Catholic in Yanchep

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Remembering Two Precious Children, Lily and Dre Headland

Hero-ImageWritten in consultation with Lois May.

One year ago, on 20 October 2016, residents of Yanchep awoke to the shocking news of the callous murder of two local young children, Zaraiyah-Lily and Andreas “Dre” Headland, of the Golf Course Estate, Yanchep.  I was recently privileged to be invited to the one-year-on Memorial Service for Lily and Dre at their grandparents’ home in Wanneroo.

Without going into the details of this tragic event, which you can read about in the mainstream media, I would just like to share with you some of the positive impressions I came away with that day – and I say positive because where I had been expecting to feel quite depressed just thinking about the loss of these children’s lives, the atmosphere at their home was overwhelmingly warm, welcoming and altogether embracing of family, friends and invited guests.  Lois, the children’s step-grandmother, who works as an Aboriginal Cultural Officer for a community services agency, and her partner, Doug, and other family members had been hard at work for several weeks, preparing for this event.

Lois

Lois May welcoming family and friends.

Although I had never known the children during their short earthly lives, I was impressed with a sense of the reality and ordinariness of their all-too-brief lives by the presence of a row of childcare workers from Great Beginnings, where both Lily and Dre attended daycare, and two teachers from Lily’s school, Brighton Catholic Primary, as well, of course, as the cousins, aunties, uncles and extended family, several of whom got up to talk about the children and tell stories of their lives.

Lois recounted how Lily would teach her brother to pray, as she had been shown in school.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Thank you God for the day,
For our work and for our play.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Lily-and-Dre-Praying

Their cousin, Kyron, spoke about his pet names for the children: ‘Silly Lily’ and ‘Bully Boy’, and how Bully Boy would always try to boss him around.  Eric, an older cousin, sang, most movingly, a song he had written shortly after their deaths,

Sometimes I see them in my sleep
Then I wake up and weep,
Wishing they would come back to me,
so we can play happily.

Eric humbly describes himself in this video as having ‘the voice of an alpaca’, but who would care?  Better to have a real song, written in the rawness of tragedy, and sung a bit rough, than an impersonal one performed to perfection!  Even the presence of Nick and Val from next door (who make themselves useful by bringing in Lois and Doug’s bins!), added a simple homeliness to the proceedings that warmed my heart.  Lois, who led the service, made a point of acknowledging practically everyone present and describing how they had been involved with the children or supported the family.

Ann and her Angels from “Angel Hands” who were there for the day to do what they do best – volunteer their help to families that are experiencing tragedies such as this; these people themselves know what it is like to go through this amount of trauma as they have been though like scenarios.  Also present were the children’s older cousin, Keely, her mother and brother who had come from Broome, Keely’s boyfriend, Terick who had travelled all the way from One Arm Point in the Kimberley.  Isaac, Kevin, Sandy, Glenda, Rachel, Vicki … and more names than I had time to write down.

Even I was acknowledged –  I who didn’t know the children, but merely organised a prayer vigil and a Mass for them on the Sunday following their death.  And I can hardly take credit for that, for it was Phil Hickey, reporter for the Sunday Times, who had phoned me and asked, “So what is the Church doing for this family?”  And, of course, I haven’t yet mentioned those most affected, the children’s mother, Anatoria, and their big sister, Kayleesha, who were being heroically brave throughout the morning.  To them, I would say,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
(Psalms 34:18)

Anatoria-Alicia

Anatoria and Kayleesha Headland

But while I am thinking of that question: “What is the Church doing?” it strikes me that we could have helped this family more, had we been aware that they were in the area.  It’s easy to say, “If only, if only …” after the event, but tragedies like these should cause us to ask what we are doing to prevent a disaster like this from happening again.  At present, there is no structure in place to allow the sharing of information between Catholic Schools and Catholic Parishes, because of Privacy legislation.  All it would take, would be a simple extra check box on school enrolment forms which says, “We, the parents/guardians, agree that our contact details may be shared with the local Catholic Parish.”  This would then enable Parish outreach teams to visit local families and offer support, so we can actually be a church with the sort of Communio I was talking about last week.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start an outreach initiative called The Lily and Dre Project, so that we would know their deaths had not been in vain?

Lois is now raising funds for a headstone to honour the children.  If anyone would like to donate to help out, please send me a message and I’ll put you in touch with the family.  Apart from this, Lois has also rounded up the children’s school friends, childcare workers, friends and family, to paint remembrance tiles for a memorial wall in their garden to honour the children.

Finally, please pray for the healing of Anatoria, Kayleesha, Lois, Doug, their families and all those affected by this tragic loss.

20171020_102356

Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Officer, and James Danaher, Principal at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

Tiles

Tiles for the Memorial Wall.

Bradley-Barbuto-address

Bradley Barbuto, Indigenous Liaison Staff Member at Brighton Catholic Primary School.

