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Joy in East Timorese presence


Forced to leave their families and friends behind while they work in Australia, a group of East Timorese have found comfort and joy in the Penola Catholic parish where they have formed a choir for Sunday Mass.

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The group of 28 men and women have been employed in the meat processing industry by Naracoorte based Teys Australia for the past three months.

Up until recently they were living at the Penola caravan park and commuting to Naracoorte but with shifts commencing in the early hours of the morning they have been looking for accommodation closer to the processing plant.

Group leader Pascoal dos Santos said it was difficult being away from their families.

“We really miss our loved ones,” he said.

“Missing mum, dad and children is so hard. It’s really upsetting sometimes but our faith in the Lord, helps us continue what we do for the wellbeing of the members of families.”

Pascoal approached the parish priest, Fr Arul Dev, and offered to form a choir to sing at Mass. The Parish Pastoral Council welcomed the offer and provided the group with a guitar.

After Mass the group enjoys a ‘cuppa’ with parishioners, and they recently met Archbishop Patrick O’Regan when he was visiting Penola.

Pascoal, who is from Liquica, a coastal city 32 km west of Dili, said the young workers’ Catholic faith was very important and “very much close to our hearts”.

“Mass is our spiritual strength and the centre of our lives,” Pascoal explained.

“Devotion to our Mother Mary is very much part of our daily devotion and prayer.”

He said the workers had been warmly welcomed by the whole Penola community but with their workday commencing at 3am and finishing at 6pm, they didn’t have an opportunity to connect with the locals on a daily basis.

“Only on Sunday we go to Penola church, and we sing together with the community,” he said.

“We are thankful to Fr Dev and the Penola Catholic community.”

Fr Dev said the impact of the East Timorese group on the parish had been “really overwhelming”.

“They practise their faith from the depth of their hearts,” he said.

“They are very much exemplary in the faith, reverence and devotion.

“The Penola Catholic community is very happy that these people are in our parish and find a home within our community to practise their faith in Jesus as they would in their home country.

“I’m really thankful for their commitment and their faith.”

Fr Dev is also a relative newcomer to South Australia, arriving from India in 2019 and moving to Penola at the beginning of the year after serving in a city parish.

He said he was praying that the workers, who are expected to be in the South East for three years, might one day be reunited with their families in Australia.

In the meantime, he is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his expanded parish community.


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