Stories from the Synod: Jennifer Rumbel

As a Kamilaroi woman I wish to begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we are gathered today, the Awabakal people and to pay my respects to elders, past, present and emerging and to Aboriginal people here today.

I would like to share with you a little the weaving of my formation journey:

  • I am a Kamilaroi woman and cradle Catholic
  • Currently I’m a full-time PhD Candidate of Aboriginal Studies with the Wollotuka Institute. My thesis explores the impact of the establishment of our Dioceses on local Aboriginal nations, through surveys, shared stories and archival research, while locating the place where Catholic theology and Aboriginal Spirituality meet.
  • I am a member of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Catholic Ministry in this Diocese.
  • I work part-time as an Indigenous research assistant at HMRI
  • I am in my 3rd Year of formation to become a Spiritual Director.
  • In my spare time I’m an Indigenous board member of Firstchance – early childhood early intervention service here in Newcastle.

So much has happened in the tapestry of my formation and discernment, however, there have been three main threads.

1. Aboriginality

Prior to my university entry I was blessed with the opportunity to care for my father. Due to the return of cancer, Dad came to live with our family. During this time, he began to open up and talk about his father’s past, a subject that had clearly been taboo in their household, I began to piece together my grandfathers’ story of pain, loss and removal from country in Moree. Since then, I have experienced a sense of belonging and welcome that at times has been overwhelming. Sadly, too I have also come to know that being an Aboriginal woman, can be a place of invisibility and tokenism.

2. Spirituality

Prior to my time of formation, I, like many women have enjoyed years of active participation within my parish community. Yet I discerned a calling, to be able to articulate the faith that I have long held deep within my being. It is true that to be a woman in the Catholic church can be a disenfranchising experience, through lack of agency. However, the Srs of St Joseph were to show me otherwise. Later on, in my desire to nourish and deepen my relationship with the Divine, it was again one the Srs of the St Joseph who became my Spiritual Director.

3. Scholarship

In the past ten years I have achieved my Bachelor of Aboriginal Studies (Honours) I sought to examine my own journey of Spirituality and Aboriginality- through the lens of autoethnography. Before this I had completed my Diploma of Theology and then Bachelor of Theology. This incredible journey was made possible because way back in 2007 I responded to that deep call and very hesitantly enrolled in the Christian Formation Course at TWEC with the Srs of St Joseph.

Coming back now to my PhD you may think this would be a good place to finish.

As an advocate of life-long learning, a growing awareness of the demand for Indigenous academics and a deep desire “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God” (Mich 6:8)

I must concede this is only the beginning….

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Jennifer Rumbel

Jennifer Rumble is a member of the Pastoral Ministries - Aboriginal Catholic Ministry group.