Cathedral to be a visual feast

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Crowds enjoy the opening night of the Lights of Christmas at Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

After a challenging year, disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, many Sydneysiders are looking forward to returning again to community events in the lead up to Christmas.

Now in its 12th year, Lights of Christmas is Sydney’s favourite free Christmas tradition, uniting families, locals and tourists with a display of digital storytelling projected on St Mary’s Cathedral.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has invited the people of Sydney to join him for this special event.

The event will be launched in the cathedral forecourt on Thursday 9 December, with performances commencing at 7:30pm and the lights display at 8:30pm.

“We hope that many people come to see the incredible light show and that it brings some happiness, hope and optimism into people’s lives …”

This year’s theme for the display is HOME, at a time when many Sydneysiders have been working or studying from home for a number of months in lockdown. The display will aim to remind us of the importance of home in our lives, a place where life unfolds, our sanctuary and our safety net.

This year’s major sponsor, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, said it was looking forward to supporting such a great community event.

The bank’s Executive General Manager, Major Client Support, Mr Chris Williams, said the event has become a great Sydney tradition.

“It’s wonderful to see the event proceeding after what has been an unprecedented year of extensive lockdowns with so many people isolated from loved ones”, he said.

The Sydney Street Choir will provide entertainment alongside singer-songwriter Tommy Francisco and the St Mary’s Cathedral choir. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli
The Sydney Street Choir will provide entertainment alongside singer-songwriter Tommy Francisco and the St Mary’s Cathedral choir. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“This is an event that welcomes everyone in the community. It provides an opportunity to bring families and friends together to watch the spectacular light display of Christmas, and these are images that have proven to be timeless throughout many centuries”.

“We hope that many people come to see the incredible light show and that it brings some happiness, hope and optimism into people’s lives, as well as providing an opportunity for reflection at this special time of year”.

Mr Williams said the CBA’s support for the event was an important part of its broader community outreach work.

“The choir is made up of those who have experienced homelessness and other disadvantage in the community …”

“We recently awarded 300 grants to community groups across Australia- that’s $3 million to help build a brighter future for all. One of this year’s recipients was the St Vincent De Paul Society to support their work with some of the most vulnerable members of our community. Their programs support those who are at risk, including food and bill relief support for families impacted during the COVID pandemic”, he added.

Amongst this year’s performers on opening night is talented young independent singer-songwriter, Tommy Francisco. A former youth missionary with the Youth for Christ movement, Tommy is very proud of his Catholic faith and reflects this in his soul music, which he has played recently to sold out performances in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

He said he was very proud to perform at Lights of Christmas, describing it as a strong iconic event for Sydney.

“Lights of Christmas is a big evangelisation moment for the Church because you don’t have to be Catholic to see the beauty of this event. It has the power to bring the whole of Sydney and beyond together with so many people flocking to it”, Tommy said.

A former youth missionary with the Youth for Christ movement, Tommy is very proud of his Catholic faith and reflects this in his soul music, which he has played recently to sold out performances in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
A former youth missionary with the Youth for Christ movement, Tommy is very proud of his Catholic faith and reflects this in his soul music, which he has played recently to sold out performances in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Alongside Tommy will be a number of community choirs, including the Sydney Street Choir and the St Mary’s Cathedral choir.

Sydney Street Choir Director, James Paul, said the lockdown has led his choir to rehearse online for a few months, but they began doing so in person again, only a matter of weeks ago.

He is anticipating up to 40 members of the choir will sing on the launch night of 9 December.

“Lights of Christmas is a big evangelisation moment for the Church because you don’t have to be Catholic to see the beauty of this event …”

The choir is made up of those who have experienced homelessness and other disadvantage in the community and James Paul said the choir has been involved in Lights of Christmas for the past eight years.

He said the event really helps lift the spirit and morale of the choir members each year.

“Weekly rehearsals are something they get out of bed for. The performances are a chance to be seen and be heard and for anybody in this situation, to just be able to get up on stage and with so many people listening to you and applauding you is a really empowering experience”, he added.

For more information on Lights of Christmas, visit: https://lightsofchristmas.com.au/ The event concludes on 25 December.

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