Railaco – Our Sister Parish in East Timor


To view the most recent posts, please scroll down to the foot of this blog post.

Kids IMG_5160 - Version 5

While the wider Jesuit community is ‘nation-building’, we at St Canice’s have been making what is seen by the people in Railaco as a monumental commitment to their welfare, healthcare, nutrition, and educational needs of their children since 2004, and we are committed to continue.

We would like you, our St Canice’s Community, to better understand the activities in Railaco that are supported by your generosity.

You might like to read extracts from a visit to Railaco of two of our parishioners who accompanied Father Steve in 2009.

Railaco Church seen from the school

Railaco Church seen from the school

Photo Album: Around the Jesuit Mission in Railaco

Video: 30 secs. Travelling with Jesuit Father Bong to say Mass at Raiaco-Leten, one of 17 Chapel Communities that he visits. Click here.

2009 – The Railaco ‘Feeding Program’ and ‘Mobile Medical Clinic’

On our first morning in Railaco, we take off with Cristina and Judith to deliver a nutritious meal to children in the mountain villages of Cocoa and Cattarehei. I’m tantalised all the way over the rough roads by the smell of what’s swilling in the large pots. Bamboo and bananas give a touch of the tropics in what is very much a dry, Australian-type mountain landscape covered in Eucalyptus trees.

The warmth and welcome we receive on arrival at the little gathering place on the edge of a green playing area in Cattarehei is difficult to convey in words. Children in wide-eyed innocence and even wider smiles nod their head, bow and kiss the back of my hand as a sign of respect for their ‘elder’. The children’s ages range from eight months to nine years and they’ve come to rely on this food program three times a week. Children come with clean plates and spoons which Bong and others have taught them is better than using their hands.

Before dishing out the rice and chicken with beans, choko, carrots and potato in a soy liquid, the children sing for us. A worn-out mother of nine, but nonetheless impassioned, expresses her thanks for all that St Canice’s is doing for her children and for others who are there who do not have parents. The usual shyness seems to evaporate suddenly and all the children sing and clap for us!

Photo Album: Jesuit Mission Feeding Program

Mobile Feeding Program for Children

Mobile Feeding Program for Children

The Feeding Program IMG_5127

The sight of so many happy and well behaved kids of all ages lining up with tin plates in hand is very moving. They obviously love the meal served to them from the back of the 4WD. It is so touching to see some, as young as five, already with the responsibility for looking after a younger sibling, carrying and feeding the younger. Brother Dino was the hero when he showed them the new soccer ball and frisbee we brought along with us. Steve and Duncan gave the demonstration of throwing this weird-looking plastic disc and running all over the grass trying to catch it. The kids soon showed ‘em how.

Next stop was further along the mountain ridge to the village of Cocoa. Driving up a steep hill with the church perched on top and horn tooting to announce our arrival, children with their tin plates, plastic bowls and spoons come running from all directions. Father Sami explained yesterday that these Timorese people are ‘Austranesian’, a mix of people from Portugal, Macau, India and China, many with black kinky hair.

In this village, knowing that Father Steve was coming to pay a visit, savvy senior members of the local community come to meet him. Like a ‘Town Hall’ meeting they raise some very basic needs. ‘No water’ is the main issue. Here we have a village that is is so clean and tidy – but a bush fire has melted the PVC water line from further up the hill. They can articulate very well and know exactly where they would take water, and where they would locate a single tank for all to use. How can you refuse?

Collecting water for home before going to school

Water supply for essential use is still a challenge that is not being met by government up here in some villages in the mountains. Also, closer to home, our Health Clinic and Secondary school at Railaco still have need for a piped, ‘continuous’ running water supply. Our water is piped from a stream higher up and held in a tank. When Sister Rita tells me there are times that she can’t allow the 200 students to come to school because there is no water for the toilets. God help us!

The Railaco ‘Feeding Program’ for 80 children is produced at a cost of just $400 a month. Amateurs like Duncan and I can’t see why funding can’t be found to make this a daily meal, and also to improve it with better quality ingredients and perhaps more nutrition.

Our special thanks has to go to the untiring workers who make the food and deliver it across such rough terrain. Their smiles are nearly as big as the kids receiving the meals. In turn, they are very grateful to the parishioners of St Canice’s. Let’s keep it up.

‘Mobile Medical Clinic’

Mild-mannered Father Bong was educated in a Jesuit High School in the Philippines but followed a friend into the Dominican Medical University. On graduating, his need ‘for service’ saw him join the Jesuits again and become a priest.

'Preparing the pills before going to the hills

‘Preparing the pills before going to the hills

Mobile clinic 37
Bong has been running the Jesuit Railaco Mission since 2004 and in addition to his pastoral duties, he serves nine remote areas in the mountains with a mobile medical clinic. The average family has 8-10 children and the rate of infant mortality and morbidity is high. During the Indonesian oppression, the church was their only refuge. Such a strong bond and trust remains.

2009 – The Railaco Secondary School

In Railaco itself, St Canice’s supports a secondary school of 200 students. This number is growing. Children walk up to 2 hours each day, morning and night to attend school. Some students who are in their 20’s are taking the opportunity to finish their interrupted education.

Photo Album: A Visit to the Secondary School

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Sister Rita, an AFL and Cricket-mad Australian is a retired secondary school principal from the Order of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She runs the school with a staff of local Timorese teachers. Recently, Brother Dino, a 7th year Jesuit in training has been appointed for two years to run the English language Club and to teach Religion. We visited on the last day of the Public exams for 60 final year students and were royally welcomed with procession and singing.

