The Santa Teresa Mission in the Northern Territory usually welcomes people from around the world to share its unique culture, language and art, writes Sr Liz Wiemers SGS. Source: Global Sisters Report.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made this 500-member community of Eastern Arrernte people one of the most vulnerable to contagious infection because of its size. Contagion could easily wipe out the entire community.
Thus, lockdown started March 18 and only lifted in mid-June. Only essential services (medical staff, police, and the store delivery truck) were permitted to come into the community — and no one else could leave. It affected every family, especially the women, who have the most responsibility for the family.
The imposed isolation meant closing the community’s Spirituality Centre, normally a hive of activity of artists and visitors and a vital hub for gathering Arrernte women. Here the women share and create their works of art, filling shelves with brightly patterned hand-coloured silk scarves, and walls hung with paintings and crosses.
In a communal effort to keep the COVID-19 virus message “out there,” a painting competition for families was initiated to turn car bonnets into artwork, highlighting important messaging to promote community awareness about COVID-19 and the use of local language for messages.
I am often asked, “How do you fit the Arrernte culture and spirituality with your Christian/ Catholic beliefs?” My response on each occasion is similar: As I have come to know and appreciate the 65,000-year-old spirituality of these people, I find a seamless interface with my own spirituality. In fact, my spirituality is richer and deeper because of my greater understanding of the Arrernte people
Sr Liz Wiemers SGS has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in various areas of Australia over the past 40 years, 11 of which have been at Santa Teresa Mission.
Santa Teresa community keeps the faith in Australia (Global Sisters Report)