Alice Springs Catholic parish, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, has received a wonderful addition in the form of a new stained glass window, which celebrates the blending of Catholic and Indigenous beliefs, to pay homage to its many Aboriginal parishioners.
Commissioned by the community of Catholic elders of Central Australia, with support from the OLSH parish and parish priest Fr Asaeli Raass SVD, the work was created by local eastern Arrernte artist Kathleen Wallace and is called ‘Urtakwerte Atywerrenge Anthurre’, meaning ‘Very Sacred Heart’.
Ms Wallace was 13 years-old when she started at Santa Teresa where she was taught the Bible. “When I went to Santa Teresa, nuns taught me the Bible. When I came to Santa Teresa I couldn’t speak English — I learned it there,” she said.
“[Catholicism and my family’s traditional beliefs] are similar — it wasn’t hard for me.
“My grandfather, through his ancestors was given a dream of three circles. The circles are Arrenge, Akngeye and Utnenge – grandfather, father and totem spirit.
“I realised later when the Sisters of the Sacred Heart read to us from the Bible, it was like the Trinity, Father our creator, Son and Holy Spirit”.
The Urtakwerte Atywerrenge Anthurre window has been dedicated to the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart began their mission in Central Australia in 1929 and continued their work until 2007, when the Missionaries of the Divine Word answered the call from the Bishop of Darwin to live, work and minister with the communities of Central Australia.
Fr Raass said Ms Wallace “was asked to paint freely her understanding of Mary as our Mother and her relationship with Jesus”.
“I’ve worked in Central Australia for 11 years, this is a very significant work of art for tourists and others to behold.
“It is a humble attempt at reconciliation and ‘interfaith’ dialogue between Western Catholicism and First Nations Catholicism,” he said.
“This is a work of art displaying Mary the Mother of God as our patron from an Arrernte world view.
“It’s exciting, I’m so happy today — I hope that all Catholics consider this church a home.”