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SUMMER 2006
Vol 40 No 4




PDF (1.3MB)


Editorial:
MISSIONARY CREATIVITY

Martin Wilson MSC
GSELL CENTENARY. MISSIOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS

Dawn Cordona
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Lorraine Erlandson
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Pat Mullins SJ
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

Peter Hearn MSC
COMMENT ON THE GSELL LECTURE

John Wilcken SJ
THE ALICE SPRINGS ADDRESS AND THE CONCEPT OF NATION

Patrick McInerney
THE ADDRESS OF POPE BENEDICT ON FAITH AND REASON

Abe Ata
DEMONISING AUSTRALIA'S CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM ARABS IN CARTOONS

Anthony Gooley
WHAT'S IN A NAME? PART II: 'ORDAINED' AND 'LAY APOSTOLATE'

Kevin Mark
NEW RELIGIOUS BOOKS FROM AUSTRALASIAN AUTHORS

 



 

Comments on the Gsell lecture

PAT MULLINS SJ

THANK YOU FOR the opportunity to respond to Martin’s paper. I acknowledge the traditional owners, the Larrakia people, on whose land we stand. I acknowledge and thank Nungalinya College for hosting this seminar and I pay tribute to all who have gone before us, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, our ancestors in faith and culture who have brought us to this point.

Speaking of those who have gone before us I was struck by a couple of remarks in Bishop Gsell’s own book The Bishop with One Hundred and Fifty Wives:

It was good fortune that the Jesuit Fathers had been here before me; they had established mission stations in places they considered attractive …This lesson was not lost on me (p40).

And in deciding whether to make his base on the mainland or on an island Gsell further comments: ‘Once again…the Jesuits were my guides’ (p40).

Such wisdom! Can we not agree that Gsell got all his good ideas, and none of his bad ones, from the Jesuits?

A useful question is to ask what issues of contemporary relevance are raised in Martin’s paper with regard to Gsell’s missiology. There are three which are as relevant today as they were a century ago which can be pondered by all of us—priest, religious, lay; teacher, pastor or service provider; Indigenous and non-Indigenous working with Indigenous people. The issues may be summarized as confidence, confusion and connection.

Firstly confidence. As Martin’s paper makes clear Gsell and those who followed him were confident about a number of things:
• They had confidence in what they had to bring, namely a combination of European culture infused with Christian faith.
• They had confidence in the value of settled agrarian life for Indigenous people.
• They had confidence in their methods of evangelization.
• They had confidence in the value of integration or assimilation with non-Indigenous society.

So, what are we, a century later, confident about? What do we believe in, what is our vision? For myself, for starters, I believe in the value of communities based on a shared faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am not confident about much else. Which brings us to the second issue which is suggested by Martin’s paper: confusions or lack of confidence.

There are hints that Gsell and others were not sure about the place of Indigenous culture in the scheme of things. In this context I note his reflection in later life that if more had been known about anthropology he might have avoided mistakes. So faith and culture or gospel and culture. Given the wide range of responses to this issue I suspect that there is little more certainty or clarity in our day than there was one hundred years ago, advances in anthropology notwithstanding.

An illustration stands out in my mind. At a Sunday evening service which I attended in the grounds of this college some years ago there were two Indigenous speakers who expressed almost opposite points of view. One, the late Harry Huddleston, said that now that Indigenous people were Christian they must abandon traditional beliefs and practices. The other speaker urged people to remain strong in their culture as well as Christian faith.

For me this issue is a matter of accompaniment of Indigenous people in the expression of faith. Those expressions may vary from place to place and are never definitively settled.

A third issue which Martin’s paper raises or at least hints at, is the issue of connection, meaning the value of honouring relationships. If there is an aspect of Aboriginal culture which is alive and similar everywhere—at Nguiu a century ago, at Nguiu now, in Alice Springs, Townsville and Mount Druitt, it is the central place of relationships or simply relatedness in general. I was reminded of this at the football on Saturday night when a Tiwi woman whom I had not seen for over ten years, pointed out to those around her that I was her brother in the Tiwi scheme of things.

I am suggesting that Gsell, and many priests, religious and lay people of his era, honoured this aspect of culture, perhaps inadvertently. Martin notes Gsell’s patience in making contact with Tiwi people before doing anything else and he lived on Bathurst Island for twenty-seven years. Others gave similarly lengthy commitment and remained connected. I wonder, in this day of contract and consultancy, whether we are able or inclined to honour the value that Tiwi and other Indigenous people place on the relationships they invite us into.

Fr Pat Mullins SJ has worked among Aboriginal people in Townsville, Darwin and Alice Springs, Moree and Balgo. He is assistant pastor at Mount Druitt in Sydney, where more than eight thousand Indigenous people live.