Faith on fire as Mary blesses Sydney

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The handmade statue of Our Lady of Fatima used in the Sydney procession was lent by the World Apostolate of Fatima and has been blessed by Pope Paul VI and St Pope John Paul II. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

The beauty of the Catholic faith and its Sydney home were displayed in all their glory when about 200 Catholics processed a hand-carved statue of Our Lady of Fatima while meditating on the Word of God through the city’s streets last weekend.

Tracing the route of the popular Vivid Sydney light festival, organisers Jonathan Alvin and Luke Formosa hoped to share in a clear but gentle way the light of Christ that shines through his Blessed Mother.

But the participants were delighted to be treated with a spectacular light show themselves, with the last rays of the sun setting the sky ablaze as they approached the Sydney Opera House and harbour foreshore.

The 19 October event was the organiser’s second Marian procession and Mr Formosa said it’s not the first time “special” things have happened during similar processions. In this case rain – which would have prevented them from carrying the precious timber statue past world-famous icons and through bustling tourist precincts – also stopped falling about five minutes before the procession began.

Fr Pio Fong (left) accompanies the procession down Macquarie Street towards Parliament House. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

“I think these things are little signs from God encouraging us and inspiring us to do more,” he said.

The procession was held in honour of Our Lady of Fatima and her 13 October feast as well as the 7 October feast of the Holy Rosary and was inspired by was inspired by Mr Alvin’s recent visit to Lourdes in France with its beautiful evening candlelit processions.

Praying the rosary in a variety of languages and singing hymns, the pilgrims wound their way through Hyde Park, past the Conservatorium of Music, Parliament House and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

The initiative of St Patrick’s Church Hill’s Young Adults group, it was supported by young adults groups from St Joseph’s Parish Camperdown, St Peter’s Parish Surry Hills, St Charbel’s Punchbowl, University Catholic Chaplaincies, Sydney Catholic Youth and the archdiocese’s Life, Family and Outreach Office, the Marist Fathers and the World Apostolate of Fatima.

The procession and Mass at St Patrick’s, Church Hill, to celebrate Our Lady during the month of October was co-ordinated by several parishes and Catholic groups. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

St Mary’s Cathedral assistant priest Father Gerard Woo Ling led the participants in prayer at the front of Parliament House for the dignity of all human persons whose lives are affected by the laws passed there, while Marist Father Pio Fong prayed for all Christians, all the people of the city and her visitors in the centre of Circular Quay outside Customs House.

The sky was ablaze in the light of the setting sun as the group drew near the Opera House and passed early evening diners and tourists along Circular Quay.

“The wind suddenly whipped up, the sky was illuminated and it was quite intense,” Mr Formosa said.

Finally they stopped at St Patrick’s at Church Hill for Mass celebrated by Marist priest Father Michael Whelan. In his homily Father Whelan encouraged the following of Mary’s example of contemplation in action during her life while at home in Nazareth.

“Our Lady is such a gentle figure and we find this is a great way to reach out to people in her own particular way, and in a very non-confrontational way,” said Mr Formosa. “Most people were respectful of us, many made the Sign of the Cross as we passed, people took photos and some even joined us for part of the procession.”

Life, Family and Outreach Office team leader Steven Buhagiar said he was happy to support the event which is part of a growing evangelising witness in the heart of Sydney.

“The moment at the Opera House was absolutely spectacular and the whole occasion was very special,” he said.

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