By Sr Mary Claude Gadd – Madang
The Catholic Children’s Ministry PNG was created by the Catholic Bishops of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands at their Annual General Meeting of April 2013 in Madang. That was the time when they asked Sr Mary Claude Gadd to further develop the children’s ministry in the Church. Soon it will have its own website: www.CatholicChildren’sMinistryPNG.org.pg
Sr. Mary Claude, you are not young anymore, but you are taking the children’s ministry to the internet. Where did that idea come from?
From the Holy Spirit! And it’s true, I’m not 21 anymore, but I am young at heart! And also if we want to evangelize the world, then we have to go where it is and most of it is on the internet! I think it was Pope Francis who said we must go where the sheep are and we know that many sheep spend a lot of time on the internet. The new website shall belong to all of us. It will, symbolically, put all these wonderful Programs “in the same boat!”… the Catholic Church! It shall feature and showcase to the world Catholic activities being carried out in PNG on behalf of our most vulnerable children. With the help of professionals, from my own state of Texas, USA, whom I simply found online and whose service is to set up websites for Church groups, we hope to create something interesting, inspiring and hopefully beautiful as well for the world to view.
Apparently there is not much being done for children in Papua New Guinea outside the traditional schools our Church has always provided.
It’s not true! Thus far I have identified close to twenty (20) special Programs being carried out across PNG by Catholic individuals or organizations on behalf of disadvantaged and needy children. The plan is to allocate, on the website, a page or more to each of these activities and organizations. In addition, the website will also have a small space with contact information related to that particular organization or activity. People out there might be interested and wish to contact those concerned and even donate to support that activity. On the other hand, the primary purpose of the website will not be fundraising as such, but awareness. I have written to those in charge of the various projects asking for information: how did it start, the purpose, goal, vision/mission… plus as many photos as possible. We plan to update the website regularly with opportunities for everyone to send in new stories and photos of recent activities. Once this website is up and running all of us can make reference to it, where people can see what we are doing to help build a child-safe Papua New Guinea. And by the way, we also hope to eventually link the website with Facebook and Twitter so many more can see what God is doing in PNG!
Did you get any replies to your request?
Yes. They’re all coming in little by little and those who have responded seem very excited and enthused with the idea of a special Website! I am also having a special logo designed for the website. It will represent the care and dedication of Catholics all over PNG: helping children in need, feeding them, and sheltering them in a place of safety. And we’ve just created an acronym for Catholic Children’s Ministry PNG; it is “CATCH-ME.png” CAT=Catholic CH=Children’s ME=Ministry.png. It will be very meaningful for our prevention and rehabilitation programs: e.g. let’s “catch” these children before they get hurt; before it’s too late!
Are the current Catholic activities for children’s welfare well distributed around Papua New Guinea?
Yes, I would say so. They’re mostly present in the bigger cities though I am confident we will eventually find some meaningful programs in many smaller places as well. In Port Moresby, for example, we have Fr. John Glynn’s We care! Foundation (for Women and Children at Risk) and the Sacred Heart Brothers’Program, Save our Children and Youth (SOCAY). In Lae, Fr. Arnold Schmitt runs a Program for Street Children; in Mt. Hagen Mercy Works has the “Taxi Boys” Program. In Kundiawa Dr Fr Jan Jaworski, MD, has St. Bernadette’s Hospital School for school age patients. The ambulatory young patients attend classes every day; the bedridden one have the teachers come to their bedside. Callan Services operates in several dioceses caring for children who are differently abled. All over PNG through our Health Centres and VCTS, Sr. Tarcisia Hunhoff, ssps, directs the Mother to Child HIV/AIDS Transmission Prevention Program as well care for children affected and infected with HIV/AIDS; Fr. Valentine Gryk, SVD, from Goroka, directs the Missionary Childhood Program and the Missionaries of Charity in different parts of PNG are running a new Catechesis Program for Early Childhood aged children. Many of our parishes have Junior Legion of Mary Programs as well as Sunday School Programs for young children. One of our Catholic Secondary Schools has a Peer Education Program against HIV/AIDS called Warrior of Hope. Fifteen (15) of our dioceses have two or more Diocesan Child Protection Officers (DCPOs) who work tirelessly to educate the public on Lukautim Pikinini Act 2009, on Child Abuse and the Rights of Children. In the near future we shall be training some 600 Parish Child Protection Volunteers. They will help the DCPOs to educate the public and create in the local communities a protective environment for our children. On the drawing board for the Archdiocese of Mt Hagen is a new family home for abandoned and neglected children. What emerges from all this is a portrait of the “integrated human development” of the most vulnerable members of our society. The website will try to mirror to the world a bit of the good work being done in our Catholic Church for the children.
There is a lot going on, but there is a lot more to be done yet. For example, there is the alarmingly high number of abandoned babies in our hospitals and other health care facilities, the displaced victims of sorcery especially children, children with disabilities or mental health problems needing skilled caregivers, the Disaster Risk Reduction in high risk areas such as mining and primary industries and finally how to salvage from further harm the young children already engaged in the sex industry of Night Clubs in Port Moresby.
When are we going to be able to click on to the new website?
I’ll see how advanced we are with it by September, but no later than late October before I go on home leave until March 2015. (GL)