A recent pilgrimage to rural and remote communities in Western Australia where Good Samaritan Sisters minister proved to be a significant experience for the 29 participants, most of whom hailed from eastern Australia.
Led by Good Samaritan Sister Anna Warlow, the week-long pilgrimage (August 22-29) gave the group a taste of life in rural and outback WA, particularly from the perspective of Aboriginal people and pastoralists in these areas.
The pilgrims, mostly from the ACT, travelled to Three Springs, Mullewa, Yalgoo and Mt Magnet, all small communities in the Geraldton Diocese. They also visited Walga Rock, a sacred Aboriginal site of special significance to three Aboriginal women in the group, and Cue, Meeline and Boogardie Stations.
According to Anna, who has led five pilgrimages in WA for people from the east, one of the aims is to “bring people together, encouraging connections across the Nullabor”.
Many of the pilgrims knew Anna through her past ministries in the east and have maintained contact, especially through fundraising efforts to support her current ministry – Good Samaritan Rural Outreach – an initiative that offers care and support to Indigenous, rural and mining communities in the mid-west area of WA.
Canberra couple, Tim Maher and Jane Scroope, who have known Anna since 1990, described the recent pilgrimage as “a deeply spiritual experience as well as a lot of fun and a very informative journey”.
“We have been involved with fundraising for [Anna’s] work in Western Australia and have heard many of the stories of the people and the challenges of the community around the Three Springs region,” they said.
It was Tim and Jane’s first pilgrimage to WA, and for them, visiting the Aboriginal sacred sites, particularly Walga Rock, was a highlight.
“We were escorted there by Elaine Walley, Veronica Councillor and Valmae Walley, our Aboriginal sisters. They deeply reverenced this site and the connection to their grandmother through the land. We were invited to join them as we moved slowly toward the rock. We stood with them in that sacred place.”
Terrie Gleeson, also from Canberra, said she and her husband Michael became involved in Anna’s work at Three Springs some years ago. In that time they have also participated in retreats led by Anna.
“We were privileged to go on a previous pilgrimage a few years ago that just blew us away. We were very keen to go again and take some of our friends,” said Terrie.
“I was struck by the work the Good Samaritan Rural Outreach does in Central Western Australia. It is truly amazing!”
Good Samaritan Sister Rita Reilly, from Red Hill in the ACT, said the pilgrimage was “a time of making new connections with [her] Sisters, the land and its people, and fellow pilgrims”.
“Each day was full of surprises,” she said.
For Rita, there were a number of highlights, including the group sharing and reflection at the end of each day which she described as “a very precious and sacred time”, “the amazing hospitality and the warmth of the people, many of whom have had to leave their properties because of the ongoing drought and find alternative work”, “the company of three Aboriginal sisters, Elaine, Valmae and Veronica” and “experiencing the way that Anna and [Aboriginal Elder] Elaine work as partners in ministry”.