The project, which includes a school, is run by missionary Osana Miyuki who works for Japanese Catholic Lay Missionary Movement (JLMM). The children’s parents work at the local garbage tip, finding what they can sell in order to survive. They cannot afford to send their children to school. So Miyuki employs teachers who teach the children in a ‘building’ made up of a cement floor and a roof – there are no other facilities. In this Year of Mercy they are in desperate need of Christian charity.
I joined Fr Kevin on Wednesday at Patonga after he had spent two days by himself. We walked to Kincumber (25kms) and stayed at the St Joseph’s Spirituality and Retreat Centre. On Thursday we walked 27kms and stayed at The Entrance presbytery. On Friday we stayed at Toukley presbytery. On Saturday we walked to Dora Creek (30kms) and stayed at Cooranbong where we experienced a lovely liturgy prepared by the local team. On Sunday we walked to Warners Bay (30kms) and stayed at Kilaben Bay with Fr Geoff Mulhearn. Sunday was the finale to the Cathedral where we celebrated Mass at 1pm. For the last two days Norman Ainsworth (a parishioner from Nelson Bay) joined us; his fresh legs and humour were a godsend for two weary travellers. Tim Passfield of Nelson Bay was another excellent support and his assistance enabled a successful completion of the pilgrimage.
The eight day walk was a very spiritual experience. Fr Kevin, a prayerful man, led us in praying the psalms each morning and the reason we were on pilgrimage was always at the centre of our thoughts and prayers. The spirituality of walking, especially through the parts of the Great North Walk and the coastal tracks, was an opportunity for quiet reflection and immersion in the beauty of God’s creation. Another aspect of the pilgrimage was the excellent hospitality we received from the people who accommodated us each night. We were well fed, our clothes were washed and we rested well for the next day’s walk – a humbling experience. These people know who they are and they made the journey possible; thank you so much.
The purpose for the pilgrimage needs to be at the centre of our prayers and actions; especially in this Year of Mercy. Miyuki is in need of funds for the activities she initiated in Cambodia; the school is just one such activity. On occasions she also supports pregnant women by providing money for these women to have their babies in hospital. The only other alternative is to have the babies at home (in very poor slum conditions) where infant mortality is very high. Miyuki’s latest initiative is to open an infants’ crèche (for babies under 3); this enables the mothers to work (some on the dump) for an income. Fr Kevin has opened an account at the CDF; the hope is to raise enough money to buy land to set up a crèche and to continue supporting mothers. Donations are being accepted until the end of June and Fr Kevin will visit Cambodia in July. The support of diocesan schools needs to be acknowledged; St Mary’s Maitland, San Clemente, Mayfield and St Pius X, Adamstown have held fundraisers to support the cause. St Mary’s Maitland facilitated my participation which supported Fr Kevin during the pilgrimage.
Active support of Miyuki’s JLMM project in service of the poor will be greatly appreciated by many people, especially those who live in Cambodia and who are most affected by extreme poverty.
Read more about Fr Kevin's journey in the May 2016 edition of Aurora. To donate, simply P Anne, 4979 1163 or Cath, 4979 1161, at the Catholic Development Fund.