Kalumburu Mission

Relieving Fr Nicholas at Kalumburu has been a most interesting experience. For some time I had been keeping an eye out for a chance to be immersed in a community in the Kimberley. This opportunity has provided just that, and I am grateful to Bishop Christopher Saunders for providing the opening for such an experience.

After settling into the Mission community and getting to know the great group of volunteers I soon began to respond to the rhythm of life in this remote setting – no mobile phone connection and only intermittent Internet connection.

Since Fr Nicholas flew out on the little Cessna aeroplane that I flew in on, he had only a little time to show me where things were and explain the round of duties for which the Parish Priest here on the Mission is responsible. There were still a number of surprises to discover after he departed. For example, it was not until the second week of my stay that I discovered the Parish Office. I had thought the little office at the front of the Parish Priest’s residence was the ‘hub’ of pastoral action. The Parish Office is shared by those involved in various services on the Mission. I soon came to realize that at various times, especially when extra hands are required, such as when the fortnightly Barge arrives, life takes on a very busy momentum and it’s all hand ‘on deck’. It is certainly not a Presbytery office based role at Kalumburu.

As the days began to fold into each other, I saw just what a responsibility the Mission Administrator, Josiah, and the team of volunteers sustained daily – staffing and stocking the Shop; attending to the many tourists seeking fuel; caring for the Camp Site and the ‘Dongas’; providing fuel service as required by the aeroplanes coming in and out of the remote airport; attending to the many calls for fixing problems/maintenance; to say nothing of the wide range of things that have to be done around the farm and the whole Mission property. This is certainly quite an enterprise that provides a very fulfilling experience for volunteers working with local people.

While observing all this busy activity around me, I endeavoured to provide support and encouragement through prayer, and the preparation and Celebration of the Eucharist each evening. Sharing in the conversation around the table at the evening meal, exchanging stories in a spirit of camaraderie was certainly a highlight. On the occasion of the Feast of St Benedict we acknowledged the origin of the Mission in the theme for the Mass and began the evening meal with a brief reading from the Rule of St Benedict concerning the preparation and serving of meals. This started the evening in great spirits. We are lucky to have a very versatile and creative cook who makes what is provided to her, come to the table in gourmet style.

On the second Saturday of my stay, the beginning of NADOC week, we had a great celebration with the Church full of parishioners. The young people took an active part by leading the music and reading the Prayers of Intercession. The real highlight of the celebration was the Baptism of little Latrelle Oxtaby and the blessing of his mother, Chantelle and his father Mitchell at the closing of the celebration, was a moving moment.

As a Priest whose life has been spent in teaching and school administration, Pastoral Ministry in a Mission Parish has required quite an adjustment. But having been welcomed into, and immersed in this wonderful Kalumburu community, the experience has been a very rewarding one.

No doubt, Fr Nicholas will be warmly welcomed back after his holiday and his involvement in the Pilgrimage to celebrate the centenary of the Beagle Bay Mission.

May the good Lord continue to bless the delightful people and the team of generous and spirited volunteers at wonderful Kalumburu.

Fr John Papworth S.D.B.