WYD Cross and Icon visit Wilcannia
Nicola Bates, a Paakantji woman from Wilcannia, recently reported on her experience of journeying with the World Youth Day Cross and Icon from Darwin to Port Augusta. Another young woman from Wilcannia who also participated in this pilgrimage was Clare Compton. Clare reports on the visit of the Cross and Icon to Wilcannia, in outback New South Wales.
STORY by Clare Compton.
The muurrpa (children) were getting more and more excited. The special day that they had been practising for was finally here and they were hopping off the bus at the caravan park where a small crowd had already assembled.
The big cross and the beautiful picture of Mary and Baby Jesus that Aunty Nicola and I had travelled across Australia with were here in Wilcannia for them to look at and touch and share in their special message.
This was the very same Cross and Icon which had travelled to some of the saddest and most beautiful places on earth, touched by millions and had in turn touched the hearts of millions. They had found their way here, to this tiny little community on the banks of the beautiful Darling River – a place not to be left out but just as important and significant as anywhere else in the world and as deserving of all of the graces and blessings from the Holy Spirit that came with them.
Bright little faces were looking curiously towards the large orange trailer. It was time to unpack its cargo of treasures.
Firstly a very long road case was brought out and opened to reveal the two parts of the Cross and the muurrpa were going to help to assemble it! Little fingers helped to tighten the bolts. Colourful flags were passed around and the procession across the bridge to the park had begun.
The muurrpa lead the way carrying the Aboriginal flag and took turns in carrying the World Youth Day flags. They were followed by Sister Flo Kinsela RSM and other community members carrying the Cross, with the help of the Wilcannia-Forbes Diocesan and Journey of the Cross and Icon (JCI) teams.
Once over the bridge, the Cross was passed on to the many children from both St Therese’s School and the Wilcannia Central School who carried it the short way across Ray Hunter Memorial Park to the little stone stage, above which should have read the sign “Welcome to Wonderful Wilcannia” with little silver paper crosses underneath gently flapping in the breeze, however the unseasonable strong winds turned it all into a joyfully colourful tangle of red, black and yellow!
Aunty Nicola as our MC opened the proceedings with great grace followed by heart-felt words of welcome and wisdom from David Clark and Bishop Chris Toohey. The Message Stick was then passed to Uncle Stevie as an invitation from the Aboriginal Catholic communities of Sydney to the young Paakantji people of Wilcannia to attend World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008.
The muurrpa then sang and danced “One People, One Land”, a song about reconciliation, “The Aboriginal Flag Song”, in their own Paakantji language, “Wiimpatja Muurrpa”, a song about being proud of their identity, heritage and land and the “Aboriginal Our Father”, accompanied beautifully by Miss Shannon from Brewarrina on guitar. They did a magnificent job and everyone was very proud of them.
After this, all of the people gathered made their way to pass through the cleansing smoke that Uncle Cyril and Uncle Warlpa had prepared and then to touch, kiss or hug the Cross and the Icon. What a beautiful sharing of two cultures, both working together to bring healing and hope to all of the people.
A lovely lunch prepared by ladies from the CDEP and Safe House was shared as the visitors took time to speak with community members and even kick a footie with the boys. It was wonderful to see such a turn out of support.
None of this wonderful day would have been possible at all without the dedication and co-ordination of Aunty Germaine Bates who has been working tirelessly for months. She is a woman of great generosity and stamina and it needs to be publicly acknowledged just how much she is loved and appreciated.