In-Loving-Memory

Lily and Dre Headland, may God grant you eternal blessedness with him in Paradise.

Memorial wall

The memorial wall.

Grave-2

The grave showing the children’s Maori burial.

 


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A tribute to Fr Tiziano Bogoni

140818-Father-Tiziano-Bogoni-All-Saints-Chapel-2Have you ever had the experience of God sending you to exactly the right person at exactly the right time?  Fr Bogoni was someone God placed in my life in answer to prayer.  Living in the far Northern suburbs of Perth, I never had much occasion to attend All Saints Chapel in Allendale Square, and so I had never met this remarkable priest.

But in September of 2013, my husband, Bill, was diagnosed with only six months to live because of secondary lung cancer.  My most distressing thought was not that he was going to die (though that was distressing enough), but that he was to all appearances going to die without the benefit of the sacraments.  I was overcome by the thought that if Bill died without seeking the mercy of God through the Sacrament of Penance, and then receiving the Bread of Life through Holy Communion, he might not make it to heaven (no matter how good, kind and generous he had been in life).   Yes, I know – everyone thinks I make God sound so unkind if I suggest that a person might forfeit heaven by not aligning himself with Christ.  But I think eternal separation from God is a very real risk, and that is why Jesus warns about hell so many times.

It happened that the previous eighteen months had been such an unfortunate series of events that I was beginning to wonder if we were under some sort of curse:

  • my daughter rolled her car – she survived but the car was a write-off
  • Bill was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer
  • someone collided with Bill’s car while it was innocently parked outside our house
  • my daughter had appendicitis with major complications
  • Bill developed thrombocytopenia after his operation (unrelated to the cancer) and required a splenectomy
  • Bill was then hospitalised with a bowel blockage (unrelated to the cancer and the thrombocytopenia)
  • Bill developed gastric dumping syndrome so that he was continually exhausted
  • Bill’s fishing friend drowned right next to him while they were diving at their cray pots
  • my daughter rolled the car that had replaced the first car – another write-off
  • Bill was diagnosed with secondary lung cancer

Little wonder, then, that after reading An Exorcist tells his Story by Fr Gabriele Amorth, I started wondering if we needed an exorcist and not just a healer.  So I phoned up the Perth Archdiocese and asked if we had one.  The dear lady at the office said, her voice dropping to a hushed whisper, that there was someone who normally dealt with ‘those sort of things’ and gave me the contact details for Fr Tiziano Bogoni.  So I wrote him a long letter and asked him if he had any thoughts on our series of unfortunate events.

I didn’t hear from him for several days, and thought that he had probably decided I was a nutter.  But then I received a text:  “Ave Maria.  Deirdre my apologies I forgot to say Fr Bogoni asked me to give you his mobile no in case you need to contact him while he’s away until 30th Nov.  Many thanks and God bless, Margaret, All Saints Chapel.”

Thus began a period when Fr Bogoni became my spiritual director and helped me navigate Bill through his last months.  And what a beautiful and unexpected chapel it was, hidden away among offices and corporate suites, with prominent place being given to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament throughout office hours, Holy Mass and Rosary twice a day as well as daily Divine Mercy devotions, and the cheerful statues of saints surrounding us with their comforting protection on all sides.

I told him how Bill found Catholicism really difficult as a result of his experience of physical abuse at the Catholic school of his youth.  I explained that it was impossible except by the grace of God to get Bill to want to come back to Mass or spend time examining his conscience.  He said, “See if you can get him to come and talk to me.  I will give him a Life Confession.  That’s a confession for those who have been away from the Church for decades and find normal Confession too much of a challenge.  I’ll read out a list of sins, and all he has to do is say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  Keep it simple.”

And of course, he gave me a strict schedule of prayer as well as a recommended course of reading.

It was something of a miracle that Bill eventually agreed to go (I asked for it as my Christmas present).  And after this he started attending Mass with us and receiving the Holy Eucharist.  Not only did Father Bogoni hear Bill’s confession, but he also drove all the way to Two Rocks, despite his crowded schedule, to give Bill the Last Rites and bless our house.  (And, by the way, he said there was no evidence whatsoever of demonic activity.)  I can only assume all the difficulties we had experienced were God’s way of driving us in the direction of someone who would help Bill end his life in a right relationship with God.

Fr Bogoni died last week, suddenly at the age of 51, with a Rosary in his hand.  How fitting that God should choose to take him suddenly, just like the way he would burst in suddenly through the chapel door as he went about his busy pastoral duties, in those sandals that flap-flapped across the floor.  And how fitting that God should take him home on the feast of Divine Mercy.  I was going to say, ‘his work done’, but no, I can see him being even more busy in Heaven, still interceding for those souls he helped so much on earth.

So thank you, Fr Bogoni.  Thank you for seeing what needed to be done, and doing it.  May God give you a great reward, good and faithful servant!  And please say hello to Bill while you’re there!