East Timor: SSpS History and Missionary Life
Continuing our missionary journey through the different countries where the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit carry out their mission, we arrived in East Timor.
East Timor, independent since 2002, is one of the world’s newest countries. After facing war with Portugal, which colonized it for 450 years, and Indonesia, which annexed it in 1975, the Sisters have put down roots in the country, helping it to rebuild. The SSpS Province is dedicated to Mary Queen of Peace.
A Glimpse of the History
On 20 December 1975, with the company of a diocesan priest, Fr. Edmundus, Sr. Maria Dolorosa, Sr. Maria Christofora, and Sr. Regelinde traveled by car from Halilulik, Indonesia to Oecusse. It was during the wet season and the road was unpaved and muddy, therefore their car was bogged a number of times during their trip. They had to stay overnight in Kefamenanu which is part of Indonesia.
On 22 December 1975, the sisters continued their trip to Oecusse, East Timor with the SSpS car driven by Sr Marselin, who is now in the retirement house in Uden, the Netherlands. Thank you very much to all our pioneers. The remote places that are part of the province can be seen on the map.
Map: Current presence of SSpS missionaries in East Timor
With the arrival of the pioneers, the SSpS started its mission in Oecusse, in the convent of the Dominican Sisters, which was abandoned during the 1975 war against the Portuguese who colonized the country for 450 years. They stayed there until 1999 when the war broke out against Indonesia. The SSpS Sisters took refuge in Indonesia and the Dominican Convent was damaged.
After the war, we and the Dominican Sisters returned to Oecusse and the local government decided to repair the convent and return it to the Dominicans. In 2007, for a number of reasons and after going through a discernment process, the SSpS left the mission in Oecusse and started a new community and ministry in Atabae.
In 2004, after a long journey from our humble beginning in East Timor, we became a Region and in the year 2021, we became a Province and elected the first Provincial and Council members for the period of 2021 -2024.
The first Provincial Leadership Team of East Timor.
The SSpS East Timor Province currently has 12 communities. Each community has its own particular work of mission, especially in the following areas: Social work, Pastoral care, Health, Education, and work in collaboration with the local church, government, and national and international NGOs.
The SSpS Primary school in Atabae is one of the examples of the work of the sisters in the Education area.
Another area of the sisters’ mission work is Health Care: In the following picture, the sisters are carrying out their health service to the people of TL.
In order to foster a spiritual life and faith both for the sisters and the people they serve, the sisters are also involved actively in the Bible sharing with our lay partners (group of Holy Spirit Family). In the picture bellow, the sisters are taking part in the Bible Sharing.
In the area of Social Justice, the sisters are engaged in the activity of socialisation and providing shelter for women and children who experience domestic violence.
In the picture below, Sr. Santina Imaculada de Oliveira is giving a talk and seminar to the victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, etc.
The seminar given is non-formal education for women. They are given practical training and skills for domestic and household life such as cooking and sewing. While doing their training, they are also given opportunities to share their feelings and their personal issues so that they can solve their problems.
The sisters in Maliana Community work with the dropout girls, training them in sewing, cooking and cleaning.
In relation to communication with society in general, the sisters are also building a network with the government and with the local & international agencies/NGOs. They also work with JPIC, VNR, etc.
The picture below shows one of the examples of the sisters’ work and collaboration with the local government.
In the area of Health Care for people, the sisters are also helping people with HIV/AIDS by providing shelter for them.
There are also many other mission activities in which the sisters are involved. This is just a glimpse of our missionary life and the people we serve in our missionary work and service, both in our SSpS communities and in society at large.
Sr. Maria Lucia dos Santos, SSpS