Society Matters | Volume 31 No. 1 | Autumn 2021

Volume 31 No. 1 | Autumn 2021 8 Society Matters A Newsletter of the Divine Word Missionaries Inc - Australia Province Donations to the SVDAUS Province Overseas Aid Fund can be made online at or by mailing to Divine Word Missionary Appeal Office, Locked Bag 3, Epping NSW, 1710, Australia. @svdaus New Townsville mission for SVD The SVD is taking up a new missionary assignment in Townsville Diocese, with a particular focus on indigenous ministry, including on Palm Island. Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD, says the move comes at the request of Townsville Bishop Timothy Harris. “One of the reasons why we decided to respond positively to his request is that we recognise the strength of the indigenous people on Palm Island and in Townsville and the complexity and the privilege of working with the First Peoples of this land, which is a priority for this Province,” he says. “Another factor was that we will be working with the Holy Spirit Sisters (sister congregation to the SVD, also founded by St Arnold Janssen) who are already there on Palm Island. “So we see it very much as a partnership with the Townsville Diocese and the Bishop, the Holy Spirit Sisters and the local people.” Bishop Harris says he is delighted that the Divine Word Missionaries are taking up ministry in Townsville Diocese. “From my perspective, it’s a God-send,” he says. “I put out feelers to them and we began a conversation and these men have said ‘yes’ to my invitation and I’m very thankful indeed. “The indigenous ministry is an important ministry in the Diocese and they have excellent experience in this area.” Three SVD confreres have headed north to Townsville – Fr Manh Le, Fr Joseph Reddy and Fr Clement Baffoe. Fr Manh is based on Palm Island, while Fr Joseph and Fr Clement will care for Kirwan Parish in Townsville. Fr Manh, who spent a number of years as a missionary in the Amazon and has most recently been Vietnamese Chaplain in the Archdiocese of Sydney, arrived on Palm Island before Christmas and says he is looking forward to what lies ahead. “I am definitely looking forward to it. It is another move, another step in my missionary life,” he says. “And this type of assignment is really at the heart of mission.” Fr Manh says the Aboriginal history on Palm Island is rich and complex. “There are 44 languages and tribal groups on the island, although English is the main language used. So the people may speak broken English and I speak broken English in a Vietnamese accent,” he laughs. “I see it very much as a situation of ‘come and see’, I will be coming and seeing and listening and learning. “I’m really looking forward to it and to working with and learning from our Sisters who are there.” Fr Clement, who was ordained last November, says he was very excited to receive the call from Fr Rass asking if he was willing to work in Townsville. “Since that call, I have been preparing myself psychologically and spiritually for the mission. It is my earnest desire to learn from the people and discover God with the people,” he says. “I am hopeful that the same God who is already present among the people in Townsville will journey with me. When you say a prayer, say one for me.” Fr Joseph, who has been Assistant Priest at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish at Macquarie Fields in the Wollongong Diocese, says he too is excited about his new missionary assignment. “We are hopeful that the ministries we are involved with in Townsville will enable us to spread the Word and bring people closer to each other and to God,” Fr Joseph says. Fr Rass says the SVD is looking forward to getting to know and serve the people of Townsville Diocese and there is a particular delight at working together with the Holy Spirit Sisters on Palm Island. “The elders on Palm Island are very excited and appreciative that the Catholic Church has never forgotten them over the years,” he says. “We won’t be starting from scratch. We’ll be working closely with the Holy Spirit Sisters, but also building on the great work of others who have ministered there, such as the Sisters of the Good Samaritan, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary Sisters and others.”