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Southern Cross | living catholic
The Southern Cross continues its Living Catholic page which features articles and photographs highlighting the many good works that often go unnoticed but
make a big difference to people’s lives and to the community in general. Parishes are invited to submit suggestions for stories that demonstrate in a
practical sense Living Catholic. Please send an email to email@example.com.
South Sudanese refugee Clement
Kuek shares his migration journey
with Rebecca DiGirolamo this
month as part of a series on
how faith has played a role in the
lives of South Australian Catholic
migrants to commemorate the
100th anniversary of Migrant and
Not even a beating could stop Clement
Kuek from attending Sunday morning Mass
at a refugee camp where he was one of
1000 boys separated from their families or
orphaned by the civil war in Sudan.
“Going to Mass made me feel happy,” he
says. “And I knew the caning would only
last for a minute but the joy of going to
Mass lasted much longer.”
He was nine years old at the time.
Clement recalls one of the rules of
the Ethiopian refugee camp was that
unaccompanied children were not
permitted to leave the minor facility. But, he
says, Mass was held in the major section
of the camp every Sunday at 11am. The
penalty for absconding was 10 lashes with
He spent three months walking to the camp
in Ethiopia after his village of Mathiangdit
in the province of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal
was repeatedly burnt down by militia in
1987. He became separated from his
family as the panicked villagers ran for
their lives. “I was upset and crying all the
time because I missed my parents,” says
Clement, now 33.
Clement migrated to Australia in 2003 and
works with the Adelaide Archdiocese to
support the African Catholic community.
A catechist in South Sudan and in Kenya,
Clement was happy to take up a similar
He says his work with the African Catholic
community in Adelaide has involved a deep
respect for its diverse range of nationalities,
traditions and cultures.
He founded the Dinka Ethnic School
in Adelaide after quickly realising the
damaging linguistic and cultural divide
emerging between South Sudanese youth,
who spoke little or no Dinka, and their
non-English speaking parents. He has
supported youth to keep in touch with
their faith through: catechesis, liturgical
and general leadership, sacramental
preparation, pastoral visits, and acting
as an extraordinary minister of Holy
Communion at the Cathedral for the African
Catholic community’s weekly Mass. He
also took up weekly classes to help Dinka
women prepare for their driving licence
“I love working with people and having a
connection with the community,” he says.
“It is a way of giving something back to
the community and giving something back
to God. Serving God means serving the
He says there are many from the Sudanese
Community who need support. “They need
people who will listen to them, be with
them, support them and encourage them
and help them develop their skills so that
they can become leaders.”
His own journey to Australia has not been
an easy one, nor has his first few years
living as a migrant in Adelaide.
“I applied for 425 jobs from 2006 to 2012,”
says Clement. After arriving in Adelaide he
immediately set about gaining his Year 12
qualifications and later graduated with an
International Studies degree, a diploma
and two post graduate degrees in a bid to
Before arriving in Australia, he declined
a visa to settle in the United States and
chose to remain in Sudan to try and locate
his family, whom he hoped were still alive.
He had sent numerous letters to the Red
Cross in Sudan, however their efforts to
locate his family failed. He was studying
at a school in Nairobi at the time, through
a scholarship from the Dominican Sisters
who urged him to migrate to Australia.
After some discernment, he decided
Australia would give him the chance to
gain an education to give back to his
community. It is a vow he keeps to this day.
“I promised to be there for the community
and that’s what I am doing and that’s why
I continue to still make that promise,” he
Clement has also been able to track down
his surviving family members. His father,
brother and sister were killed in 1998,
however his mother is still alive and living
not far from their village. Clement plans to
return to Sudan next year. It will be the first
time he has seen his mother in 24 years.
They have spoken by phone.
“She cries every time we speak,” he said.
Adelaide husband and wife team John and
Margarita McMahon have reason to thank a
national Catholic lay movement supporting
men, women and children.
John was the national mission director of
Couples for Christ Australia (CFCA) when
his wife of 43 years passed away suddenly.
Margarita was the Victorian representative
for the Handmaids of the Lord, a ministry of
CFCA, following the unexpected death of
The two married in Melbourne in 2007.
The wedding was attended by members
of the Handmaids of the Lord from Victoria
and CFCA members from South Australia,
Victoria and New South Wales. Margarita
has been the SA representative of the
Handmaids since then.
“Our story does give people hope,” says
Last month she spoke at the national
conference of the Handmaids of the Lord,
held in Adelaide, on living a Christian life in
the modern world. More than 160 women
from across Australia attended the three-
day conference to share their experience of
Margarita says the group was a blessing to
her following the death of her 34-year-old
husband in 1997. Overnight she became a
single mother to her children aged one and
‘’It was a very difficult and painful time for
me,” she says. “At the time, I asked God
‘’I was grieving and crying almost every
day for six months and then I stopped and
said: ‘what am I doing; if I’m not going to
be strong for my two children what will
happen to them?’ and I just snapped out
of it. It was really the Holy Spirit giving me
The Handmaids of the Lord is a women’s
ministry formed in Australia in 1993 to
support widows and women who are
separated, divorced, unmarried and
married whose partners are not members
of the CFCA.
“Just by listening to the stories of the
Handmaids, I knew I was not alone and
that there were so many more women out
there experiencing bigger problems than
mine,” says Margarita.
John says the Handmaids of the Lord is
as relevant today as it was in 1994 when it
was formed in South Australia.
“The Handmaids of the Lord give women
a chance to integrate and gain support
from people who share the same faith
background,” says John, the current cluster
head of CFCA in South Australia.
“There was a great need and there still is
a great need to support women and their
For more information on the Handmaids
of the Lord in South Australia, contact
Margarita McMahon on 0407 836 460. For
information on Couples for Christ Australia,
or their ministries for youth, children and
singles, visit www.cfcaustralia.org.
Meanwhile the CFCA will be sponsoring a
parish retreat for seven consecutive Fridays
from October 10 to November 14 at
St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral Parish Hall
from 9pm. All are welcome to attend.
HAPPY FIND: Adelaide couple Margarita
and John McMahon were both members
of Couples for Christ when their spouses
suddenly passed away, leaving them
widowers with children.
All thanks to the Lord
GIFT OF MIGRATION: Archdiocesan African support officer Clement Kuek reflects
on his journey to Australia after attending the celebrations for the 100th Migrant
and Refugee Sunday last month.
Photo: Ben Macmahon
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