By Robert Reynolds – Palms Project Assistant
In the mid 1960’s, Patricia Will was one of the early participants to take on an overseas placement with Palms. She had previously been interested in missionary work within Australia and had travelled through the Centre of Australia with other like-minded people, Annette Parker and Mary Gilchrist, who both went on to work on the Palms Committee and take up overseas voluntary positions. At the time Mary and Pat were members of the Paulian Association.
In the meantime Pat met Jack Walsh (Palms’ first President) at an Irish dance and heard about some of the lay missionary work he had done in Papua New Guinea. Soon after Roy Boland, the Director of the Paulian Association, called a meeting of interested lay people with the idea of forming the first lay missionary group, hence PALMS (Paulian Association Lay Missionary Secretariat) was born in 1961. Over the next two years Pat held various positions on the Palms committee and finally accepted an administrative placement in PNG.
Pat went to the Vunapope Mission, Kokopo, Rabaul, New Britain and replaced Annette Parker who was due to return to Australia. She was warmly welcomed and was allocated a house behind the OLSH convent where she lived alone for several months before more lay missionaries began to arrive.
She enjoyed her work managing the accounts in the Mission Office and especially supervising the evening meal and Rosary at the Girls High School. In the early days females were not allowed to drive Mission vehicles however that idea was soon changed when she frequently was unable to find a male driver to do the banking run at nearby Kokopo.
When Pat returned home and took up her old position again she noticed the great contrast of life compared to PNG and within 6 months decided to change her focus on life and commence teacher training at the Catholic Teachers College, North Sydney.
After teaching for 32 years in Josephite schools, mostly in multi-cultural context, retirement was the next step in life. The dedicated lives of the OLSH and Josephite nuns and her experiences in PNG certainly had an influence on Pat, and so what to do in retirement.
In 2000 she established a pastoral care group called Gabbies Sewing Angels in her parish. This group of multi-cultural males and female aged between 40 and 90 who have made garments, currently 8000 plus items per year for the needy both in Australia and overseas.
She remains a strong supporter of Palms and is currently a part of the Steering Group which is planning our Palms 60 Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2020 and 2021.
If you feel a commitment to making a difference by sharing your own skills and expertise with an overseas community, as well as learning and growing from a cross-cultural experience, you can check out the current placement opportunities on the Palms website and register your interest in applying. We are currently taking applications for placements in 2021 and beyond and will be offering a pre-placement Orientation Course in July 2021.