Cecilia Prest, mfic: A Resurrection Story
This is a small glimpse into our ministry among the Australian Indigenous community in Woorabinda, Central Queensland. I teamwork here with Fr.Pat McGeever, a Spiritan with long years of missionary experience and the ability to not take life too seriously.
The town is an ex-Govt. reserve with a sad history of injustice and racism, and a longer history in the memories of the people of trauma inflicted on themselves and their ancestors. Some whole families are now suffering trans-generational post-traumatic stress which has led to substance abuse and social dysfunction.
Our ministry here is basically a ministry of presence and of empowerment through compassion and non-judgmental acceptance of everyone, especially the women and children. Building relationships takes a long time here so each one is a cause for celebration!
I will not use names in this story.
“She was a waif of a child, forced upon the mother who never loved or wanted her. When Fr.Pat first met her calling in for lollies after school she was eight – a charming , beautiful, quick-witted child and natural leader among the other “kids.“ One day he found the young gang in his storeroom; one boy trying to give another a haircut with the electric drill while a third tipped out a box of nails and a girl demolished a bottle of altar wine. The kids scattered when they saw Fr.Pat, but when he couldn’t stop laughing they returned to help clean up the mess. When he realised she was missing he raced out to the kitchen just in time to see her nipping out the front gate with his biscuits!
She was in and out of trouble over the years and was moved to the Child Shelter just out of town in the bush, but she knew we loved her, and called in whenever she was in town.
In her teens she became addicted to petrol sniffing. One 5 am I heard the church window smash and saw a slight figure in a balaclava. Fr.Pat was already out walking. By the time I got there the church doors were open but no-one was inside. The door to the presbytery from the church was still intact. I saw the figure again outside on the street. There she was, clutching a plastic bottle with petrol in the bottom. The fumes took my breath away! She looked so sad and thin; so lonely and unloved, and so ashamed. As we sat together she agreed to tip out the petrol and listened as I described God’s dream for her…made in His image… so precious.
She returned to Woorabinda recently after some years away and proudly introduced us to her boyfriend, a shy, gentle young man who obviously loved her. She was radiant! She happily told us she was pregnant with a little girl, and that they wanted her “done” (baptised) in our church…
She loves to call in and chat and “story” and laugh about the past. It’s hard to recognise her now from the wild child that she was…
Despite everything, she remembered she was loved – as she was – and that changed everything. Alleluia!”