The relationship between a small group of Indonesian nuns and the wider Australian Jesuit community continues to prosper and grow.
The Alma Nuns, who work with more than 4000 abandoned and disabled children in Timor Leste and Indonesia, are supported by many friends of the Australian Jesuits.
With a budget of next to nothing the 400 professed and trainee Sisters go about their relentless, tiring and emotional work following the example of Mother Teresa.
Recently, I visited their complex at Malang in East Java at the invitation of Mother Superior Sister Cecil and witnessed first-hand the inspirational work of this remarkable group of women.
At their complex the nuns run programs for blind children, deaf children, children with severe learning difficulties, children with cerebral palsy, children with autism and more. Many children in their care have simply been abandoned by their parents due to economic hardships. Many of them are Muslim.
I first met the nuns when I was employed to work on the musical soundtrack for the film Balibo about the death of my brother Tony Stewart and four other journalists in East Timor in 1975.
A friend advised me to visit the Sisters in Timor Leste who worked with ‘the lowest of the low’, so we dropped into their modest facility. There we found three nuns and about 30 children but soon learnt that transporting them was a nightmare given the Sisters only had one small motorbike.
Informed of their plight typically generous Australians raised $80,000 for a new van while another supporter contributed $20,000 to build two classrooms.
At their headquarters in Timor Leste they are helped with translations and finance by Jesuit Fr Fivo Freitas, who is engaged at the big Jesuit School at Kasait in Dili, while visitors to their centre have included Bishop Hilton Deakin, Jesuit Mission’s Helen Forde, Meg Morrison and Siobhan Jordan, Australian musician Jesse Hooper, and African hip hop act, the Flybz.
Twice previously some of the Sisters have visited Australia on fundraising visits, appearing at various Jesuit and Companion schools in NSW and Victoria.
Big fans of the nuns are leading Australian entertainers the Wiggles, who donated a large amount of their merchandise to sell at this year’s Indian Bazaar, Jesuit Mission’s annual Sydney fundraiser, with proceeds sent on to the Sisters.
To support the Sisters please donate to ‘Alma Nuns East Timor’ c/o The Jesuit Mission PO BOX 193 North Sydney NSW 2059.