On the following day, Sister Rita devoted the full day to interviewing 77 graduating students from the surrounding areas who wanted to lodge applications for university scholarships. Regretably, funding and places are limited. So many will move to Dili to seek improvement but they risk becoming impatient, frustrated and even angry. There are so few jobs let alone places in University. The young people are also aware that the country is sitting on massive oil reserves, none of which appears to be filtering down to the benefit of the people. This is a potential trigger for trouble.

Sister Rita and Father Steve

Sister Rita and Father Steve

Many graduates aspire to office jobs because they see that as ‘status’ (The Portuguese colonisers were all sitting in an office!) A greater awareness of trades and other jobs would alleviate the issue. In many countries, the tourism industry is a major employer, but wider range tourism remains a long way off in Timor-Leste until essential infrastructure – hotels, transportation, roads, toilets at beaches etc improve.




VIDEO – 2013 – 10 Years On

Secondary School 2014

Click here to read the most recent story of our school.

During his recent visit to East Timor, Jesuit Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas  visited our Secondary School in Railaco, where he devoted time greeting all the classes one by one.

During his recent visit to East Timor, Jesuit Fr. General Adolfo Nicolas visited our Secondary School in Railaco, where he devoted time greeting all the classes one by one.

We invite you to DONATE
EVERY CENT you give to us goes through Jesuit Mission to our sister parish in East Timor to feed a child, educate a teenager in our Jesuit Secondary School, or provide medical services to villagers in remote mountain locations. On behalf of those many young people and families, we thank you.

Click here for easy steps to donate online. Thank you.

Watch this video to understand better the genesis of the relationship between St Canice’s and Railaco Jesuit Mission. For full screen viewing, please click on frame in bottom right of video.

This video from 2010 describes earlier days of our involvement with the people of Railaco of our sister parish in East Timor. It not only provides insight into conditions in the Railaco environment, but also shows how the people of the Jesuit Mission are working in conjunction with the local people; helping them to find solutions; and creating them as ‘agents of change’.

The story of the Jesuit Mission in Railaco can be tracked in the series of “Letters from Railaco”.
Click here to read.

15 April 2016
LETTER FROM FR ROBERTO BOHOLST SJ as he departs from the Secondary School
We at St Canice’s wish Fr Bert every success in his new responsibilities as Education Delegate for East Timor Jesuits and for the new St Ignatius Secondary School in Kasait. During his three years at Railaco Mission , Fr Bert has developed not only the students at the Secondary School a but has inspired the teachers to higher ideals. Read about it in this post.
We welcome our long-time friend Fr Bong who now assumes additional responsibilities for fostering the Ignatian nature of the Railaco Secondary School, in addition to his works with the Mobile Medical Clinic and the Children’s Feeding Programme.

Click here to read.

24th May 2017

Click here to read a message from Fr Joaquim Sarmento SJ, the Jesuits’ new Regional
Superior in Timor-Leste


St Canice’s KingsCross Sydney has enjoyed a sister parish relationship with Railaco Mission in East Timor for the past thirteen years.

As we nourish our parish, we colour Timor’s future!” Our accompaniment allows Railaco’s marginalised families to grow in community, opportunity and hope. Our impact extends far beyond a simple nutritious meal, a medical check-up, and a class in school; we are allowing Railaco villagers to lead better lives now and for generations in the future.
Our ongoing involvement keeps us aware; it reminds us of our privilege; and gives us the opportunity to gain in a spiritual way. Our life is enriched by the work that is done there!

Parishioner Michael Musgrave, our lead Ambassador to Railaco, recently made his third visit to Timor. He was looking for answers to other questions that impact Australians attitudes towards East Timor today to better inform himself, and in turn to share with fellow Canice parishioners.

Michael says, “When chatting with potential donors, I’m often asked ‘Why East Timor? Don’t we have enough needy people here at home to worry about?’; and ‘What is life really like up there in the villages?’
While living day-to-day with the Jesuits for ten days, answers to these and other questions evolved. My goal for the trip was primarily to gather new information about the kids, the school, and the mothers whom we help, and then to make a video to share with you.

As the days rolled on, I became conscious of a burning inner desire to share more of what I was learning.
I was hoping that with a little more awareness, more of us here at St Canice’s might be motivated to ‘climb on board’, to become ‘sowers of seed’, and become actively involved in raising funds to enable those on the front lines, to continue with their service to the poor.

It may be a little ‘tongue in cheek’, but I labeled my report: ‘The First Letter of Michael to the Caniceians’.”

The actual report can be read on the parish webpage. PLEASE CLICK HERE

First Letter from Michael -cover to report


Jesuit Mission in Railaco – Road to the future from Jesuit Mission on Vimeo.

Mobile Medical Clinic – 28th February 2018
The mobile medical clinic is a healthcare program run by Jesuit mission in Timor-Leste, and supported by St Canice’s Jesuit parish in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. It covers eleven areas in the districts of Ermera and Liquica. It’s primarily managed by Filipino Jesuit Father Antonio Martins Abad-Santos. Every year it offers medical care to more than 5000 people.
Read this article from UCANEWS.
View 3-minute illuminating video:

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Thankfully, Jesuits working on the frontiers are trustworthy and use every dollar caringly. Thank you for your ongoing generosity. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE ONLINE NOW and select Campaign: ‘St Canice’s Railaco Project’