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Evening of grace as parishes prepare to open church doors

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An online gathering to pray for all of Sydney’s parishes and the wider community as they re-emerge from months of lockdown drew people and groups from across the city in a special evening of grace.

Sister Anastasia Reeves OP of the Parish Renewal Team at the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, livestreamed the Holy Hour from the Regents Park convent of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia last Thursday, along with their parish priest Fr Thomas Kurunthanam.

The day was chosen as the eve of the first Friday of the month in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as being the eve of the feast day of St Therese of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

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Logging on were 120 people from across the archdiocese and beyond, including representatives from as many as 50 parishes, along with diverse groups and ministries such as the Ephpheta Centre for the deaf and hearing impaired, the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and the Disciples of Jesus.

Together they prayed for the spiritual needs of the city’s people and for parishes to be renewed as centres of evangelisation as churches prepare to reopen. St Charles Borromeo, Ryde, parishioner Grace Mahdavi said she found the event, titled Opening Hearts to Christ, to be “truly a beautiful experience”.

Prayer night hosted by the SCE at the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia convent in south west Sydney was an opportunity to listen to the Lord and prepare for the reopening of churches.

Ms Mahdavi said she saw a bright side of the pandemic in the explosion of online prayer, retreats and other things to keep people connected with each other and with God. “I encourage everyone to make time to participate in whatever faith initiatives they can, whether in person or online, and experience the power of prayer in your life,” she said. “It will strengthen you, there’s no down side to it, and it’s worth it because you just don’t know what God will tell you or show in that moment that you give to Him.”

Aboriginal Catholic Ministry executive officer Lisa Buxton said she appreciated the inclusiveness of the prayers, in line with the archdiocesan mission plan Go Make Disciples.

St Joseph’s, Como-Oyster Bay, parishioner and member of Disciples of Jesus Thomas Ng, said it inspired fresh hope in the Church and the faith it proclaims. “If we are committed to parish renewal for the good of all people, then I think the Lord will honour that commitment we give to him, to try to go and make disciples as he asked us to,” said Mr Ng. “Our parishes will be places where people will powerfully encounter the Lord through our witness. But following Jesus is not always easy, in fact there is a saying that faith is spelt R.I.S.K.”

Games, stories and saints keep deaf community connected


Chaplain to the Ephpheta Centre Fr Michael Lanzon said presence of an Auslan interpreter was invaluable, while the familiar pattern of a litany and decade of the Rosary also helped people to follow what was happening. “I loved the window the event gave into the family of God at prayer both in the convent and at home. It spoke of the unity in love of God’s children in the Church.”

Fr Michael said the Holy Hour invitation itself and the efforts made to adapt the event to involve the Deaf community was much appreciated. “It is wonderful to have opportunities to pray with your brothers and sisters in the faith,” he said.

Parish Renewal Manager Elizabeth Arblaster said the event had been planned ahead of, and in preparation for, a new monthly online series called ‘Reclaiming Evangelisation: How Jesus’ Great Commission Will Renew Our Parishes’. “The series features eminent international Catholics who will make the case that Catholic communities are renewed when we seek to live more fully the mission given to us by our Lord to call disciples, baptise them, and teach them,” she said.

“That mission, that invitation Jesus makes to us to participate in this incredible mission of mercy, is our precious inheritance. We see it lived with such passion in the early Church, continued heroically throughout our history in the lives of the saints who go far and wide to share the good news, and articulated with great beauty in our teachings of our Magisterium which speak of evangelising as “the deepest identity” of the Church.

“However, the path to renewal through embracing this mission more fully is not about making and executing our own plans but about listening carefully to what the Lord is asking us to do and seeking His help to cooperate with His plans, for “if the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labour’.

“Our prayer night was a time of listening to the Lord, seeking to cooperate with Him, and asking for His help so that we may be radiant witnesses to the people of Sydney.”

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