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Sr Cecilia Prest, the nun who saved Tim Flannery’s life

Rob Parer  Sr Cecilia & Marg Parer at St Anna Plantation
Rob Parer, Sr Cecilia Prest & Marg Parer


BRISBANE - I received an email last Friday from Franciscan missionary Sister Cecilia Prest Mfic who has spent 15 years at Woorabinda, an indigenous community town 180 km south-west of Rockhampton in Queensland.

Previously Sr Cecilia was in the Aitape Diocese of Papua New Guinea for 28 years - most of the time in charge of the health centre at small mission station of Fatima near Lumi.

She told me that Fr Bruno Pokule was visiting Woorabinda for a few days, adding that she had delivered him when she was based at Sissano. Sr Cecilia remembers she was up all night as it had proved to be “a very difficult delivery”.

Fr Bruno, who visits Australia every year for marriage tribunal meetings and has been staying with Bishop Austin Crapp OFM at Townsville, studied canon law in Rome in the Italian language. How smart is that?

Throwim Way LegWhen Sr Cecilia was at Fatima she saved the life of Australian of the Year and eminent environmentalist, Prof Tim Flannery.

Village people had carried an unconscious Flannery from nearby Mt Somoro. He had been treating himself for malaria.

Genius that she is, Sr Cecilia found he actually had scrub typhus. She has studied tropical diseases in the United Kingdom and knew how to diagnose the mite borne sickness which is often fatal.

In his book, ‘Throwim Way Leg’, Flannery wrote that his life was saved by a nun but didn't mention Sr Cecilia by name.

Sr Cecilia had been one of Marg Lourigan's midwifery students at Mater Mother's Hospital in Brisbane. Ms Lourigan is my dear wife, Marg Parer.



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Philip Fitzpatrick

You might have something there Arnold.

Tim was director of the South Australian Museum for a while and it was all about Tim.

Funny how these high profile people have big egos.

Philip Adams is another one.

Arnold Mundua

Great story. Would have better and a good reminder had Tim mentioned by name the nun who saved his life in his book. Tim is selfish.

Daniel Kumbon

Good story Robert.

I still remember American Lutheran nursing sisters visiting my village in the early 60s. They were based at Kokas Gutnius Lutheran Mission in Kandep, Enga province.

I wish I knew all the names of these brave women who came regularly on anti-natal clinics. They had to contend with wailing, kicking, vomiting children who refused medication.

How many lives they must have saved, strong men and women who live in the villages today but they find it hard to take their own children to a properly functioning health facility, an important service that is lacking in rural PNG.

And talking of missionary sisters, here is something to trigger the memory and perhaps bring on a smile.

Fr Donald Grant published this in 'All in a day’s work' in the May, 2014 issue of Readers Digest.

"In 1973 I was stationed as a parish priest at Kunjingini Mission in PNG. A small community of Mercy Sisters looked after the parish schools and clinic, and Sister Madeleine was given the task of furnishing the teacher's house at a newly established high school not far from our station.

"The nearest large town, Wewak, was about 100km away, so sister Madeleine duly rang the general store there and ordered four shower curtains.

"Two days later the Cessna landed at our local airstrip and unloaded four cartons of sour gherkins."

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