Parishioners of Our Lady of Victories in Horsley Park have come out fighting, saying they are “down but not out,” after the theft of $10,000 worth of goods caused them to cancel their Christmas lights festival.
“It hasn’t stopped us,” Pastoral Associate, Mary Farrell, told The Catholic Weekly.
“Our spirit is strong and our conviction is there for what we were aiming to do. That hasn’t changed,” she said. “It may have stopped us for the moment but we’ll regroup and look at how we can do things differently next year.”
The parish has already begun planning next year’s Christmas festivities, she said, and they would not be swayed from their mission of outreach and evangelisation.
The theft occurred over two nights—5 and 6 December—after The Catholic Weekly reported last weekend that the light show would be up and running at the parish every night until Christmas Day.
Thieves vandalised the parish gates and stole at least seven up-lights from the external light display around the church. The total value of the stolen lights is estimated to be $10,000.
The community had been “devastated” by the need to cancel the festival which they had planned over the past 12 months, Ms Farrell said.
The parish could not afford to pay for overnight security each evening to protect the expensive lights.
“It’s like we’re in mourning,” Ms Farrell said. “The momentum had just started to pick up and by word of mouth it was spreading how lovely the lights were.
“The local council even lit up the street in conjunction with our lights.”
To those who took the lights she said, “If they just want to return the lights, no questions asked, just leave them somewhere and we’ll give them back to the person who owns them.”
Parish Priest, Fr Dominik Karnas csma, said that, in one sense, the theft was just the Devil trying to take people away from the Church.
Instead, it has galvanised the parish which is more determined than ever to share the Church with others. “Evil can’t conquer us,” he said.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP expressed his sadness that the parish had to cancel the light show.
“There are many disappointed families and children, not to mention the hardworking parishioners of Our Lady of Victories, who have spent 12 months in the planning, putting together this beautiful light display to draw eyes and attention to the person of Jesus, to the Good News he preaches and to the greatest story ever told,” he said.
The light display was part of the parish’s celebrations for the 25th anniversary of the opening and dedication of their church. The festival was also intended as a form of evangelisation—extending an invitation to everyone, not just parishioners.
“It was to get a bit of the Christmas spirit into the community, into society and for people to know it’s not all bad news out there,” Ms Farrell said.
The lights and decorations inside the church will remain despite the theft and people are still encouraged to visit and attend parish events in the lead-up to Christmas.
“Our resolve is still there. Our spirit is still there. We might be down at the moment but we’re not out.”