It is always good to go back to a place where you have a connection. Papua New Guinea is one such place. Almost 30 years ago I taught there for three years soon after completing my training to become a De La salle Brother. Since leaving Papua New Guinea at the end of 1986 I have probably made about a dozen trips back there. There are currently 13 Brothers working in Papua New Guinea.
BROTHERS WITHOUT BORDERS
It is an international group living out the ideal of “brothers without borders”. There are four Indian Brothers, four Papua New Guinea Brothers and six Australia brothers. On my first night I stayed overnight in the brothers community at Hohola, one of the poorer suburbs in the national capital. After my sleep interrupted night becasue of barking dogs I headed back out to the airport for my trip to Mt Hagen in the Highlands. I was met at the Mt Hagen airport by Brother Ignatius who I had taught with back in 1985 at Bomana. Ignatius has been in Papua New Guinea for 27 years. The climate in Mt Hagen is much more pleasant than on the coast. The Brothers here are involved in a Holy Trinity Teachers College which trains primary school teachers.
SUPPORTING TEACHERS IN REMOTE AREAS
I had the opportunity to meet with Lambert and Louisa, two young Papua New Guinean teachers who support teachers scattered throughout the country. They coordinate training programs for teachers and send out regular newsletters to keep teachers informed and connected with one [...]
“Keep the faith-Let it show” was the theme for a gathering of 175 Lasallian Young people, teachers and Brothers held at Rotorua in New Zealand during the first week of July. The group included 120 who travelled from Australia for the event. Amazingly, over 110 travelled on the same Air New Zealand flight to Rotorua. Students and former students from De La Salle Colleges throughout Australia and New Zealand participated in the gathering. John Paul College Rotorua provided the venue for most of the activities. The youth gathering commenced with a traditional Maori welcome (pōwhiri) at one of the Rotorua maraes.
One of the key note addresses was given by Br Mark McKeon, Director of Vocations. Br Mark challenged those present to find time in their busy schedules and reflect on their lives in light of the values of the Gospel. Karina Anthony who works as a youth minister at De La Salle Ashfield said, “It was great to be there. Being Lasallian is about looking at our individual situations in the light of the Gospel and then making a response with others.” The gathering included time for morning and evening prayer and reflection.
Brother Ambrose Payne, the provincial of the De La Salle Brothers, reminded the young people to “let their light shine” in whatever situation they found themselves. He affirmed their commitment to seeking new ways to respond in faith in the reality of their lives. We live our spiritual life every minute through our actions, what we say and what we do.
Simone McGill works as [...]
Recently I had the opportunity to have a few days in Lipa in the Philippines. I stayed at the regional novitiate (Brothers training program) for the Pacific-Asia regional. There I met with young men from Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, the Philippines and Malaysia. These young men are in the final months of their novitiate preparing to profess their first vows as a De La Salle Brother. Once they conclude their novitiate they will head back to their own countries to continue their studies. On a personal note, today marks the 30th anniversary of my reception of the habit (the robe of the Brothers). During my 30 years as a Brother I have had the opportunity to teach in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. I have also moved beyond the confines of the Pacific to assist in programs in Asia, Europe and the U.S.A. As I visit schools speaking to students about John Baptist de La Salle and my life as a Brother I say to them that each year in the Brothers gets better for me. Being a Brother is all about relationships; my relationship with God, my relationship with others and the relationship I have with myself. While the life of a Brother is not for everyone being a De La Salle Brother is a great life option. Peace, Bro Mark fsc
The last few days I have been in New Zealand in cold, wet Rotorua. Finally after four days I have seen the sun. Enough about the weather. The reason for my trip to Rotorua has been to work with staff and students at John Paul College. I spoke to Year 7 classes about the work of Lasallian teachers and Brothers in Balgo Hills (Western Australia) and Papua New Guinea. These are two very unique and challenging places where the Brothers work in this part of the world. Both places find it difficult to recruit committed teachers. While in Rotorua I also had a request to speak at the local primary school, St Mary’s. The school was in the middle of celebrating “Mission Week”. They used my visit to kick off the week. One of the aims of “Mission Week” in schools is to create a greater awareness among students and staff about the challenge we each have to live out the message of the Gospel in our day to day lives. The kids asked some insightful questions. They were surprised to learn that a lot of students in Papua New Guinea don’t get the opportunity to receive an education because of lack of money in the education budget of that country. The day after my visit to St Mary’s I received a brief report from one of the teachers written by 7 year old Orla. “Being a Brother would be cool because you could see all kinds of people all over the world. You could help people who are in need [...]
If you’re like me you probably felt a little frustrated during the press conference called by the two Independents, Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott. “When are they going give me the answer I’m waiting to hear?” was the question going through my mind. Over the past 17 days I’ve heard various comments about the actions of the Independents. “These guys are holding the country to ransom.” and “What’s taking them so long to make a decision?” were the most common questions and statements made by my friends. I believe that in explaining the process they went through to come to their decision what the Independents were practicing was a form of discernment. In the Christian tradition, however, discernment is more than just a process you go through.
Important decisions take time and prayer. Instant answers aren’t always the best answers. There is a sifting process you go through as you determine the important criteria you have to keep in mind in coming to your decision. For the individual it’s about determining which line of action will allow me to grow in my relationship with God. The challenging part comes when you have to make a decision between two good alternatives. It’s not easy but it come be done. It is a skill you develop and hone as you practice it more. This goes hand in hand with a daily encounter with God in prayerfully reading Scripture.
Every two years newly appointed leaders from various Districts around the world are invited to Casa Generalizia (International Headquarters for the De La Salle Brothers) in Rome.
It’s a pretty incredible opportunity for those who are asked to go – I mean how many people are offered the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful cities in the world?
