11, Dec

Sr Breda’s ministry in PNG

Author: admin2

Sr Breda Ryan recalls with great fondness memories of her time ministering in Papua New Guinea

Sr Breda in the old Health Centre with mother and baby

Sr Breda in the old Health Centre with mother and baby

Sr Breda from the New Zealand Community spent eight and a half years living and working with the Sisters in Papua New Guinea. Sr Breda writes;

“I loved every moment of my time in PNG.   I loved the people, the climate, my work at the clinic, the Sisters I lived with, it was all good and a very special time in my life.

Wish I could have stayed longer, but we are so few here now, I needed to come back to New Zealand.

My heart and memories are still with the Papua New Guinea mission and the people.   We continue to support the mission as here in New Zealand we run a fund raising Gala each year for the support of our Missions and a good portion of this is allocated to Papua New Guinea.

Living in PNG was very different to living in New Zealand, but I fitted in quickly, and went to the clinic every day. I learned the Pidgin on the job, the people taught me, corrected me, and laughed at me and with me.   I soon became fluent and felt more at home and in control of the work I was doing. It was so important to understand the illnesses and treatments when responsible for peoples’ lives.

The people also taught me a lot about caring for each other, sharing, relationships and material possessions, which I was used to having around me and then I didn’t seem to need any more.

The old and new Health Centres in Ningil

The old and new Health Centres in Ningil

They were generally happy and content living in isolated villages in the Ningil bush. Those living in far away villages walked for hours to the clinic for treatment, often carrying their sick.

At times they seemed to have greater expectations of the sisters than of the PNG nurses. We were on call any time of the day or night.

Walking was the main transport. We nurses walked   many miles as part of our Medical Patrols to immunize children and visit and treat sick elderly people in the bush areas. The people were always so protective of us and men walked with us and carried our supplies on these patrols.”


The 1998 Tsunami

Sr Breda was in Ningil when the large earthquake and tsunami hit the Aitape Coast washing away villages along Teles, Malol, Big Malol, Arop and Sissano.

“We felt the strong earthquake in the bush but had no idea of the extent of the damage down on the coast. It was next morning when we heard it on the radio.

Nurses working in the new Health Centre

Nurses working in the new Health Centre

We, the Ningil Community, gathered some medical supplies, dressings and food and set out to help wherever we could. We arrived in Aitape late that night, covered in dust, after 12 hours on the back of a truck. Next day we carried on to Malol.

The road was blocked with debris, heaps of rubble where villages used to be. The main bridge had been washed away. It was devastating! The place was deserted. All the people had gone bush away from the coast.

I set up a clinic at the Teles Church which had been damaged and went there each day. The people gradually came back for help for treatment and assessment of their wounds and injuries.

They were silent and in shock and had no idea who was hiding in the bush, in hospital or missing. It was a very traumatic time for all.

This experience of the aftermath of the tsunami had a huge impact on my life. The sights, memories and devastation will always remain with me. But the people rose above it. In time, they told the stories of their pain and loss, of those who were saved or never found. Their faith was strong and stood to them in their pain, sorrow and loss.”

Top: the old Sisters House in Ningil (which burnt down). Bottom: Sr Breda sitting outside with Sr Maria Mooney and Kingsley

Top: the old Sisters House in Ningil (which burnt down). Bottom:
Sr Breda sitting outside with Sr Maria Mooney and Kingsley


Re-entry to life in New Zealand

“On my return to New Zealand I was aware of the impact of my time in Papua New Guinea and how it affected my re-settlement into another place and culture. The affluence, the crowds, the traffic, the flashing lights in the shops, so much materialism of a First World society was overpowering. It took a while for me to adjust!

I would like to thank the Australian Sisters for giving me the opportunity to spend those special years in the Papua New Guinea Mission. I learnt so much about love, caring and living a simple life style.”

Sr Breda Ryan PBVM



Sr Breda first went to PNG in 1986 and spent four years in Ningil.

She returned to New Zealand in 1990 for eight years but went back to Papua New Guinea in 1998 for another four and a half years.

Sr Teresa Tierney, also from the New Zealand Community went to Papua New Guinea in 1988 for two years and worked as a Registered Nurse with Mother and Child Health in Aitape.








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