Many of the several hundred people who turned up at Our Lady of Lourdes church on Saturday or St Michael’s on Sunday came forward to seek the saints’ intercession and venerate the relics: a handwritten letter from then-Mother Teresa to Gilroy College and a strand of hair of St Mary MacKillop enclosed in a wooden cross.
The two day event was part of the diocese of Paramatta’s Way of Mercy celebration running from 8 August until 13 November, a diocesan-wide initiative inspired by Pope Francis’ Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy and his constant emphasis on the importance of God’s mercy in a modern world desperately in need of experiencing it which has become a keystone of his pontificate.
The Baulkham Hills celebration drew parishioners from Castle Hill, Kenthurst and Winston Hills.
Parish priest Fr Wim Hoekstra was particularly happy to host the relics which are accompanied on their journey throughout the diocese by a giant wooden Cross of Mercy.
“It’s an opportunity for people to come to reflect and to celebrate God’s mercy, especially in the presence of two saints who are such missionaries of mercy,” he told The Catholic Weekly.
The weekend saw an early morning breakfast on Saturday hosted at Our Lady of Lourdes after the arrival of the cross and relics on Friday evening, as well as veneration and a Way of the Cross inspired by Pope Francis, prayers, meditations and opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Also featured were a video on the story of Mary MacKillop and the praying of the Chaplet of Mercy.
The church, a centre for the Korean Catholic community and two local Neocatechumenal communities, saw both groups participate in Mercy-related activities as well.
At St Michael’s, participants prayed, heard the Gospel of mercy proclaimed and listened as Fr Wim traversed the theme of mercy running throughout Scripture from Genesis to Christ.
Members of the Youth Mission Team performed a brief mime dramatising the hurts which can be caused to marriages, families and friends by the refusal to show mercy and how forgiveness and the works of mercy – comforting the sorrowful, feeding the poor and encouraging reconciliation – heal the ruptures which can occur between people.
Excerpts from Pope Francis’ papal bull on the Year of Mercy were read out, as were excerpts from the papal homilies for the canonisations of St Mary and St Teresa.
Parishioner Kim D’Costa shared her experience of mercy at World Youth Day.
Later, parish representatives were commissioned to go out into the world and show the face of mercy to everyone they meet.
Nor did the the parish confine itself to inviting Catholics.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish secretary Louise Ryall told The Weekly the parish had “letterboxed” surrounding streets inviting all to come and experience the mercy weekend.
“It was terrific,” she said of the celebrations at both churches.
“The Way of Mercy is teaching people the way to live mercy in their own lives.
“If it touches one person, it touches 10 – and that’s a wonderful thing.”