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An Australian Pilgrimage


In late 2003 as part of the celebrations for the canonization of Arnold Janssen SVD, nineteen members of the Australian Provinces of two religious congregations founded by him, went on a pilgrimage through the centre of Australia.

Eight countries were represented through the birthplace of the pilgrims and a further four were added by missionary appointments. The pilgrims formed a microcosm of the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Australia of the third millennium.

The pilgrims share some of their responses in word and photograph to praise their God whom they experienced anew in the journey and to share with those unable to travel with them.

The theme of the canonization celebrations throughout the world was One Heart—Many Faces. The logo was a vibrantly coloured heart encompassing several faces of various nationalities, symbolizing all of God’s People.

The journey of over eight thousand kilometers took the pilgrims to the symbolic heart of Australia and into each one’s heart.

Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 2004

Pleased , as a novice, to be chosen to take part!
I was excited about seeing the Rock at the country’s heart.
Lakemba, my novitiate home, the starting point for my drive
Gathering of confreres with energy, vision, feeling alive!
Rejoicing in the possibilities and thinking so much more
In anticipation of adventures new, the exciting opening of a spiritual door.
My spirit danced and in my heart a call to pray-
Angels and saints guide us safely on our way,
God, Triune God, maker and sustainer of all we will see
Enlighten our hearts that at one with creation we will be.

Till dusk from dawn each day we travelled,
Over hot red dusty plains - singing, praying - while miles unravelled.

Under the scorching sun our spirits soared and almost flew
Loving respect to the traditional owners developed and grew
Uluru, you awakened in me something I did not expect
Religion and spirituality with deeper meaning not found
Until I stood quietly, gentled, by this sacred ground.

Ioane Racumu SVD, Fiji

Community on a Bus

Getting to know each other was a daily delight!
Different backgrounds, life experiences, nationalities and ages.
with lots of laughter, chatter and story-telling
contrasting with the vast quiet
viewed from the bus window –
the bus – our home for sixteen days.
sisters and brothers in faith,
breaking Bread in Eucharistic Celebration.
This Pilgrimage Our Arnold would have enjoyed.

Tim Norton SVD, Australia

On the Road

The road ahead – a straight line
Till it fades into the far distance.
A voice on the bus says:
“We are driving nowhere fast!”
So it seems in the endless expanse of scrub,
Amid this cracked, dry land.

A prayer ascends from the heart,
“send down your blessing as rain, O God,
on this thirsty earth,
and your blessings of love
on us who are thirsting for you.”

Angela Muellebner SSpS. Germany


Pilgrimage to the Centre - to the heart of our country –
Vast and barren, rich and beautiful, land of contrasts and diversity
touching the sacred of our Aboriginal sisters and brothers.

A journey to the heart, into the deep
of who I am - of who we are
to the sacredness of Arnold Janssen spirituality.

Pilgrimage of shared dreams and hopes.
A time apart, a time for prayerful connectedness
to the land and the environment
connecting people and places, earth and heaven
over six hundred million years.

A year of Grace spilled over, continuing the fulfilment of a long held dream
to travel to the Heart –
and find Home deep within.

Sr Noela Williamson SSpS

Stranger on a Journey

A new comer to Australia – so different from Indonesia.
I am a stranger on a journey to places unknown and unexplained.

Watching and waiting for answers from my companions and this land
to uncertainties felt, to questions not formed, not ready for the spoken word.

The Biblical image of the Pilgrim comforts me
and the knowledge of my Loving Triune God
allows me to drink in the experiences of the new, the beautiful and the strange-
of my new home.

Br Martin Nono SVD, Indonesia


At three years of age
I was taken from my mother for three months
And lived only with the village men.
Was her heart broken like that rock?
Was that break in her heart ever healed?

Alexis Tupun SVD, Vanuatu

The Great Silence

The call of the desert to reflection and respect
takes hold of our being as we enter this quiet place –
travelling the land of little water but of great spirit.
Humbly we acknowledge this great spirit, receiving us as pilgrims
journeying to that revered place – Uluru.
The vastness of the silence readied us
for the sacredness of this place.

Tim Norton SVD, Australia

With the Spirits of the Dead

The memorial mass on All Souls Day at Santa Teresa was privileged.
We were respectfully invited to the local burial grounds to celebrate.
White stones marked most of the graves, only a few had a headstone or slab.
Women and children gathered, the men were away mourning a recent death.

The local people just sat down on the dusty red earth, no mats!
We seemed awkward and uncomfortable with the earth -
we searched for a stone to sit on.

