Indigenous students from Saint Andrew’s Catholic Primary School in Malabar celebrated their first communion at the Reconciliation Church in Phillip Bay on Sunday 3 November with the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry. The church, packed to standing room, was host to friends and family members proud to see their children receive the sacrament. It was the first time in at least three years since the Reconciliation Church had hosted a first communion.
Cousins Zach and Rex Howes, first communion recipients and Year 3 students at St Andrew’s, spoke of their feelings of joy on their first communion day.
“It was a special day today – we got to have communion,” said Rex.
“There’s a lot going on but I’m having fun,” said Zach.
The Mass was celebrated by Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and concelebrated by Fr Darryl Mackie, community chaplain, as well as Aboriginal elder and deacon, Uncle John Allen. The Reconciliation Church community joined in a celebration of their Catholic faith as well as their Indigenous heritage – a unique expression to Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Sydney.
Community elder, Aunty Elsie Heiss, who did the welcome to country before the Mass, spoke on the importance of the day and was touched by the presence of Sydney Archbishop Fisher who she greeted with much affection. “It was just wonderful having the Archbishop here and it’s wonderful to see all our beautiful children,” she said. “It’s a very special day for the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and our community.”
Other elders of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry present included Aunty Gloria Martin and Aunty Diat Callope.
“I thought the kids were beautiful today and Archbishop Fisher was lovely,” said Aunty Gloria.
Fr Mackie highlighted the important work parents and elders had in bringing the day to fruition. “Today was a very exciting day for our community with much preparation from the ministry team and parents,” he said.
At the conclusion of the Mass Archbishop Fisher thanked the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry and community. “Thank you elders for the welcome here today – I’ve felt at home here. Thank you for bringing me in to your family,” he said.
The events were held on the traditional land of the Bidjigal people who are custodians of the Botany Bay area.