Desert flight opens faith mystery

A breath-taking flight across the desert wilderness west of Alice Springs opened Jesuit Father Brian McCoy’s imagination to a life-changing journey of mystery with the Aboriginal people of Australia.

Fr McCoy, now the Australian Jesuits’ provincial superior, was on his way to a mission in 1973, when he first left Melbourne.

Former Bishop of Broome Bishop John Jobst was his pilot for the 850km journey.

“It was my first experience of the vastness – because we flew for hours in a single-engine plane – the vastness of this land which seemed to be so quiet, so expansive, so mysterious,” Fr McCoy said as he addressed Brisbane’s latest Assembly of Catholic Professionals lunch at the Hilton Hotel on August 27.

“And so, since that time and my time in other parts of Australia, coming to see the vitality of the land, coming to appreciate the land that we need to do when we get out of our cities, has really made an impact on me.

“I’ve been to Lake Mungo (in south-west NSW) three times. There the land discloses human life of thousands of years old.

“Mystery is ancient in this land and the Aboriginal people have shown me that we are drawn into the sense of God’s Creation through them.”

Fr McCoy said he had often travelled with Aboriginal people in the Western Desert of central Australia “doing ceremony with them, being introduced to the mystery of the land”.

“And at times at night I’d sit with the men after we’d gone hunting and as the stars came out they would tell me the story of the stars of the sky,” he said.

“If you ever want to know something of the mystery of the land we need to go into it.

“So, for me, my engagement with the land was part of what has deepened my sense of God’s creative love for me and my relationship with the whole of this land that I belong to.”

Fr McCoy’s talk was on Ignatian spirituality, and he said Indigenous people had enriched his life and helped him deepen his understanding of the spirituality of the Jesuits’ founder St Ignatius of Loyola.

“If we see our life and all Creation as being in relationship with God, not only can we be invited more deeply into a personal relationship with the God who creates us in love, but also our relationship with all of Creation,” he said.

The next ACP lunch will be held at the Hilton Hotel on October 29 with Professor Tracey Rowland, an Australian theologian Pope Francis appointed to the International Theological Commission, as guest speaker.

To book for the lunch or join the Assembly of Catholic Professionals go to www.catholicfoundation.org.au

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