St Mary of the Angels Geelong
St Mary Immaculate Viqueque
-- A Partnership between Parishes --
“A little for some is a lot for others”
Fr Dionisio Sarmento, Parish Priest of Viqueque
Why a Parish Partnership?
St Mary of the Angels Parish takes seriously its obligation to facilitate spiritual growth and address issues of justice and unjust suffering in the world. The St Mary's Parish mirrored the experience of many other Catholic parishes that are also courageously examining their lifestyles. A common issue of concern is the contradiction of relatively rich Catholics living in a global world of greater hunger and poverty.
The words of Jesus when He says:
Don’t store up riches here on earth;
Blessed are the meek, poor, and those who mourn;
How difficult it is for the rich to get into heaven.
St Mary's has always been active in providing support and assistance to people of the Parish and the wider Geelong community. However, to develop our Christian mission a need to extend the Parish commitment beyond its traditional or "comfort zone" was seen as desirable. It noted that many parishes addressed this issue by forming alliances (partnerships or twinning arrangements) with a parish in a poor communities/parishes and extending this relationship by taking small groups to visit, serve and learn.
After visiting these communities, parishioners are returning and organising development projects involving pastoral care, education, water delivery, health clinics, agricultural projects, the sale of local handicrafts, and so on.
The renewal of faith experienced in both parishes involved becomes an awakening at all levels of parish life. It means that we are here to love, to care for, to feed, to teach and to protect each other.
This approach was seen as a good match to the St Mary's Parish's needs.
Why Twin with Timor-Leste and Viqueque District in Particular?
Timor-Leste is the world’s newest nation and one of Australia's closest neighbours.
90% of the Timor-Leste population is Catholic and views the Church as the only entity that stayed and gave them hope through 24 years of illegal Indonesian occupation; it is estimated that 183,000 Timorese died.
Timor-Leste is one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 162 out of 182 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Australia ranks number 2.
Over half the population lives below the poverty line of less than one dollar per day. The unemployment rate is high, at 61%. The population is one of the fastest growing in the world.
During World War 2, Timor-Leste offered a strategic buffer zone to stop the Japanese army invading Australia. The loyalty and care given to Australians by the Timorese are unique in the annals of war. 40,000 Timorese civilians were killed as a result of their assistance to Australia. No other nation has lost so many citizens as a result of helping Australian soldiers.
A number of Victorian local government councils have partnered with Timor-Leste districts to offer support, friendship and understanding. The City of Greater Geelong and the District of Viqueque were formally linked in 2005. This relationship has been cemented with the formation of the Geelong Friends of Viqueque Committee. This is chaired by a City of Greater Geelong Council member and comprised of Geelong community organisation representatives who have an active association with Viqueque. This committee meets regularly with a declared mission of engaging and involving the Geelong community with the aim of improving understanding and awareness of Timor-Leste. St Mary's parish is a member of this committee.
Viqueque is a city in the south-east of Timor-Leste, 183 km from Dili. Viqueque is the capital of the district of Viqueque. The city has a population of 22,000 and the district has approximately 62,000 inhabitants.
Viqueque is remote. It takes up to 8 hours to drive from Dili; during the wet season it can be cut off for weeks. Viqueque is poor, employment is virtually unobtainable and subsistence farming is how most people survive. Electricity is only available to those who have access from 7 pm to 11 pm and there is no sanitation system.
The Parish of Mary the Immaculate, Viqueque
Mary Immaculate is an old established Catholic Mission parish which has two sub-parishes – Viqueque and Lacluta. It has 21 Mass centres, spread within the two districts, with a total of 39,000 parishioners (based on the 2009 Parish census). 1200 parishioners are attending the seven local Catholic schools.
Contributions for Viqueque Partnership Program
Contributions to the program are welcomed at any time. These may take the form of one-off or regular donations. Regular contributions under “Four for Timor” is an ideal way of committing to the program.