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Vicar's Musings for New Guinea Martyrs

2 September, 2018

Today we commemorate the New Guinea Martyrs, twelve women and men who lost their lives during the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea in 1942. These brave Anglicans who chose to stay at their mission-posts were from PNG, England and Australia, and are among the more than three hundred Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and other church workers who lost their lives during the conflict there.

This year, our commemorations coincide fittingly with the book launch of Susan Sherson's biography A Daring Woman: The Story of Sister Jean Henderson, MBE (Melbourne: Morning Star, 2018). Jean Henderson, a long-time parishioner of St Peter's, had dreamt as a girl of becoming a mission nurse in PNG. The 'War in the Pacific' formed the backdrop to Jean's training as a nurse, and the martyrdom of the two mission nurses, May Hayman and Margery Brenchley, and the others had a profound impact on her. At the 1945-46 ABM Summer School Jean was commissioned for service in PNG, where she was to minister tirelessly for the next thirty years. Around the time of her return to Australia, Jean struck up a friendship with another nurse and St Peterite, Joyce Newton, and in 1992 the two famously established the ministry we now call The Lazarus Centre, which serves 50-80 breakfasts each day of the year to those experiencing homlessness. Jean died on 1st July 2011, and after a Requiem Mass at St Peter's her ashes were laid to rest beneath the High Altar.

The Presiding Bishop at today's special High Mass is the Rt Rev'd Jeremy Ashton, a friend of Jean's, who himself served in Papua New Guinea, and in May this year celebrated 42 years since his episcopal consecration. Rather than a sermon at the 11am service, I have invited a panel to speak briefly about both Jean and the New Guinea Martyrs: the author of Jean's biography, Susan Sherson; journalist and friend of Jean's who delivered her Eulogie, Rowan Callick; and Sr Avrill CHN who also served in PNG and was a parishioner with Jean here at The Hill. After Mass all are warmly invited to the Hall for a light lunch, at which Prof. Graham Brown AM will launch Susan's book.

In closing, a prayer from the Diocese of Papua New Guinea Prayerbook (1975):
Father, we thank you for your martyrs of Papua New Guinea; they obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ to take up the cross and follow him, and so they glorified you by their deaths. May their witness and their prayers make strong your Church in this land: and may we, your servants today, follow their example of faithfulness and courage, work for your kingdom, and be joined with them forever: through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord who lives and rules with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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