They are thousands of kilometres from their families and loved ones but a group of young East Timorese are feeling right at home, thanks to the warm welcome they have received from the Mount Barker/Strathalbyn parish.
A group of about 60 seasonal workers from Timor-Leste arrived in the Hills in October to pick strawberries at the Flaxley farm of Walkers International. They will work for six months under a Federal Government scheme and then return home.
Many of the group are Catholic and depending on their schedule, have been pleased to attend Mass at Mount Barker where they have made a great impact with their beautiful singing.
On Sunday November 12 a special afternoon Mass was held to accommodate their work commitments, with Fr John Herd from Murray Bridge celebrating. Fr Herd has spent time in Timor and speaks some Tetum, which meant the language barrier could be overcome.
After the Mass the group enjoyed an Aussie ‘sausage sizzle’ and as a way of thanking the locals for their hospitality the young Timorese sang and performed traditional dances.
“It was a lovely celebration,” said parish priest Fr Richard Morris. “Our parishioners have really responded well and when they heard the group was coming they wanted to make sure they were made to feel welcome.”
He added that to acknowledge their presence in the Church community, the weekly parish bulletin was now publishing the Gospel reading in both Tetum and English.
While the workers will be away from their families at Christmas, the parish is working out ways of helping them to celebrate. Fr Herd said he intends to spend some of Christmas Day with them.
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