Catholic Education Office will embark on what Catholic Mission describes as a "mini immersion" in Aboriginal Catholicism, Aboriginal Spirituality, Aboriginal Culture and Aboriginal History.

"They will also have a chance to understand and celebrate the richness of the Aboriginal gift to the Australian Catholic faith," says Jenny Collins-White, Program Manager for Education and Advocacy with Catholic Mission.

An initiative of Catholic Mission in partnership with the Archdiocese of Sydney's Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, the inaugural "mini immersion" is the first of two planned for this year and it is hoped will become a regular event.

"We have undertaken similar programs with schools but this one is aimed specifically at family educators, who develop close links between schools and their parishes and local communities. But we were aware that their time is limited so with the help of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry, we came up with a two-day program go give them a mini-taste and better understanding of Sydney's  Aboriginal community and the role of mission," Jenny says.

Today's inaugural "mini immersion" two-day program began this morning with a discussion of what is mission, and how best to live and lead a life as a missionary disciple.

Held at the Catholic Mission Office in North Sydney, the session continued into the afternoon with an examination of "The Choice to Forgive - Understanding Reconciliation." In addition the session will provide a chance to explore the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission as well as the interconnected aspects of Mission including ecology, justice, proclamation to sacrament and liturgy, prayer and spirituality, scripture and theology, outreach and service.

Artist Richard Campbell who painted the Aboriginal Stations of the Cross at the Reconciliation Church La Perouse

"The first day is designed to give the bigger picture of mission and how reconciliation of a nation's people is very much at the heart of mission," Jenny says.

Next week on Wednesday, 29 April the second and final day of the "mini immersion" will be spent at the Church of Reconciliation at La Perouse where the group will listen to the journey and story of faith and spirituality from Sydney's Aboriginal community and respected Elders.

Valerie Bryant, Ministry co-ordinator of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Aboriginal Catholic Ministry will tell her own story and how her great grandfather, a Gumbaynggirr traditional man chose to become a Catholic after taking part in what was the last corroboree of the Gumbaynggirr nation, whose lands stretched along the Nambucca River in the South to the Clarence River in the North.

One of the reasons he chose Catholicism was the Holy Sacraments which he believed had similarities to the ancient Aboriginal initiation ceremonies. He also saw the similarities between the Creation Story for Aboriginal people and the Bible's Book of Genesis along with many other of the traditional stories of Australia's first people and Biblical stories.

The day spent at the Church of Reconciliation will also enable the group to experience Aboriginal prayers, liturgy and how the Aboriginal land, fire and water ceremony is incorporated into the Mass.

In addition they will have a chance to  study the spectacular paintings by acclaimed Aboriginal artist, Richard Campbell and his much admired Stations of the Cross and the Black Madonna.

Jenny Collins-White of Catholic Mission

"The two days will enable the group to engage with Aboriginal spirituality and the richness this offers to us as the Catholic Church of Australia as we move forward," Jenny says.

She adds that many of us have much we can learn from Aboriginal spirituality which she says calls us to "pause, be in the moment, and in touch with our spiritual selves."

"Aboriginal spirituality reminds us that we are one with creation, we are one in this moment and that the spirit is around us and with us all the time. Catholic tradition embraces this as well but Western culture too often pushes us away from our spiritual selves. By learning from Aboriginal culture how to be in the moment, we can get back into this space and importantly, back in touch with our spiritual selves," she says.

A second two-day "mini immersion" in Mission and Aboriginal Spirituality will be begin with an exploration of Mission at Catholic Mission Office in North Sydney on Friday, 31 July which will be followed by a day spent at the Church of Reconciliation at La Perouse on Monday, 10 August.

For more information and to register to participate contact Anita Lee at