This year’s Catholic outreach at the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival revealed a too little acknowledged phenomenon: that there is a veritable ocean suffering and a quiet heroism in our community, and that people are desperate to discover meaning in the midst of it.
Catherine Kennedy, Director of the Sydney Archdiocese’ office for evangelisation, CREDO, and a team of lay and ordained volunteers spoke with hundreds of visitors to the Catholic Spirituality stall throughout the four-day event.
Many visitors revealed that they were dealing with deep suffering or were battling to care for others, such as elderly parents or children with disabilities.
“It was humbling to see the heroism of people and helping them to encounter what they have already come to understand; that in suffering there is opportunity for growth, that Christ on the Cross – the God who rose from the dead – can sustain them,” Cathy told The Catholic Weekly.
“Unusually in today’s society, where the issue of suffering is to be avoided at all costs, people seemed to know that there was more to it.
“And many people had had some positive connection with a church or Catholic institution in the past – that prayerful person in their life. Our presence was a chance to continue what the Lord had already started; we get to reap the good work of others and to continue what God had already planted in them.”
Numbers at the free-to-enter festival had increased markedly this year after its shift to Darling Harbour from Homebush, with the noticeable presence of office workers who visited during their lunch hours.
Cathy reported that around half of the people they encountered were practising Catholics, and around a quarter were non-practising.
As in previous years, many of the unchurched-but-searching seemed curious about the mainstays of Catholic spirituality throughout the ages, and hundreds took up the option of writing a prayer of petition for the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master.
“People were fascinated by angels – we were giving away holy cards of St Michael and St Gabriel – and people without faith seemed to find quite a connection with Our Lady.”
The stall received stellar support in terms of volunteer manpower from lay people and consecrated members of the Missionaries of God’s Love and the Fraternas, as well as from local priests: Frs Martin Maunsell, Greg Morgan, Epeli Qimaqima, and Eric Skruzny of the Neocatechumenal Way.