We are one
Aboriginals, Torres Strait Islanders, Pacific Islanders and the wider Catholic Community celebrate NAIDOC Week at an emotional Mass.
Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, assisted by Father Edward Dooley SJ, was the Principal Celebrant at the special Mass for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders on Aboriginal Sunday on 1 July at the Holy Family Centre Emerton which also launched the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week locally.
This was the first time the Diocese has celebrated Aboriginal Sunday as a Diocese and will now be celebrated every year. The celebration symbolises the unity of purpose within the Catholic Community. Local Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders organised the service and befittingly, the entire aboriginal community present at the mass involved itself in the liturgy and the festivities afterwards.
The Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP, Bishop of Parramatta, reminded his flock 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 homily from 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.”
The Mass also gave the opportunity pray and reflect on the Aboriginal Prayer composed for the meeting between Pope John Paul II and Indigenous people in 1986:-
Father of all, you gave us the Dreaming
You have spoken to us through our beliefs
You then made your love clear to us in the person of Jesus
We thank you for your care
You own us
You are our hope
Make us strong as we face the problems of change
We ask you to help the people of Australia to listen to us and respect our culture
Make the knowledge of you grow strong in all people
So that you can be at home in us and we can make a home for everyone in our land.
During the Mass local identities Gina Phineas and Christine Kennedy paraded the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Flags. They were supported by the lyric choristers of the Pacific Island community parishioners in a true 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. Do you know what a boomerang is specifically used for? We got the answer and many more from Tony.
Kallico, an Aboriginal owned and operated enterprise provided very popular bush tucker food for the celebrations following the service, as well as the usual BBQ fare that might grace such an Aussie occasion.
Aboriginal Elder and Assistant Senior Manager Aboriginal Catholic Services Aunty Janice Kennedy said:-we were delighted to have Bishop Fisher officiate at our service. We really appreciate his commitment; it certainly was a great honour to our local indigenous community.
Indigenous players from the GWS Giants AFL Club conducted a highly successful clinic for the young (and young at heart) people present-look out NRL!
Aunty Janice was part of further activities organised by Aboriginal Catholic Services including Koori women yarn about health, elders’ awards, music and entertainment. She also later spoke at St Michael's Blacktown.
Catholic Care Executive Director Otto Henfling said “It is never too late for social justice and making amends. Aboriginal Catholic Services is an important part of our work. Those that use its services and deliver its services and are our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
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