ACM continues its strong connections with the Aboriginal community despite pandemic

21 Dec 2020

By The Record

Attendees of the annual Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People Eucharistic Celebration stood outside St Mary’s Cathedral on 25 October 2020. Photo: Ron Tan.
Attendees of the annual Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People Eucharistic Celebration stood outside St Mary’s Cathedral on 25 October 2020. Photo: Ron Tan.

During what has been one of the most challenging years in recent memory, Aboriginal Catholic Ministry (ACM) has strived to promote the good works of the Catholic Church.

As ACM Director Donella Brown explains: “The essence of good works in our Catholic Church is when people and ministries engage with and serve the community around them especially the most vulnerable”.

This, she said, “is the two-way sharing of gifts with each other”.

“It is also the hope that in this sharing there is a change in the minds and hearts of people, and the appreciation of each other’s sacred story,” Ms Brown added.

The impact of the coronavirus social distancing government-enforced measures forced ACM to look at different ways of communication.

“Many of our people value the importance of personal face-to-face connection. What we aimed to do was to be as regular as possible in phoning as many people as we worked from home.”

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry Director Donella Brown (left) pictured at ACM’s booth at last year’s Australian Catholic Youth Festival on 9 December 2019. Photo: Iceberg Media.

Ms Brown did not hesitate to lead by example by getting involved in participating in online workshops and Zoom meetings.

A major hinderance of the pandemic that impacted ACM’s practises was that it had to cease pastoral visits to the three hospitals to which it is connected.

Thankfully, as the restrictions eased over time in Western Australia, these visits recommenced in two of the hospitals in October.

Likewise, ACM’s visits to the Aboriginal hostels were also affected during this time.

In order to resume its mission of effective ministry, ACM carried out a large project after noticing how evident the isolation period had affected many of the agency’s network of families, particularly the elderly.

This sparked an initiative called “Seniors on the Move”, where the pastoral team provides opportunities to take its Elders to visit places and to continue their storytelling.

“The resuming of visits to families is done with caution. In the earlier stages of the lockdown, we had to be careful that we were observing COVID-19 protocols and rules.

“We also had to make sure that the rules for attending Mass, and especially funeral services, were observed,” Ms Brown noted.

“Although we are doing things a little different, we are still able to keep our connections strong with the Aboriginal community.”

With a “glass half full” mentality, ACM’s staff has used this time of difficulty as an opportunity to develop the agency’s resources.

This included Pastoral Care Worker Reg Carnamah’s “Take a Walk with a Yamatji Man” project, in which he painted the Stations of the Cross based on his life journey.

Pastoral Assistant Donna Ryder is working on a project that will look at the connection between Aboriginal stories and Gospel stories.

Sr Helen, who coordinates the ACM sacramental initiation, had the opportunity to develop and implement programmes that incorporated Aboriginal perspectives. Sr Helen also had the opportunity to research and increase her knowledge of Aboriginal history.