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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
Growing up in Kur ri Kurri, Pauline Randall
wanted to work with Aborigines as a
missionary. She has been 'on mission' for the
last 45 year s -- but not where she imagined
her self to be. Aurora invited Pauline to share
her story during a recent visit home.
I began school at Holy Spirit Primary in
Kurri Kurri and then was in the first class
at Mt St Joseph's High School Cessnock,
begun by the Sister s of St Joseph. I
completed the Intermediate there and then
spent two years at the 'Doms' (St Mary's)
in Maitland to gain my Leaving Cer tificate.
The desire to be a missionary came directly
from the mission boxes the Sister s showed
us; they were called "Jacky Mite Box" -- not
such a good name now but that's what they
were called in the fifties ! I wanted to work
with the Pallottine Father s who worked
with Aborigines in the Nor thern Territory
but I was too young. God works in his own
ways -- I doubt I would have lasted 45 years
there! Too dry and hot. . .
I would have liked to be a teacher but
I didn't receive a scholar ship after high
school so for five year s I worked in an
accountant's office. Mum and Dad were
ver y suppor tive of my wanting to become
a missionary -- although initially I only
signed up for three year s . I have a brother,
John, and a sister, Lynne -- little did any of
us know what my decision would mean.
At 23 I joined a group of 27 other young
people under the auspices of "Palms"
and we did a cour se at the Car melite
Monastery at Minto. None of us were
tr ained -- we were all young and naive !
Almost all of us were sent to Papua
New Guinea (PNG) and no one knew
anything about the place -- but ironically,
it wa s where I was able to teach. In the
ways of the time, I taught for a year then
commenced teacher training in Por t
I taught under a local headmaster in a fairly
remote village and after five year s I had my
own school. Ba sically that's what I've been
doing ever since; in Mun, in the highlands,
for 20 years, and now in Kiripia for the last
25 year s . My first students were around my
age and that wasn't unusual.
The parish priest in Kiripia , Fr Joe, is a
Divine Word priest from Boston. Our
school, Saints Peter and Paul, has 300
elementary (infants) students and another
thousand in the primary school, and the
school and parish centre ar e really the hub
of the community. These facilities were
built by Palms missionar y Kevin La x ton.
There isn't any thing else, and the people's
homes -- gr ass huts with no electricity --
are scattered throughout the valley. The
roads are hor rendous and sometimes
the river floods , making tr avel even more
Now, 45 year s after arriving, I'm the
only lay missionary and I work under the
auspices of the Diocese of Mt Hagen. As
well as the school, we have a big health
centre with two local Sister s of St Therese;
one a nur se, the other a pastor al worker.
There's also a parish centre where cour ses
The Legion of Mar y offers many
oppor tunities for me to work with the sick,
young people, elderly and anyone in need.
The aim is always to become 'obsolete' -- to
work our way out!
Officially I come home every three
year s but sometimes ther e are passpor t
problems so this is my fir st visit in five
year s. Family members visit me from time
to time, and when I'm home, I feel like I've
never been away!
You can't preach the gospel before you
meet the basic needs of the people. For
example, I wasn't trained as a nurse but
there was, initially, no nur se at the health
centre so I did what I could, to the best of
my ability. I'm still doing that.
The elementary school is now led by
teacher s I trained, so that's ver y satisfying --
and a little embar r assing. I walk down the
street and see old men with grey beards
and teeth missing and they say, "Miss
Pauline, you taught me in Gr ade 6! " Some
have become benefactors because they
value the education they received. Children
walk miles to school, and adults too want
to learn. Cur rently I teach reading and
writing to teenagers and adults of all ages
and I also teach about the scriptures --
they're really hungry to learn.
One of the questions many people ask is,
'Have you missed not having a husband and
Well, the best way for me to answer that is
to say that many years ago, I met Anna, 11
at the time, and profoundly deaf. We (the
parish priest and I) "adopted" her because
her family wasn't suppor ting her. Having a
deaf child was ver y confronting for them.
She's 58 now, and she has a daughter,
Sarah, and four grandchildren. Sarah insists
on calling me 'Mum' ! Anna and Sar ah ar e
as much my family as my brother and sister
here and their children. Anna ha s met
my Austr alian family and I'm proud of the
progress she's made. She's the cleverest
of people, and ever yone has great respect
When I had been in PNG for 25 years, the
people had a great celebr ation and par t
of it wa s dressing me as a 'local' with face
paint. I feel very much one of them and I've
always felt accepted.
One of the issues now is the pr evalence
of people with HIV-AIDS and I work with
them in the health centre. In the past, no
one would touch an AIDS sufferer except
Father and me, but now, there's more
understanding and medicine can do more.
The people there love the Church and they
say, "What will we do when you leave? "
My response is always, "If you can't manage
without me, then I haven't done my job
well at all!"
Kur ri Kur ri is still home, and I will retir e
here, but PNG is home too. There is a
differ ent mentality among the people,
not surprisingly, but they are ver y caring,
spontaneous, emotional and loving. I have
lear ned mor e from the people there than
I have given and I have no regrets. I owe
Jacky Mite a lot!
Please visit w w w.palms.org.au or P
9518 9551 to learn more about the
work of missionaries. There are many
opportunities for short or long-term
commitment by individuals, couples or
ONE BY ONE
BY PAULINE RANDALL
ON A MISSION
Annulments QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
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