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  • Jessica Oata

Sisters empowered by Theology Workshop

Five Religious Sisters from four congregations completed an intense but insightful program of Theology from January 13 – 21, 2023 at the Catholic Bishops Conference.

Focused on Sacraments and Sacramentality, the program was aimed at empowering Religious women by enriching them with theological knowledge to strengthen them in their pastoral and social work and was facilitated by lecturers from the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea Sr. Helen Nolen rsm and Sr. Nicole Rotaru rsm.

Sessions in the workshop included interactive engagement, periods of silent reflection, journal writing/recording, reflective reading, art imagery, lectures, music and song, role play, and group discussions.

Participant Sr. Everlyn Tarpakia MSC expressed her gratitude saying that the program was an enlightenment of how we can see Theology in many different ways and come to its simplest form so that we can better understand and appreciate the sacraments in the Catholic Church.

“The program helped me to understand on a deeper level what sacraments are and how we can inter-relate them with our traditional initiations”, she said.

Sr. Sylvian Aua SJC from the congregation of Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny said that as participants who have been enlightened with new knowledge, it is now their duty to return to their communities, parishes, and congregations to share this knowledge with others so they can also be empowered.

“In our context, our lay people and us the women religious have had this idea that theology is ‘only for the religious men’ but after having gone through several classes, I am now able to see things from the theological perspective and I wish to share this knowledge with my people in the rural Kerema Diocese”, she said.

The five nuns who attended the program are from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (MSC), Sisters of Saint Joseph of Cluny (SJC), Handmaids of the Lord (AD) and Filiae Mariae Immaculatae (FMI).

The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea has been offering pastoral ministry programs for religious women since 2015 and in partnership with Divine Word University since 2016. The programs include a Diploma in Pastoral Ministry (leading to), an Advanced Diploma in Theology and Pastoral Ministry, and a program being developed at the level of a Bachelor of Theology.

To date, 22 women's religious Orders have participated in the programs and more than 140 have attended at least one class and 41 women have graduated with diplomas and advanced diplomas since 2019.

Comments from the participants:

“As a religious woman and a Papua New Guinean, I’m so proud to have attended my third Theology Program focusing on the Sacraments and Sacramentals. The first program I attended was in Mt. Hagen in 2018 and focused on the Gospel of Mark, the second program I attended was in 2020 at the Nazareth House of Prayer in Port Moresby and focused on the Trinity and I’m now empowered to teach the people what I have learned based on the knowledge I have received from the programs”.

– Sr. Sylvian Aua SCJ

“The program has inspired me to go back and help strengthen the faith of the people in the area of sacraments through my pastoral work and I am looking forward to that”. – Sr Gorethy Kuikui FMI

“I was inspired to attend this program by two other sisters in my congregation who graduated from DWU after attending the same course and I enjoyed the program. One thing that caught my attention was uniting culturally significant instruments/initiations like the kundu or dances and rituals into the liturgy and sacraments like baptism.” – Sr. Rose Sohou AD

“The program really broadened my mind and helped me to have a deeper understanding of the Sacraments and Sacramentals and the differences between the two. I can say it helped me to stay grounded in my faith”. – Sr. Shirley Roger AD

“After attending this program, I can now say that it has been a stepping-stone for me to know how I can better my teachings in my pastoral outreach, especially when it comes to sacraments”. -Sr. Everlyn Tarpakia MSC

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