Breaking Ground in Ostico
On May 19, 2002, Sister Mary Wright ibvm (General Superior at the time), wrote a letter to all members of the Institute entitled ‘Courage to Move’. Courage to Move invited Provinces to look at the needs of disadvantaged countries in their part of the world and called upon Loreto Sisters across the globe to move beyond borders, to re-engage with the missionary spirit that was evident in the early foundations, and to start new missions in new countries. This call to action reflected the vision of Mary Ward, the missionary courage of Teresa Ball, and the firm belief that Mary Ward’s charism is needed in every country and culture. Fundamental to this charism is the desire to achieve a more just world, where there is respect for the dignity of each person and equal opportunity for all, in particular women and children.
Courage to Move saw new foundations established in Ecuador, Mauritius, Seychelles, Ghana, Zambia, Namibia, Albania, and South Sudan. The Australian Province, after a long discernment, eventually settled on East Timor.
Timor-Leste, then the world’s newest country, had been devastated by the long and violent struggle for Independence and the retreating Indonesian army in 2000. The departing militias destroyed most of the country’s infrastructure including housing, irrigation, drinking water systems, and the electricity grid. Vast numbers of the population were displaced at that time and then again in 2006 during a surge of civil unrest. It is one of the least developed countries in the world, with basic health, literacy, and income levels similar to sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2006, three Sisters journeyed from Australia to Timor-Leste: Sisters Anne Byrne and Diaan Stuart to teach at the Marist Teachers’ College in Bacau, and Sister Anne Kelly to work with women in literacy programs in Dili. Across the years, the Loreto Sisters have faithfully served the people of Timor-Leste. Today, four Loreto Sisters live and work in two communities – Sisters Margaret Mary Flynn and Selvi Adaikalam in the larger centre of Baucau, and Sisters Margie Bourke and Ai Thien Nguyen in the village of Gari-Uai.
Having successfully built a pre-school and a community development centre in Gari-Uai, the Sisters now plan to assist a neighbouring village, Ostico with funding from Mary Ward International Australia. MWIA supports the development works of the Loreto Sisters based in many impoverished parts of our world. With an estimated population of 1700, there is no other development agency or government group helping the village of Ostico.
Recently, MWIA was able to deliver the first round of funding to commence the construction of the Loreto Ostico Building Project. The project includes a Loreto Sisters’ Residence and a Community Centre. Having a permanent home in Ostico will enable the Loreto Sisters to participate in the life of the community and make a lasting contribution to its educational, spiritual, and human development.
The people of Ostico have limited educational opportunities, resulting in a high illiteracy rate and limited capacity for work other than in subsistence agriculture. This project is an essential first step in enabling the Loreto Sisters to address some of the acute needs of the Ostico community, commencing with education. The Community Centre will provide a permanent space for inclusive and equitable quality learning and for community events and meetings to be held. It will, additionally, provide a base for volunteers to reside when participating in community and educational activities. The Centre will include two rooms for local community use, two classrooms, an office, five bedrooms with ensuites for volunteer/visitor accommodation, a kitchen, various storage rooms, a garage, and a laundry.
It is envisaged that the entire Ostico community of 1700 people will benefit from this project. The complex will serve the needs of the Loreto Sisters and the Ostico community for the next 20-30 years.
“The felicity of this course was a singular freedom from all that could make one adhere to earthly things, with an entire application and apt disposition to all good works.”
– Mary Ward –
The Timor Story | By Sr Anne Byrne ibvm
Author: Anna Turkington
Feature Image: Children in Timor-Leste Pointing to the site for the new Loreto Community Centre