Faith and Culture
Aggie Pigram’s Faith Story
My name is Agnes Pigram, mostly known as Aggie. I am proudly named after my grandmother whom in our family’s eyes; we believe is a saint. She instilled within us all, strong morals and values of family and togetherness and I carry these onto my children, propelling us forward in our daily lives.
I feel honoured to be a part of her as she has always been a true inspiration in my life, and continues to guide me along my way as an angel in my heart!
I am a proud Yawuru Jarndu from Broome and Bardi Oorany from Djarindjin Community in the Kimberley Region of Australia. So my faith story goes back long before my time to that of my old people at Lombadina Mission.
I attended St Mary’s College as a child being baptised at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Broome. Although I couldn’t have realised at such a young age, I now know and appreciate how my faith has paved the way for my life, creating a strong foundation of unconditional love and support, enabling me to achieve all my heart desires.
I regularly attended church every Sunday with my parents, siblings and grandmother. My cousins and I would altar serve and participate in youth programs at our parish. During my schooling I also made my Sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation.
My last 3 years of school were completed at Iona Presentation College in Perth where I boarded until I graduated from Year 12. In 2005 I was fortunate to attend the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany with Bishop Saunders, Father Matt and a group of 40 youth from around Australia. I was a representative of Broome Catholic Diocese and NATSICC. Whilst we were there I was also chosen to represent Aboriginal Australia on the river cruise along side Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2006, I attended the Dreaming from the Heart Conference in Alice Springs and nominated North West Australian Youth Ambassador for NATSICC.
In 2007, I had my eldest child Patrick, then twins Kael and Jedd in 2010. They were all baptised together in Broome by Bishop and continue to be educated in the Catholic tradition.
During my years as a young mother and the right of passage into womanhood I have learnt lot, gained a lot of life experience, wisdom and inner strength. My passion for the rising of my people grows stronger everyday; which has allowed the birth of my business Yimijalan Liyan – Awaken the Spirit to develop each day that I continue to grow. With a focus on Spiritual Healing, Wellbeing, Empowerment, and Leadership predominantly for Aboriginal Women who are the backbone of our families and communities. A space to come together and create positive change for all, working from the inside out one heart at a time!
Growing up in the Kimberley I know how truly blessed I am to have been surrounded by powerful country, culture and humble people. My upbringing was one of strong community spirit, where families were one and looked after each other no matter what, where children were raised by a village not alone, and it saddens me when I see and hear of my people giving up hope, living in competition amongst each other, and tearing each other down instead of lifting each other up; we can all to rise up together. I choose to focus on creating a positive ripple effect of love, hope and faith. I know both God and my old people before me have a plan for my life, and I will continue to follow! “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” – Mexican Proverb
Reflection on Luke 18: 15-17 from Bradley Barbuto (ATA Brighton Catholic Primary School)
I have just returned from a Conference in Broome with Aboriginal Teaching Assistants ( ATA’s ) from all over the state. It was a chance to gather and discuss the way forward for Aboriginal Education in Catholic Education. A great time for a reflection on what Jesus told the disciples in relation to children. Unless you are to become like these children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The innocence of children is a mighty thing. I see it with my own four children. The two youngest ones have an innocence as they are still learning right from wrong. We are all born in Gods image and baptised and born again into our community and sinless state. It is only as we grow and allow bad or negative influences to take over our thinking that we stray away from God. My children thought that the reason why Jesus said that you had to be like little children is because most little children are good and innocent, humble and open to learning. They say things that we might not say because we are older. They say it because they don’t know any different.
My youngest son innocently asked an African friend of ours why he was so black. My 8 and 10 year old were horrified and said that was a rude question. However my 2 year old asked as he wasn’t judging he just wanted to know. Our friend answered the question with no issue. This was just a child who came with no judgement and no hatred. An innocence and love that showed no boundaries. I replied that you too are black my son. He looked at his skin he looked at our friend and then he just accepted that we are the same. Same same but different.
As an educator in Cathed I feel it is important to teach our children that God loves us even if we are different. He made us different for a reason. This way we are all special. If we can educate our children and they learn, then generations ahead will be much better off as we will all be like the little children Jesus spoke of.
Bradley is a proud Wiradjuri Man from the Riverina area of NSW
Reflection by Father Joseph & Reg Carnamah on Luke 14:1-13
†Desert Wilderness happens to be part of our Australian Landscape and our people understand better the importance and significance of Desert and the experience Jesus had in the Judean Desert, to teach us to have the same kind of experience in our spiritual journey.
†PRAYER: Jesus went into the desert to pray and was united with the Father in the Spirit. Prayer was his strength. So it should be for us.†
TESTS FOR JESUS: It was a challenge to the power of God. He overcame the test by the same power of the Word of God. The same Word of God
†will help us to overcome the various challenges of our life.
†It was a challenge to the providence of God. God is always our provider. We need to trust in his providence, not in any of our human power.
†It was a challenge to the Divinity of Jesus. Jesus is the Son of God and our Redeemer who suffered and died for our Salvation.
We need to accept him with Faith and Trust. LENT offers the occasion to renew and strengthen our Faith and Trust in God.
Christine Taylor’s Faith Story
Kaya Moorditj Mob! (Hello). My name is Christine Taylor and I am a Catholic Noongar woman. My faith is strong and my family history is strong both making strong connections to my Elders, my homeland and my Catholicism. I have strong connections to the New Noricia Mission for many reasons. I was born into a Catholic family, I attended a Catholic Convent School from year one to year seven, in the hometown where I was raised as a child.
