Beauty and bemusement as parishes take Corpus Christi to the suburbs

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Parishioners proceed through Surry Hills on 29 May to mark the feast of Corpus Christi. Photo: Patrick J Lee
Parishioners proceed through Surry Hills on 29 May to mark the feast of Corpus Christi. Photo: Patrick J Lee

Catholics across Sydney took their faith to the streets on the weekend with a series of Eucharistic processions, to the delight and at times bemusement of their communities.

Parishes were encouraged to go local to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi after light rail works in the city forced the Walk With Christ procession out of the CBD.

Catholic Renewal and Evangelisation Diocesan Office director Catherine Kennedy said the inaugural parish processions were a great success.

“We’ve been really pleased with the response this year and how fantastic it has been,” she said.

“Parishioners are saying what a positive experience this was for them.”

Genevieve McCaughan, who took part in the procession from St Peter’s, Surry Hills, said it was “a beautiful experience to see Our Lord carried in the streets”.

Eyebrows were raised as the faithful, which included parishioners of all ages and the Missionaries of Charity, processed and sang down Crown Street.

“It’s a fairly hardened culture in Surry Hills, and a lot of the expressions were of bemusement,” she said. “But there was nothing negative. We saw people at bus stops make a sign of the cross as passed by, which was lovely to see.”

The procession concluded with Benediction in the church courtyard.

Ms Kennedy welcomed the varied reactions from members of the public.

“What that says is that people think, ‘Oh I thought the Church was dead, but actually you’re out here living the faith’.”

At Engadine, co-ordinator Gabrielle Kingsley praised organist Deborah Worsley for setting the tone of the procession at the parish of St John Bosco.

“She had never played the Benediction hymns before but she was just wonderful.”

Assistant priest Fr Jose Matthew SDB and six acolytes led the procession, followed by Antioch and Connect youth group members, parishioners, and visitors from nearby parishes.

“Fr Jose was in his element,” she said. “He was so happy to be involved.”

Gabrielle was pleased with feedback from parishioners.

“It was a great thing to have, and certainly everybody who came said they enjoyed it.”

After proceeding around the parish grounds and the adjacent St John Bosco primary school, parishioners were invited to visit mercy points in the church to commemorate the Year of Mercy.

Granville parish priest Fr Andrew Bass said he would now plan more processions at Holy Trinity.

“I had some positive comments saying that this is something that we should do every month!”

At St Joseph’s, Como, parish priest Fr Jerzy Chrzczonowicz said Sunday’s Corpus Christi procession was a “fantastic success”.

“Books were prepared, music was prepared, people were excited, I was excited,” he said.

Retired Como parish priest Fr Bob Stephens held the monstrance for the procession, which made its way through the gardens of St Joseph’s primary school and past the Stations of the Cross.

After holding a Eucharistic procession “for the first time in the history of the parish”, Fr Jerzy was enthusiastic about the possibility of taking the procession further afield, such as a processing to a nearby church, in 2017.

“We’re very pleased that people are keen to do it again,” Ms Kennedy said. “If the events were successful enough that they would like to do and go bigger next year, that is a brilliant outcome.

“This has shown us there is goodwill to hold these events in parishes. Parishioners are inspired by having a public demonstration of their faith in their local area.

“That encourages us and we would like to be able to continue that in years to come.”

Events also took place at St Patrick’s, Church Hill; St Benedict’s, Broadway; St Mary’s, Mulgoa; and from St Joseph’s, Camperdown, to St Fiacre’s, Leichhardt.

Ms Kennedy will next week meet with the Transport Management Centre to explore the possibility of holding a CBD procession in November to mark the feast of Christ the King.