In a celebration that brought together parishioners from Ceduna, Streaky Bay, and Chandada, together with staff from Centacare Catholic Family Services and members of the local community, the St Anne’s convent house was blessed by Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ and opened by the Congregation’s superior general, Sr Jacqueline Mary SSAM on August 14.
In welcoming the Sisters’ Far West community, Bishop O’Kelly urged them to be the “seekers of lost sheep” and reflect the compassionate face of Jesus to all, especially the “poor, lonely, suffering and abandoned”.
Sr Jacqueline commissioned the two Sisters – Sr Nancy Ulahannan SSAM and Sr Elizabeth Royan SSAM – for their ministry in the Ceduna community and the wider Streaky Bay parish and in particular with local Indigenous women and children.
The two Sisters told The Southern Cross that their work in the area was in keeping with the aim of their Congregation to “explore new avenues to reach out to and engage with people on the periphery, to listen to their stories and empower them to be actively engaged in ways that enhance their dignity, self-esteem and participation in community life”.
Since arriving in March they have been providing a pastoral presence in the community with regular visits to the Ceduna kindergarten, hospital and aged care home. A lot of their time is spent with Centacare’s Regional Domestic Violence and Aboriginal Family Violence Service.
“We accompany Centacare staff when they visit the families and help the homeless clients get a roof over their heads and protect them from disturbing parents or partners,” Sr Nancy said.
“We assist the women and children to fulfil their needs for a comfortable stay at the safe house; listening to them and their stories, encouraging them not to lose hope but trust in the God they believe.”
Sr Nancy said homelessness was the biggest challenge facing the Indigenous women and children they worked with.
“Domestic violence refers to intimate partner violence, whilst family violence is broader and can be more common amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse families,” she explained.
“Every woman and child’s experience of domestic and family violence will be different but some of the challenges will be the same which is homelessness, financial, social stigma, separation from children in cases where there may be shared custody or where the children are in out-of-home care.”
Centacare supports these women and children through its safe house crisis accommodation. With staff on site 24/7, the safe house provides “intensive case management” and “holistic wrap around” support to assist women and children to transition into stable accommodation, safely return to the relationship or return home.
While most of their time is spent in Ceduna, Sr Nancy and Sr Elizabeth said they were looking forward to extending their mission work to the Yalata and Koonibba Aboriginal communities.
For both women, getting to know their new surroundings has been assisted by the support of the local Catholic community.
“It’s a quiet and serene atmosphere here,” Sr Elizabeth said.
“We are enjoying the experience of being amongst friendly and warm hearted people in Ceduna.”
The Sisters of St Anne also has a presence in Port Augusta, where they work with the Aboriginal community at Davenport.
Worldwide the congregation has 650 members, with houses in India, Germany, Italy and Spain.
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