Catholic sacrament engaging with Wadeye ritual

  • Robyn Anne Reynolds

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis contains names and photographs of some Wadeye people who are now deceased. Care should be taken to avoid offence and to prevent distress to relatives.

    Readers are advised that much of the previously published material cited in this thesis, especially Professor W.E.H.Stanner's work, is deemed secret and sacred by indigenous Australians, and particularly by the people of Wadeye. This readily available material, along with considerable new material, is presented here for scholarly purposes only, and in the hope of ultimately serving the interests of the Wadeye community.

    In compliance with the wishes of the community, description of the Merrk Women's ceremony (chapter eight), has been placed on restricted access. Permission to examine this material requires agreement from the author and/or the Murrinhpatha women elders.

    The thesis argues that something of life's meaning for the Wadeye is understood and expressed through initiation rituals which include and incorporate the Wadeye Baptism. The unique Wadeye expression of liturgical inculturation examined in the thesis, demonstrates a crosscultural religious encounter, manifesting creative attempts to hold on to traditional religious ceremony, while embracing Catholic faith and worship. With the impact of Western and Christian contact, major changes haveoccurred in the cultural and religious lives of the Wadeye people. A concern is that even sacramental inculturation, such as that described in the Wadeye Baptism, could reveal or foster new forms of religious imposition. The thesis argues that for a vital and effective religious encounter to be sustained, issues of authority, gender and change need to be carefully addressed.

    Leadership has been a key issue in the shaping and the implementation of Wadeye Catholic ritual. The data demonstrates how the role of the senior women in particular, is ensuring and promoting the cultural and religious life of the community. Recognition and acceptance by the institutional church, of exisiting and strengthening indigenous leadership, is emerging as a critical factor for the local church. Ways are considered in which the inter-cultural and inter-religious encounter holds out both a warning and a challenge to the Australian churches and in fact to the wider community of nations. Whereas dominating and manipulative control prevents transformation, shared leadership, partnership and authority properly exercised, can be seen to serve and build up the religious life of the community.

    The story of the special Easter Baptism and of the inter-religious engagement at Wadeye, is an evolving one. It is the story of the interaction between the Wadeye people and the Catholic church. The Wadeye Baptism provides a 'snapshot' of one time and place, that gives important indicators as to the nature of the engagement. But beyond the frame are other stories like Mulinthins vision, the hovering spirit of Muthingka., Darrananthi's fire, and the missionaries' dreams. It is in this wider picture of extended relationships and contexts, that the Wadeye Baptism belongs. The thesis argues that 'Catholic sacrament engaging with Wadeye ritual' has occurred and will survive only through determined and constant efforts towards the very act of the on-going engagement between the diverse religious and cultural groups.
    Date of Award1999
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSuzanne Parry (Supervisor) & Paul Black (Supervisor)

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