The people were one with the earth,
one with the bodies and spirits of those buried there.
I felt the people to be close to their God and to nature,
needing no trappings.

Josapha Lergessner SSpS, Australia

At the Pulse of Life

Uluru aglow with fire, revealing the soul of this land,
dream and mystery treasured in the heart, your vision preciously preserved by desert soil.

A story unfolding in silence
captured sunlight contrasting with shadowed crevices, transforming in the sun.

Standing firm, with invitation to surprise and mystery
the spirit is alive in hallowed space and life-giving pools -
yet dryness tells the story, ancient and ever new.

Arnold, another Uluru, captured by the Light, inviting us to honour an even greater mystery -
Life itself, our Creator God.
Like this revered Rock he blazed drawing peope to wonder, to discover and to accept.

The fire within tells stories of arid lives, of desolate spaces, and then of transformation.
Your sons and daughters hold your dream of love, of fire, of passion, touching the pulse of life,
birthing the Word made Flesh.

Christine Hesel SSpS, Germany

Respect for the other

In preparation for the pilgrimage I questioned climbing the Rock.
The climb seemed to be the attraction; the experience to be had.
Friends mentioned to me that climbing was discouraged
owing to the sacredness of the place.

Through reading and listening during the long hours of desert travel
my eyes opened to a new reality –
sacredness took on new meaning.

In respect for the aboriginal concept of sacred
I could no longer plan to climb Uluru
Respect for people implies Respect for their beliefs.

Zenon Szablowinski, SVD Poland

Where we stands gives us our Vision

From the hill top – overlooking Santa Teresa
I witnessed the dawning – the breaking of the darkened silence,
the revealing of unending red dust, the display of uncommon beauty of stunted shrubs,
of dogs wandering aimlessly symbolizing restlessness, search and suffering.

In the watch and waiting I met the bigger land – heard its groaning, understood its thirst.
Something was reaching out to me, compelling me to relate to myself in truth
in a world beyond my little home patch.
I heard the heart beat of an ancient people, still walking in solidarity with this land.

Honesty and shame whispered words: “today I share your love, your light, your shadows.”

This was a moment of unexpected awareness of my disconnectedness with creation,
that had often deafened me to the cries of these people.
I knew I was on holy ground;
I took off my shoes – and bowed to the God
whose pulse and compassion I recognized in what I saw.

The vision made visible by the rising sun
provided a mirror moment in my life to gaze on my own reality.

Christine Hesel SSpS, Austria

Waiting for the Sunrise

In the dawning we await the sunrise.
Uluru looms in the darkness.
Waiting in silence the presence is deepened,
a stillness no-one dares disturb.

Open-eyed we witness the dawn
Unveiling shapes and colour.
Fold by fold is kissed by sunlight
Till all is fiery, a-glow.

Rejoice for the gift of day!
focusing on the Rock
we are called to our centre
the place of God within.

Angela Muellebner SSpS, Germany

The Burning Bush – Smoking Leaves

Smoke rises from the burning gum leaves.
We are sitting around a small fire near the church at Santa Teresa.
Agnes, an aboriginal leader and Christian spiritual director,
has invited us to take part in a smoking ceremony.
Each pilgrim comes forward, sits by the fire.
Taking our hands in hers, Agnes talks gently.
As the smoke from the burning leaves wafts upward,
Agnes prays.
I feel as though I am being baptised again, with aromatic smoke rather than water.
Agnes calls down the Holy Spirit upon me.
The smell of the burning gum leaves lingers in the air
and permeates my clothes like incense, very Australian incense!
I wonder if the Burning Bush of Moses in the Sinai Desert
left a smell of God
as the burning gum leaves on the edge of the Simpson Desert did for me.

Bill Burt SVD, Australia

‘I am the Vine, you are the branches.’

The Fruits of the Earth, the Work of Human Hands

The grapevine in Alice Springs was a strong healthy one
with thick long and strong branches
and many large green leaves.

And I thought of all the support I have had
in coming to this point in my life.
I wondered if my branch will be strong enough
to bear the bunch of grapes as they ripen –
the fruit of my missionary work.

Martinus Nono SVD, Indonesia

Smoking Ceremony

We sat in the house
Agnes, a wise old woman lit the fire.
Sweet smelling smoke was all around us.
She spoke of her background, her family
and her spirituality.

Agnes purified herself with smoke
and invited us one by one to sit with her.
As she smoked us she spoke,
through her heavy breathing and tearful tones,
her words were of wisdom and encouragement.
It seemed like she was able to read our spirit.

