David Colman is a real pedalling parishioner. The 21-year-old has this year attended Mass at all 137 parishes in the Sydney Archdiocese – mostly by getting there on his bicycle.
And it’s a journey that’s not just been geographical … but also spiritual.
The young Belfield parishioner felt he needed to re-ignite his faith and after visiting a couple of neighbouring churches, gained a real appreciation for the individuality of each parish and decided to visit them all. After three months of planning, he set his wheels in motion in January, setting himself the goal of completing the “pilgrimage” before Christmas.
And complete it he has.
Starting at Holy Spirit at Carnes Hill and finishing last weekend at St Aloysius in Cronulla, he completed his self-imposed challenge on-time and has a church bulletin from every one to prove it. Regardless of the weather, David would leave his home often before sunrise and not return until later in the day. On average, he would attend three to four Masses each Sunday, but on one occasion attended six.
For David, the overwhelming theme he discovered was that if parishioners didn’t establish a connection with the parish or feel like they fitted in, they were unlikely to return. “I love my parish but for me I felt like I needed a change and that it didn’t offer me what I needed,” he said.
“I started off thinking it would just be great to physically visit each parish but it’s been so much more than that. While at the core every parish is the same, they are also varied. Obviously the actual buildings are all very different but everything from the length of Mass, the style of the priest even the music can be so very different.
“Every priest delivers a different homily but they all had the same message that God loves us and wants to remind us that we need to do our best to follow in his footsteps.
“In the CBD, I did six Masses in one day – St Patrick’s in The Rocks, St Bede’s Pyrmont, St Augustine’s Balmain, St Joseph’s Rozelle, St Vincent de Paul Redfern and St Peter Julian’s Haymarket – and even they were all different.
“And I must say St Peter Julian’s was a real pleasant surprise, the Mass was in Chinese and while I couldn’t understand a word I knew the order of the Mass enough to follow and the music was just beautiful. While it has been a massive commitment, visiting every parish in Sydney has been an incredible experience.”
Mum Clare said she was extremely proud of her son and what he had achieved. “Some mornings he would set off and I would be worried about him although I thought to myself ‘he’s going to Mass, God will take care of him’,” she said.
“He has brought home a bulletin from each parish, which has given us a lovely snapshot of all the Sydney churches. As a musician he is particularly impressed with those that had ‘brilliant’ music although to be fair, his sample was limited to Sunday mornings, so he may have missed brilliant music at other times.
“At a period when so many Catholics are slack in their attendance, or miss church because it’s inconvenient to get there, I think it’s inspirational to see a young man like David overcome so many challenges to attend.”
And for those wondering, David has decided to settle at St Charles Borromeo at Ryde which he says has an active and engaged youth group.