During my primary school learning I was also a student in New Norcia Mission for a while. This was another spiritual journey for me faith kept me strong and my spirituality kept me belonging with stories, song, dance and a Catholic education to guide the way. I am truly thankful for my Catholic education as I believe this is my shining light that has guided me throughout my life and helped to make me the person I am along with my family values.
I am very blessed to have a wonderful family of my own with beautiful grandchildren. My Catholic faith and my Culture spirituality go hand in hand.
My special hymn is Hail Redeemer as a child this was the first hymn that I learnt to sing in the choir at Convent School. This hymn brings back many good memories of my childhood. I love gospel songs one of my favourite songs is on the wings of a snow white dove sang by Dolly Parton. My special prayer was “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”, I taught this prayer to all my children and grandchildren.
My Catholic Faith is important to me, it has been my compass and my guidance throughout my life. Because of my faith I am the person I am today. My wonderful, loving parents left me these gifts to grow with and to pass on to my children and grandchildren. I am honoured to have such loving and caring catholic parents. I would like to see more catholic family reunions, support venues or agencies to give back to the Aboriginal Catholic Families as another way of healing in a healing place. More Catholic children attending Catholic Schools and becoming successful people.
Djinang noonook bonda (see you later)
NATSICC Counsellor Shirley Quaresimin (nee AhChee)
I would like to think that my faith journey began the day I was born into a loving family and extended family. I learnt from an early age that family was the most important part of culture, sharing, caring and giving.
My journey begins with my mother Marjory Watson, who was born at Noonkanbah in the Kimberley in 1914 on the Fitzroy River of the Nyikina tribe. My mother was taken away and sent to Beagle Bay mission on the Peninsula 80kms from Broome where Sisters of Saint John of God and the German Pallottine Fathers and Brothers who ran the mission. Mum did not talk much of what happened but said she loved the Sisters and Fathers to bits. She went about her learning and loved religion. Mum was baptised there. She missed her family deeply though during that time.
On her return to Derby she worked as a housekeeper before marrying my Dad which lasted 53 years before Dad died. Mum always had in the corner of the room statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the Saints. This was where prayers and the Rosary were said. Our place became a place where Bishop Raible, Sisters and Priests would come as there was no church or presbytery in Derby in the early years. They were always welcomed in our home. I remember Bishop Raible would play our old Pianoia.
In 1954 the first Catholic school opened in Derby. I was 8 years old and one of 20 students that attended the school. The school was situated at the back of the old corrugated iron church. Sister Ignatius was
our first teacher and besides doing school work we would spend time cleaning and polishing the brass. For me it was a time where I could be with God to talk to and feel his love and that I was special. I wish that all kids could have that opportunity to experience of belonging.
That’s where the scripture classes began and the understanding about being a Catholic meant. Beside my parents the Sisters of St. John of God and the Pallottine Fathers played a part in developing my faith journey. The Sisters prepared us for life, to have the ability to be part of church and for young Aboriginal girls a message/creed for living.
Moving to Perth and wanting my children to have the same experience of my faith journey, I turned up to the local church to find I was the only Aboriginal person there. But my trust in God and the love He had for us kept us going. I was commissioned as a Catechist for the Archdiocese of Perth and Special Minister of the Eucharist. I taught scripture to after-school children at my then church parish for ten years. When you let the love and trust of God into your life everything falls into place.
The passion for Catholic Aboriginal Education and equality led me to join the Catholic Education Office and they gave me the opportunity to keep pursuing and learning and building on my faith journey. At this time I joined the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in the 1980s which I became Chairperson and part of NATSICC. Being part of NATSICC led me to meet so many
Aboriginal people also passionate about their faith. I was there when the elders wrote the Aboriginal prayer. It is still very emotional for me to have experienced such devotion by our elders.
At St. Joseph’s House of Spirituality in Baulkham Hills I had the chance to spend time with the Josephite Sisters. It taught me so much more about faith and spirituality, the love of the Bible. Living with 90 nuns, 2 priests and a Brother was strange for me. My highlight was doing a street retreat which took place in Sydney meeting Mum Shirley Smith. I worked alongside her visiting the juvenile centres. We went one Sunday to the park to pray when I met the only Aboriginal man. He asked me where I came from and I offered him a sandwich. He replied; “he had eaten at the Salvos and would take me for a feed”. I thanked him and said no thanks. Did I meet God that day? I like to think I did because after that I did not see another Aboriginal person.
I went to Ireland and Rome for the Beautification of Edmund Rice. My faith journey took me to another level to see Pope John Paul and thousands of Catholics. I was lucky and grateful to have had my Grandmother Emily in my life as she taught me how to understand my Aboriginal spirituality and Catholic faith. She was also a Catholic but did not lose her own Spirituality.
I have respect for my humble beginnings from the early teaching from a loving family. It taught me to be respectful to your elders, honesty, love, courtesy and to be grateful for what you have. On the day you are born God sets a path and it’s up to us what path we want our journey to take. I believe what I have achieved through my life has been my faith in God and those early teachings. I hope that I have been a role model for all the children and people I have met along the way. I have taken a full circle after a long time away from NATSICC and now I am back on NATSICC, God has a plan, it’s not over yet. I am so proud to be working with such dedicated people who ensure Catholic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice in the Church. Remember what Pope John Paul II said in Alice Springs; until the ABORIGINAL people of Australia have made their contribution to the church, it will not be the church God wants it to be.
I thank my five children and husband for letting me pursue my faith journey through life and having them by my side.
“Halt at the Crossroads …… Ask Yourselves which is the way……. ……. Take the Risk ……. Walk the way ……. And You will find Rest”