Celebrating Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday
|The Mass is a symbol of the unity of purpose within the Catholic community. Photography: Alphonsus Fok & Grace Lu.|
Catholic Outlook, August 2012
A diocesan Mass for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday was celebrated at the Holy Family Centre at Emerton on 1 July 2012.
The Mass will be an annual event in the diocesan calendar and a symbol of the unity of purpose within the Catholic community. Local Aboriginal people organised the service and those present took part in the liturgy and the festivities that followed.
Bishop Anthony Fisher OP was the principal celebrant for the Mass, which was concelebrated by Fr Edward Dooley SJ, Parish Priest of Holy Family Parish, and Fr Phil Medlin CSsR, Chaplain to CatholicCare Social Services in the Diocese of Parramatta.
Bishop Anthony reminded the congregation that the Diocese of Parramatta is ‘graced to have the largest concentration of urban Indigenous people of any diocese in Australia’. He also identified the common symbolism of water and fire.
His powerful address from Mark’s Gospel (Mk 5:21-43) drew on the inherent oneness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous believers:
“Our word Aborigine means from the beginning. The first ones: the ones who know best the heavens and earth, the skies and seas and land, and the creatures therein. From the beginning, too, they were made to receive the Christ. ‘You are a part of Australia and Australia is a part of you, said Blessed John Paul II, ‘And the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully received by others.’” Amen!
The occasion was also an opportunity pray and reflect on the Aboriginal prayer composed for the meeting between Pope John Paul II and Indigenous people in 1986.
During the Mass local identities Gina Phineas and Christine Kennedy carried the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal flags. The lyric choristers of the Pacific Islander community contributed to a blending of cultures.
The celebrations for Aboriginal Sunday following the Mass included an Aboriginal “native” (aka Tony) who played the didgeridoo, told some stories and gave all there some really important information about Aboriginal culture.
Indigenous players from the GWS Giants AFL Club conducted a highly successful clinic for the young (and young at heart).
Food included both traditional Aboriginal bush tucker as well as the usual BBQ fare that might grace such an Aussie occasion.
Aboriginal Elder and Assistant Senior Manager with Aboriginal Catholic Services Aunty Janice Kennedy said the community was delighted to have Bishop Anthony celebrate the Mass. “We really appreciate his commitment; it certainly was a great honour to our local Indigenous community.”
The team at Aboriginal Catholic Services, a division of CatholicCare Social Services in the Diocese of Parramatta, worked closely with Holy Family Parish and the Bishop’s office to organise the Mass and the activities that followed.
CatholicCare’s Executive Director, Otto Henfling, said he was pleased with the attendance on both the Sunday and Monday. “The two days took a lot of organising and I am proud of the work undertaken by the staff and volunteers of CatholicCare,” he said. Mr Henfling confirmed that both the ATSI Sunday Mass and NAIDOC Week celebrations will take place every year in the Diocese.
The Mass marked the commencement of local activities for NAIDOC Week. NAIDOC is a celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and an opportunity to recognise the contributions of Indigenous Australians in various fields.
The NAIDOC Week program at Holy Family included the Elders Awards presentation, music and entertainment by Steven Fogarty ‘The Black Elvis’, face painting for children, and the Smart, strong and deadly children’s puppet show by Yarramundi Kids.
For information about Aboriginal Catholic Services programs in Western Sydney tel CatholicCare Parramatta (02) 9933 0222 or visit www.ccss.org.au
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Sunday Photo Gallery
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