Churches cast light despite locked doors

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Children’s prayers, flowers and a cross form part of the sacred symbol display at St Patrick’s Mortlake. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Churches may be locked but as the nights get cooler and public health precautions stricter,  Sydney parishes are keeping the lights on to remind us that Christ will always be a beacon of hope in life’s dark times.

In Mortlake in Sydney’s inner west, the three large arched windows of St Patrick’s church foyer which overlooks Gale Street have become a life-sized shrine which is visible day and night.

In the centre is a cross draped with a purple cloth, to the left the prayer intention book listing names of the parish’s deceased and a picture of St Mary MacKillop of the Cross. At the right are details of how to connect with the parish online.

Across the windows are posted drawings and prayers written by children on paper shamrocks (a symbol used by St Patrick to represent God) for those who affected by the coronavirus.

“Dear God, please look after those who are sick”

“Dear God, help those that are sick,” reads one of the prayers at the church shrine in Mortlake. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“Dear God, please look after those who are sick, please look after each and every one of them,” reads one along a coloured-in image of Jesus healing the paralysed man from the Gospels.

Parish administrator Father Tom Stevens said the heart-warming display is an attempt to connect with people, including parishioners upset at the suspension of Masses, in a non-physical way.

“It symbolises what Catholicism is – the bringing together of all those different groups and the saints with the cross as a sign of hope in the centre,” he said.

The whole church community, including Australian St Mary MacKillop, is symbolically represented in the Mortlake church display. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Fr Stevens presided at two funerals last week for life-time parishioner John Walker and another long-time parishioner George Cepak following hygiene rules and the current 10-person limit on funerals. “They were actually quite beautiful,” he said. “Having just a few close family members there at the end of the day is a pretty simple and powerful message.”

The parish will create a new sacred symbol display for Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Other churches across Sydney which are keeping alight at night include the Maronite co-cathedral of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harris Park. The entire domed roof is lit in purple, the colour of Lent, while the large statue of Our Lady at its apex is spotlighted.

“We are keeping the lights on as a reminder and symbol that the light of Christ can never be put out,” said the cathedral’s dean Father Tony Sarkis.

Our Lady of Lebanon in Harris Park is highlighting the powerful intercession of Christ’s mother Mary amid the pandemic. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“His light is the lamp that guides our steps, especially during these difficult times. The light is a reminder to us that we are also called to be the Light of the world. The lights that are shining on the statue of Our Lady remind us that she is also with us in this time.

“At the cross, Jesus gave the church Mary as a mother and a guide, through her intercession, we will be able to get through the present darkness.”

Doors locked, but the Church is ‘still open for business’

At St Charles Borromeo church in Ryde and Our Lady Queen of Peace in Gladesville the traditional stained-glass windows are on display in all their glory as parish priest Father Greg Morgan FMVD leaves the lights on every night.

Soon to be added are banners for the front of the churches which will read “Christ is our Light”.

St Charles Borromeo in Ryde shines as a beacon of hope during the closing of churches. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“Since we are prevented by public health and safety guidelines from opening the doors of our churches to our people, who may need Christ now more than ever, we will at least be keeping the lights on all night long at our churches for as long as this coronavirus crisis lasts,” Father Morgan said.

“We want people to know that Jesus has not forgotten them, and that the Church is still ‘open for business’ even if the doors be closed.”

How is your parish community responding to people’s spiritual and practical needs at this time? Drop us a line at [email protected] and let us know.

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