It was a peaceful experience
Full of richness and gentleness.
No hard feelings left in our minds
Only peace, peace…….

Joseph Vu SVD, Vietnam

One Fire, Many Warmed Hearts

The friction of the strong thin vine
on the soft dry wood
formed a smouldering glow - an ember.

Fanned by our breath it grew magnificently;
heating the water in the old black billy
we used to brew our tea and coffee.

We shared from one fire, one billy
and drank from shared mugs.

The warmth and comfort we experienced
seemed greater than a simple hot drink can give.

Theo Becker SVD, Germany

Night Sky Discovery

Away from the city lights
a star filled sky is revealed
the like I have never seen!
Dazzling bright lights
forming patterns like jewels on velvet-
millions of stars, light years away, seemed as clouds of light.
Enfolded in silence we ponder
the majestic creativity of our God.

Angela Muellebner SSpS, Germany

Christian Dialogue

The walls of Santa Teresa church are canvases of theology
Biblical stories retold in vivid colour
with cultural adaptation and interpretation.

I stood in wonder:
seeing the chance of dialogue
between Christianity and Aboriginal culture
and possible new understanding of Biblical truth.

Zenon Szablowinski, SVD Poland

Friday Night Social

The excited chatter and questioning by the youth was in contrast
with the shyness of the elders.
As the youth gathered for their weekly entertainment at the community hall
They asked questions and gave lots of introductions
‘I am Billy, he is John, my cousin.’
– always with the relationship.
Some one asked me my name and then
if I was related to a Chinese actor from an action movie!
Even the dogs were introduced, held by their owners and named.

Coming from a society that has become so individualistic
I thought a lot about relationships being always mentioned.

Bone Buahendri SVD, Indonesia


A marvel, the largest monolith in the world,
lying at the centre of the Australian continent – in the midst of aridity.

People travel to the Centre to find the silent, strong, ancient and revered – Uluru.

Life’s journey of discovery takes us into our own centre,
where each will find, in the silence of being, the sacred, the strong,
the One to be revered-
Creator and Sustainer of all.

Jay Too SVD, Indonesia

God’s Family

The smiles were wide showing lots of white teeth.
I felt I knew these people
not their families or their names
but I knew these people.

A woman came up and handed me her baby
I knew what she meant by this
She trusted me with her most precious gift.
Did my companions know what was happening?

I knew then something about being a missionary,
meeting others, trusting each other
and coming together as members of God’s family.

Alexis Tapun SVD, Vanuatu

Cooper Pedy - Catacombs

The earth had been carved out, become a cave,
Strange coolness, stillness, as we went in
The heat of the sun left behind
We went into the catacomb.

In Vanuatu I heard of catacombs of Rome;
so different – strange but interesting.
I wanted to know more about them.
I imagined them to be dark and full of fear.
But in the earth in Cooper Pedy
it was light and cool and friendly;
Jesus was in this cave-church.

Alexis Tupun SVD, Vanuatu


The clean white and delicate grey gulls strutted, watched and strutted even more;
Their large bodies supported by thin red legs.
They watched our group eating lunch, with expectation in the turn of their head.

I asked a companion to take a photo while I tossed some scraps of food.
The scurry of feather, the shrill squawking and the jostling for the food,
providing entertainment and amusement.

Later I saw the photo and gasped at what I saw.
And I asked myself
Do I ‘throw out’ words and actions to friends and acquaintances
just to see what happens
- to be entertained by the response
- maybe to cause confusion and tension –
and in my heart I pray with St Francis
“Lord, make me a channel of your peace.”

Ioane Racumu SVD, Fiji


We are very grateful for the giftedness of our fellow travellers and their generosity in freely sharing words and photo for this small book.

Tje writers of the reflections with their country of birth, have been noted with each reflection. Owing to the unselfishness of the photographers it is difficult to attribute actual persons to each photo. Two cameras were shared according to the need. A special thanks to Iaone Racumu SVD and Ho Tran SVD as 'keepers of the cameras' on which most photos were taken.

The pilgrims are happy for you to use this material on the condition that it is in a prayerful manner and a non-commercial process.

To those who took up the inspiration to prepare this book and to all involved in bringing the concept to this beuatiful reality we express our sincere gratitude.

Let us pray together that this book will be another instrument of Mission, bringing us closer to being One Heart - Many Faces.

Patricia Naughton SSpS
Congregational Leader
Bill Burt SVD
Congregational Leader