Palms Pioneer, Pat: A life committed to making a difference

Palms Pioneer, Pat: A life committed to making a difference

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 community 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 work he had done in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  Soon after (in 1961) Roy Boylan, the Director of the Paulian Association, called a meeting of interested  people with the idea of forming PALMS (Paulian Association Lay Missionary Secretariat). 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 in Kokopo, the capital of East New Britain, PNG and replaced Annette Parker who was due to return to Australia. She was warmly welcomed and accommodated in a house behind the OLSH convent where she lived alone for several months before others imbued with a similar mission joined her. 

Pat enjoyed managing office accounts, and especially enjoyed supervising the evening meal and joining in the Rosary at the Girls High School.  In the early days females were not allowed to drive the vehicles, however that idea was soon changed when she was unable to find a male driver to do the banking run. 

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.  She completed teacher training at the Catholic Teachers College, North Sydney.  After then teaching for 32 years in Josephite schools, mostly in multi-cultural context, she came to retirement with plenty still to offer.

Pat’s experiences in PNG and her witness of the lives of the OLSH and Josephite nuns had given example to a life of dedication.  In 2000 Pat established a pastoral care group in her parish called Gabbies Sewing Angels.  She still coordinates men and women, aged 40 to 90, from a variety of cultural backgrounds, who make garments (currently 8000 plus items per year) for the needy, both in Australia and overseas.

Pat also remains a strong supporter of Palms and is currently part of the Steering Group planning Palms 60 Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

The life of a participant in the Palms’ program is very different today.  However, it still offers a significant challenge that assists one to grow an authentic understanding and cooperate with those with whom we share this delicate planet.

You too can reach beyond by sharing your skills and expertise with an overseas community or supporting those who do.  We are preparing applicants now for departure to placements later this year or early next.  Check out current placement opportunities here and register for our July pre-placement Orientation Course here.