A simple ministry of presence and hospitality


Anita cooking kangaroo tail at Santa Teresa


A year in ministry at Santa Teresa, near Alice Springs, has been a steep learning curve for Good Samaritan Sister, Anita Brennan, and one thing she has learnt is that while “we can’t fix everything”, a simple ministry of presence and hospitality plays a key role in the life of the Aboriginal community, reports The Good Oil.

“One of the important learnings that I have had is how significant the land is for the Aboriginal people; the heritage of their ancestors; their source of bush food and medicine and their sacred places,” she says.

“Also, while I may offer some hospitality here, I am firstly a visitor in a very different culture.”

Anita grew up in the inner western Sydney suburb of Dulwich Hill, with her parents, an older sister, and two younger brothers. She was educated in secondary school by the Sisters of the Good Samaritan at St Brigid’s Marrickville, and from that experience says she felt a strong call to join the Congregation. When she entered the novitiate 53 years ago, at almost 18, she never dreamed where it would eventually take her – from  teaching, leadership positions in schools and the Congregation, to study opportunities in Chicago, Israel and Canada, a counselling ministry, and now to outback Australia to live in an Aboriginal community.

“I’ve loved every bit of it,” she says. “And so here I am at Santa Teresa and it’s a steep learning curve, a very steep learning curve. I would see my ministry at the moment as being a ministry of hospitality, a ministry of presence to people, and also a ministry of spiritual companioning.”

The ministry of hospitality is evident when The Good Oil calls for a chat and finds Anita busy preparing a weekly dinner for 12 people, together with Sister Liz Wiemers SGS, who has been at Santa Teresa since 2009.

“We have about five local women coming. We’ve got two people who came here as lay missionaries over 40 years ago and two Divine Word Missionary priests, and Liz and myself,” she says.

“Every Thursday evening we have dinner here and they all come. It’s a form of connection for them, to be able to talk about things, to get together. And it’s also good for us.”

Earlier in the morning, Anita was at the Community Care Centre, helping the women of the community to organise their bingo morning.

FULL STORY A simple ministry of presence and hospitality (The Good Oil)

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