But while being able to travel and do a bit of site-seeing is a great perk of the trip, it’s not the reason for getting us all to Rome. In fact, the purpose of the gathering comes back to one of the Brothers’ five vows – the one most people know nothing about – the vow of association.
I am convinced of the truth in the claim that a small group of committed people can change the world. The Brothers believe that working alone you’ll only ever be able to achieve so much. But working as a global group, through the extended support and resources that become available, the impact the Brothers are able to make on the lives of those in need is that much greater. It means that our service to the poor and marginalised has a global context which is critical because there are people living in desperate situations and in poverty stricken families and communities all over the world.
Last month 16 Brothers from throughout the world came together in Rome. There were Brothers from Madagascar, Brazil, Belgium, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Rwanda, France, Ireland, Chile, Poland, Congo, Cameroon, Canada, the USA, and of course myself [...]
After a two week break in Brisbane and Sydney over Christmas I flew out to Colombo, Sri Lanka on 4th January. It was my first visit there, but I had been told to prepare for many curries and much cricket talk!
Upon my arrival, I was surprised by the presence of the military along the streets. Soldiers were carrying guns patrolling the streets. On our drive from the airport we were stopped twice at military checkpoints to have our IDs scrutinised. Considering that an end to hostilities had been declared I was taken aback by the level of military presence. It was quite unexpected.
The first few days were spent at Mutwal in Colombo. It is a beautiful spot right on the water. I was able to visit the school here. There wasn’t much of a chance to speak with the students as I could not speak the local language.
I then headed to Wattala which is the venue for the Brothers’ training program. They made the most of my visit there by organising a four day program with me speaking to 26 young religious from different groups of Brothers and Sisters.
Wattala is infamous in Colombo as the mosquito capital! Once the sun went down the mosquitoes came out.
I was fortunate to meet up with a Sri Lankan Brother who I had met in Rome ten years ago. He made the seven hour trip down form Mannar in the north to see me. Mannar was in the heart of the fighting between the government and the LTTE (Tamil [...]
WEEK 2 of the Challenge Program
Leading the four guys from Australia to Papua New Guinea for a 2 week volunteer experience to ‘Test drive the Brothers’ life’ commenced with Sunday morning mass. We were once again without power because someone had stolen the battery inverters from the church leaving us in relative darkness!
Monday we were back into our daily schedule again with classroom activities and leadership training sessions. The guys who have been with me during this trip to PNG have been full of zeal and a great inspiration to the young people at Mainohana.
On Wednesday, we left Mainohana at 6am to drive to Port Moresby. We arrived in time for the graduation ceremony of the final year students from the Hohola Youth Development Centre (which the Brothers run).
Unexpectedly I was invited to the stage to present some of the student awards. I was hardly in formal attire being dressed in shorts and a T shirt. Just the same they were happy to have another Brother present for the occasion.
On our last day in the country we had the opportunity to visit one of the Lasallian schools just outside of Port Moresby at a place called Bomana. The school is situated opposite the War Memorial where a number of Australian soldiers from the WWII PNG campaign are buried.
I hadn’t long arrived at the school when I was greeted by one of the teachers who turned out to be one of my former students from my stint of three years teaching in PNG in the 1980’s!
In true PNG style, school [...]
In the past six years I have traveled to Papua New Guinea about 12 times. While I have enjoyed every visit to PNG, I was particularly looking forward to this trip – two weeks with five guys from Australia who had taken up the challenge to ‘Test Drive the Brothers’ Life’.
After spending two nights in the Brothers’ community at Hohola, a fairly depressed area of Port Moresby, I headed out to Jacksons International airport to meet five guys
The group of five consisted of Chris (30) from Melbourne, Peter (26) from Darwin, Aaron (21) from Portland in Victoria, Nick (22) from Perth and Lewis (24) who in August commenced his training to become a De La Salle Brother.
After strategically packing our luggage and cartons of food, nine of us crammed ourselves into a land cruiser for the journey to Mainohana, 3 hours west of Port Moresby. The guys in the back had a bumpy ride.
In addition to trying to avoid large potholes, I needed a spotter to give me a heads up on the man made speed humps that emerged at regular intervals along the journey.
Villagers put these speed humps into the roads to reduce the amount of dust that sweeps through their villages from the numerous vehicles that travel through.
We sat down to our evening meal at about 7.30pm. After dinner, Br Bob gave the group a short presentation on the two cultures in the area – the Roro and Mekeo people. After the presentation there was not much time left to freshen up before [...]
It’s been a week now since arriving home from my two week trip to Pakistan and Singapore and I have not stopped (except for the occasional NCIS program – I do enjoy a good crime show!)
Pakistan was a great experience - despite the fear of suicide bombings and the level of tension (on the day I left six suspected suicide bombers were captured in the city of Faisalabad) I felt particularly safe.
I think strangely enough it’s because there is so much security. Even in the McDonalds restaurant in Lahore I had to go through airport type security just to get a feed!
I departed Lahore and headed for Singapore. While the heat in Pakistan had been dry, the moment I walked out of Changi airport I was hit by the humidity…it was shocking.
My time spent in Singapore involved assisting two of the youth coordinators; Kenny and Linddi. They had organised a leadership training day for students from two of the local Lasallian schools and I helped out.
I got home (Bankstown, Sydney) late Friday night and next day I was back at Sydney Airport! This time it was to pick up Des, a young man from Melbourne who is considering starting his training for the Brothers vocation.
Des spent all last week assisting at the Year 12 retreats for one of the Lasallian schools. Part of his discernment process for the Brothers’ life is experiencing a variety of different ministries. When I dropped Des at the Airport on Friday he looked happy and somewhat exhausted – well what else could be expected from 5 days at a Year 12 retreat!
Most of last week I caught up on paperwork, attended meetings and [...]