Since 2018, Palms participant Dr Charles Dufour has been in placement at Good Shepherd Seminary in Banz, Papua New Guinea, where he assists the staff and students’ grasp of philosophy. Charles recently had the good fortune of a Christmas break at his other home in Adelaide. He wasn’t so lucky on trying to return to PNG via Sydney! Ever the philosopher though, Charles reflects–
COVID-19 is a turning point for universal vision to re-address our health systems and for individuals to examine the socio-psychological dimension of human relationships. Our collective human relationship is to an extent permeated by the pandemic of the twenty-first century, Coronavirus. As we all know, some people have lost their loved ones, while others suffer the privation of illness in family members and friends, and more others are cautious and perhaps annoyed by the dynamic regulations that attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19, at the same time limiting our social life, affecting our consciousness, and heightening a sense of alertness in all spheres of life.
On 7 February, 2022, I was denied a flight to Papua New Guinea because I was not in possession of the so-called “Controller’s Approval”. What does this mean? It means that the government of Papua New Guinea did not authorise me to re-enter PNG despite my valid visa. In other words, all non- Papa New Guineans must make a new request for entry into Papua New Guinea and obtain permission from the Controller prior to travelling. Regardless of the type of one’s visa, everyone travelling to Papua New Guinea has to apply for “Controller’s Approval” and receive an authorisation letter to enter the country. As you can imagine, to receive the letter from the Controller that allows one to board the plane for Papua New Guinea, was a fait accompli. Such is the situation I faced on 7 February at Sydney airport.
I was denied boarding my flight PX2 to Port Moresby despite, my air ticket, visa, and efforts to obtain Controller’s Approval letter prior to my travelling date. I remained at Sydney airport in amazement, lost, and frightened as to where to go. As I sat down reflecting and emailing my Archbishop in Papua New Guinea and the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, I thought of Palms Australia since I am a member of this Wonderful Australian Voluntary Organisation. I then called them. Kevin Wilson responded. I explained to him that I was desperately in need of accommodation or else I was going to sleep in the street.
Palms promptly came to my rescue. Kevin met me in Sydney City and we made our way to Golden Grove B &B in Newtown, where I stayed for three nights. In the meantime, I was nervous because I still had not received the authorisation letter to re- enter Papua New Guinea and did not know how long it will take. On Thursday 10 February, the CEO of Palms Australia, Roger O’Halloran and his team found me a home to stay at the Seminary of The Good Shepherd. Roger himself fetched me from Golden Grove and dropped me at the Seminary of The Good Shepherd.
My time of anxiety and uncertainty was turned into fruitful time of grace and spiritual renewal. I met the Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, Rev Fr Michael de Stoop, the members of the Staff, the Seminarians, and the ancillary staff who were generous, prayerful, and joyful in many ways.
I regretted not travelling on 7 February as planned because I missed two weeks of lectures at the Seminary of The Good Shepherd. However, I rejoice that this opportunity during COVID-19 and its government regulations opened new horizons for friendship and healing. With the seminary community I shared the daily liturgical routine of Mass, Lauds, Exposition, Vespers, and of course stimulating discussion over delicious meals. I also managed to attend the local dentist in Homebush who extracted my tooth, which needed urgent attention. This tooth was a Root Canal earlier treated unsuccessfully in Papua New Guinea.
Thank you to Palms Australia, to Fr Michael of The Seminary of The Good Shepherd and Margaret of Golden Grove for showing me such great hospitality and generosity when I was in need.
Our pleasure! Charles is now safely again on his way to the other Good Shepherd Seminary in Banz, PNG, as we publish. Bon Voyage Charles! Thanks again to Golden Grove and Good Shepherd Homebush.